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Commemoration of Adam and Eve – Why Believing That They Were Actual, Historic Persons Matters

December 19th, 2013 34 comments

Today is the day appointed in my church to remember and thank God for Adam and Eve. After I share the prayer appointed for this day, please continue reading for why defending and holding fast to their historicity matters, a lot.

We pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads, and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I’ve been following debates/arguments/discussions/conversations about the historicity of Adam and Eve. For our Lord Christ, the fact of the creation of Adam and Eve by God, and their union to one another, ordained by God, is the very foundation of marriage and all human sexuality. Precisely because the Lord taught this, this has an enormous impact on how the Church and the faithful, should—no not should, that’s way too soft a word—absolutely must—affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve. Justin Taylor had a blog post recently on this, that puts it rather well.

Reformation21 reprints an essay by Michael Reeves (Theological Adviser for UCCF in the UK) on “Adam and Eve,” from the book Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by Norman Nevin (IVP-UK, P&R). In particular Dr. Reeves takes on Denis Alexander’s proposed “third way” of understanding Adam and evolution.

Here’s the conclusion:

When theological doctrines are detached from historical moorings, they are always easier to harmonize with other data and ideologies. And, of course, there are a good many doctrines that are not directly historical by nature. However, it has been my contention that the identity of Adam and his role as the physical progenitor of the human race are not such free or detachable doctrines. The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian under-standing of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.

Why the Lutheran World Federation is a Fraud

February 1st, 2013 Comments off

Fraud

Fraud: A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury. Fraud is commonly understood as dishonesty calculated for advantage. A person who is dishonest may be called a fraud. 

Disclaimer: I am well aware that there are well-meaning, sincere confessional Lutherans who have chosen to affiliate with the LWF and there are a variety of historic reasons for this; however, they need to be aware that the Lutheran World Federation, as an “institution” or, as they insist on referring to themselves, as as “communion” of churches is simply a fraud. It is not Lutheran. It is not a Biblical “communio.” Those who continue to affiliate with LWF should do so only under ongoing protest against the insidious anti-Lutheran agenda that has the LWF in a vice-grip of error. Years ago when it was first

Liberal ecumenists and academics throughout much of world Lutheranism will recoil in horror when, or if, they read the assertion: “The Lutheran World Federation is a fraud!” Nonetheless, it is a truth that can not, and must not be, ignored or avoided, or swept aside with the polite tut-tutting of the ever-so proper and gentile pursuers of ecumenical agendas. The Lutheran World Federation is a fraud precisely because it is not Lutheran but wishes to assert itself as such, deceiving the innocent laity and pious who actually still may believe that the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Catechisms are, wholly, Biblical truth.

The LWF insists on no clear confession of the Lutheran confession of God’s Word. It can not even insist that members confess even the simple truths of the Small Catechism as binding dogmatic statements on all who would wish to be, and remain, Lutheran. For example, when the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America waxes eloquent about homosexuality and ecumenical agreements with Calvinists and Catholics, this is simply the fraud of the LWF on display for all to see. When the LWF claims to represent 70.5 million Christians, this is yet another fraud. It does not see the Lutheran Confessions as a pure exposition of God’s Word, but can only wimper about seeing “in them” a pure exposition of God’s Word. Fraud and more fraud.

Oh, yes, there is much nostalgia about Martin Luther and the Reformation, but the large, liberal Western Churches that ostensibly bankroll the Lutheran World Federation bureaucracy with its incessant conferences, meetings and pious-blathering issuing forth from keyboards in Geneva, have long ago set aside any semblance of orthodox Lutheran Christian confession. No more across their seminaries and institutions of higher learning are the condemnations of the Lutheran Confessions held forth as true for our day, in fact, quite the opposite.

Any such notion that the Calvinist confession of the Lord’s Supper is false is regarded as “rigid dogmatism” or that the Roman view of Justification is contrary to the very Gospel is now regarded as “harsh confessional arrogance” and the like. Many years ago, Herman Sasse was sounding the alarm, which went unheeded even among The LCMS’ academics who were looking all starry-eyed at the notion of Lutheran union in America and in Europe.

Are we who wish to be and remain confessional Lutherans in the United States of America willing to recognize reality and speak against it and in support of the truth of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions which so beautifully set them forth? Will we continue to welcome the scandal of being a confessional church? We do see encouraging signs coming from member churches of the LWF, rising up to reject and condemn the homosexual and feminist agenda that has exploded throughout liberal Lutheran Churches as the fruit, rotten to the core, born by the great trees planted and watered by the liberal theologians who for many decades have controlled the theology of USA and European Lutheran organizations, churches and “unions” of all kinds.

Keep in mind when you read the following quote from Sasse he was writing this many decades ago, long before the large liberal Western churches that control the LWF had gone even further down the road of compromising the Lutheran Confessions with Reformed, Calvinists, Roman Catholics, etc. and had embraced a social/moral agenda including abortion on demand and homosexuality!

Thus, Sasse:

“According to its very nature, the Lutheran Church, the Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, is a confessional church in the strict sense and can only exist as such. This is the unmistakable lesson of American church history.

“There would be no Lutheranism in America today if Lutherans had lacked the courage to present to the world, also and particularly to the Christian world, the skandalon of a confessional church. They knew from Holy Scripture that there is no heart that believes without a mouth that confesses (Rom. 10: 9– 10). They had learned from Luther that faith comes by preaching, the preaching of the pure Gospel, and that the church lives by the Word of God taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments administered according to the institution of the Lord Christ. Despite the religious and irreligious trends of their century, they were not ashamed to identify themselves with the great dogmas of the orthodox church of all the ages, with the doctrines of the Lutheran Confessions, because they had come to recognize in them the true exposition of Holy Scripture as the inerrant [untrüglich] Word of God.

“Thereby American Lutheranism became an enigma to its environment. For with the exception of a few remnants of old Reformed Churches, American Protestantism is not familiar with a doctrinal type of Christianity. Only by means of this “rigid” (as the world calls it), firm, and clear position was Lutheranism able to maintain itself. There was no Lutheranism that was receptive to the influences of the world, that was broad-minded, liberal, and modern. There were indeed Lutherans who became liberal. But then they ceased to be Lutherans.

“Really that was also the case in Europe. What makes men like Söderblom and Harnack 19 look like Lutherans is finally merely a sort of nostalgia for the Lutheran Church. What is Lutheranism without the actual incarnation, without the miracles that belong to the enfleshed God-man, without the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, without the washing of regeneration? There is no Lutheranism save that which is “orthodox.” Anything else may be a beautiful, congenial humanitarianism and Christianity, but it is not Lutheranism. That must be kept in mind, even when one is, with an all-embracing love, gathering those who adhere to the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Our Church does not burn heretics nor judge consciences. But it does concern itself about true doctrine and must concern itself about it. A Lutheran Church that would not do that, a Church that would not train and guide its pastors to this end, a Church that no longer shields its members against false doctrine is no longer a Lutheran Church.

“There is a connection between this doctrinal character of the Lutheran Church and the fact that in the modern world it invariably functions as a foreign entity. This, by the way, has been the case ever since Luther parted company with Erasmus. The great truths of Lutheran doctrine call forth the ridicule of the world: beginning with the doctrine of man and his sin, which runs counter to all natural anthropology; continuing with the doctrine of justification, which implies the end of all natural morality; culminating in the doctrine of Christ and of salvation, and the doctrine of the church and the Sacraments. But this estrangement over against the world [Weltfremdheit] is the alienization of the true church. This unreasonableness is the unreasonableness of the true Gospel.”

Source:

Herman Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors: Volume 1, “Letter Ten: On the Problem of the Union of Lutheran Churches-1949.” (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), p. 167-168.

How to Write a Truly Awful Worship Song

July 17th, 2012 12 comments

 

Brought to you by Pastor Riley’s blog, written by Stephen Altrogge, I present a quick “How To” on writing an awful worship song. HT: MZH for tweeting this.

So you finally learned to play the guitar and now you’re wondering,“How do I write a truly awful worship song?” You’ve come to the right place my friend. Here are some sure fire ways to write a truly horrible worship song.

Recycle A Love Song. Write a song for your girlfriend. When she breaks up with you, convert it into a worship song. Be sure to change all uses of “girl” or “baby”.

Use Time Tested Rhymes. Make sure that you rhyme “love” and “above” at least twice. The song becomes doubly awful if you can also incorporate the word “dove”. Example: “You sent your love from above, makes my heart feel like a pure white dove.” You get the point.

Be Vague About Your Theology. Make sure to avoid any theology at all costs. Don’t talk about atonement, wrath, or any other biblical concepts. You want your song to be all about feeling. Don’t let the mind get in the way. Repeat after me: “Worship is a warm feeling, sort of like heartburn, only better.”

Make the Song All About You.  The main point of your song should be your experiences and how God makes you feel. Don’t bother with objective truth about God. I would suggest that you use the words “I” or “me” at least 12-15 times. For example, “I feel like singing, yes I feel like spinning, because You make me feel so good inside. Like it’s my birthday, but more awesome.”

Be Incredibly Poetic. If you can, muddy the waters with poetic phrases that don’t make much sense. Example: “Your love is like a warm summer’s breeze, washing over my heart like a crystal river.”

Use Well-Worn Musical Progressions. If you can, keep your music and melody boring. I would suggest that you use no more than four distinct notes in a song, so that by the time someone is done listening to it they want to scream. A worship scream, but a scream nonetheless. It also helps if you use the chords G, C, and D over and over.

Defend Your Song Like It’s Your Firstborn Child. Do not, I repeat, do not, let anyone make suggestions for improvement. Tell people that God laid the song on your heart. Tell people that you really want to preserve the artistic integrity of the song. Tell people that you already did the song at your campus ministry and that a revival broke out. Don’t take advice from anyone.

There you have it. Seven ways to write a terrible worship song. You can thank me later.

Episcopalians Lead the March Over the Cliff: Approve Rite for Blessing Homosexual “Marriages”

July 10th, 2012 12 comments

From Reuters News Service: The U.S. Episcopal Church is poised to become the first major religious denomination in the United States to approve a rite for blessing gay marriages after its bishops overwhelmingly approved such a liturgy on Monday. The proposed blessing was agreed by the church’s Chamber of Bishops at a meeting in Indianapolis and is expected to receive final approval from its House of Deputies later this week, Ruth Meyers, a chair of the Episcopalians’ Subcommittee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music, told Reuters. The decision would go into effect in December and make the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based institution affiliated with global Anglicanism, the biggest U.S. church to allow a liturgy for same-sex marriages. The Episcopal Church is the 14th-largest denomination in the United States with nearly 2 million adherents, according to the National Council of Churches. The United Church of Christ, a mainstream Protestant denomination with about a million members, has gone further so far than any other U.S. church, voting in 2005 to support same sex marriage. The new Episcopal same-sex liturgy, called “the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” would be a standard rite for same-sex marriage.

And there you go. Of course, the United Church of Christ and the ECUSA are now in full communion with the ELCA…just a matter of time there as well.

Twenty-First Century Excommunication: Episcopalian Style

October 7th, 2011 5 comments

Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway has a fantastic article today in the Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship section, titled, Twenty-First Century Excommunication . It is a fascinating insight into what’s going on now in the ECUSA as it handles dissenters. Apparently, the ECUSA, a church body that continues to experience declining numbers of adherents, still has enough funds left in its investments to effectively hunt down and persecute dissenting congregations. Here’s a snippet of the article:

When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque. The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn’t been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she’d rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

Read the whole article here.

Interfaith Worship on the Rise Since 9/11

September 7th, 2011 1 comment

In U.S., interfaith worship doubled since 11 September
ENI-11-0473

By Piet Levy — ENInews/RNS
Washington, D.C., 7 September (ENInews)–Interfaith worship services have doubled in the decade since the 11 September attacks, according to a new study released 7 September, even as more than seven in 10 U.S. congregations do not associate with other faiths.

The survey by an interfaith group of researchers found that about 14 percent of U.S. congregations surveyed in 2010 engaged in a joint religious celebration with another faith tradition, up from 6.8 percent in 2000, Religion News Service reports.

Interfaith community service grew nearly threefold, with 20.4 percent of congregations reporting participation in 2010, up from 7.7 percent in 2000, according to the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership. After the attacks, “Islam and Islamics’ presence in the United States (became) visible in a way that you couldn’t ignore,” said David A. Roozen, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

National Muslim groups tried to build bridges to other faiths, who in turn “reached out in new ways to be neighborly,” he said. Reform Jewish congregations led the way, with two-thirds participating in interfaith worship and three-quarters involved in interfaith community service.

The largest percentage of interfaith-worshipping congregations (20.6 percent) was in the Northeast, which is home to a disproportionate percentage of more liberal mainline Protestant churches. About 17 percent of interfaith-worshipping congregations are in a big city or older suburb, where greater diversity makes interfaith activity more likely.

The study implies that the more liberal a congregation, the greater likelihood for interfaith activity. Approximately half of Unitarian Universalist congregations held interfaith worship services, and three in four participated in interfaith community service. By contrast, among more conservative Southern Baptist churches, only 10 percent participated in interfaith community service, and five percent in interfaith worship.

The study shows most of the 11,077 congregations surveyed reported no interfaith activity, a finding that troubled the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Washington-based Interfaith Alliance. “The reality in our nation now is we have a major problem with Islamophobia, and that fear is being fed by people in large enough numbers that we need probably ten times as many people involved in interfaith discussions and actions,” Gaddy said.

Even so, the fact that interfaith services and community projects have grown so much is something to celebrate, said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. “I’m not saying we are where we’d like to be, but the good news is the process has begun,” Schneier said. “Outreach to the Muslim community from a Jewish perspective is now becoming en vogue … Ten years ago, if I would have proposed anything like that, people would have thought I was from Mars.”

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New York Bishop Gets Tough on Homosexuality: Orders Gay Couples to Marry

July 22nd, 2011 Comments off

Sign of the times….no, I’m not making this up. You can read it for yourself here.

Excerpt:

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano has put his foot down against gay clergy who residing in homosexual relationships, and has given a nine month deadline for them to either get married or stop living together, according to the News Observer.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships. I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense,” said Provenzano.

Reverend Christopher Hofer, pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. Jude agrees with Provenzano, “I think his statement was not only fair, but beyond generous. It gives people time, acknowledging that there’s a financial component involved and recognizing that some may not choose to live together.

“Now that the state is recognizing civil marriage, we as priests, perhaps deacons too, who are in committed relationships, have a choice: we either live what we preach to become civilly married or we live apart,” he said.

The Danger of Tinkering with the Bible’s Original Language and the Language of Christian Creeds: How Jesus Went Missing in the United Church of Christ

July 18th, 2011 3 comments

This is a great blog post from the Gospel Coalition’s blog site.

The Curious Case of How the United Church of Christ Lost Jesus

Posted By John Starke On July 15, 2011

“We are still a Trinitarian denomination,” United Church of Christ spokesman Bennett Guess says. You may be in trouble if you find yourself explaining that you’re still trinitarian. After six years of debate, the UCC has resolved [1] to revise their bylaws and constitution to replace every instance of “Heavenly Father” with “Triune God.”

Here’s how the UCC explains the change:

This was not a theological document. It was a restructuring from five boards to one. And in doing this, we dealt with bylaws written decades ago, before the denomination’s commitment to using inclusive and expansive imagery for God.

We no longer use exclusively male language to refer to God. We haven’t for a long time.

On the bright side you might conclude of this progressive denomination, “Well, at least they’re sticking with the Trinity.” And that’s how some have defended the UCC against charges of “sawing off one leg of Christianity’s Holy Trinity.” USA Today‘s Cathy Lynn Grossman rather sardonically comes to the defense [3] of the UCC, says that this change in language will not, in fact, cause the 1 million-member denomination to “rebuff Christ and God by slashing a reference to God as ‘Heavenly Father.’”

Maybe not. But the problem is that you’re not trinitarian just by calling yourself trinitarian. The Bible doesn’t allow for us to worship the Trinity as God A, God A, and Holy God A and still call ourselves Christian.

We can learn a lesson from the Arians, a popular but heretical faction in the early church. They didn’t want use the name “Father” either. But their motives were a little more explicitly mischievous. They didn’t think the Son was equal with God, so eternally speaking, God was not a Father since the Son didn’t eternally exist. Searching for a name to describe this view of God, they came up with “Unoriginate.”

Isn’t it interesting that when we try to clear God of his trinitarian nature and then try to describe who he is, we only have impersonal terms?

Athanasius didn’t like the term “Unoriginate,” and not just because it sounded like a poorly named professional wrestler. He rejected the title because it didn’t explain who God is fundamentally. By calling God the “Unoriginate,” we are defining him by what is in contrast, the “originate”—that is, creation. And God is not dependent upon the existence of creation, nor is he defined by it. So we must do better than “Unoriginate.”

But, as Athanasius pointed out, if we call God “Father,” we immediately contemplate the Son. And here we have something that is fundamental and eternal to both of them: The Father is the Father of the Son; the Son is the Son of the Father. To know God, we must know God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. Otherwise we are grasping for totems of our own imaginations.

And now back to the curious case of the UCC. The problem isn’t only their sensitivity to gender-exclusivity in God or their modern sensibilities trumping the Bible. As we saw with the Arians, if you don’t have a Heavenly Father, then you don’t have a Son. And if you don’t have a Son, you’ve lost Jesus.

As evangelicals concerned with the centrality of the gospel, we must speak carefully and biblically about who God is and how he has revealed himself to us. Like taking an ax to a trunk of a tree, if we speak loosely about God and his nature, the gospel will come tumbling down with it.

As creatures, we depend on God to reveal knowledge of himself to us. Who are we to give him his name? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has told us so.

Article republished from The Gospel Coalition Blog: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc

Apostasy in the Raw: United Church of Christ Scratches “Heavenly Father” Out

July 11th, 2011 14 comments

 

UCC spokesperson Barb Powell told World Net Daily: “In the UCC, our language for God, Christ and the Holy Spirit … is preferred to be more open for different expressions of the Trinity. Heavenly Father is just one vision.”

If you have not heard about this already, you need to be aware that the United Church of Christ has recently, quite literally, lined through reference to God as Father in their governing documents. Friends, you will hear some theologians and pastors, perhaps even ones that claim to be conservative, try to justify this, or make excuse for it, or explain it away, or try to ignore this reality, but here it is: this is apostasy in the raw. There is no fuzz on this peach, no grey areas here. This is nothing more and nothing less than open rebellion against the Holy Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But here is where this raises huge questions for all Christians. Let me put a few of them forward.

How can a baptism performed in a United Church of Christ congregation be recognized as valid and legitimate any longer since the UCC has taken this step?

What implications does the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in full communion with the UCC have for that church body’s commitment to the holy, catholic faith? If the ELCA does not sever its full communion with the UCC over this, that means, frankly, that the ELCA is giving its de facto and tacit approval of this action? And in that case, the implications for any baptism performed in the ELCA are ominous, since full communion is an expression of fundamental agreement and unity in doctrine between church bodies.

Pastor Peters blogged about this and he wisely notes that this decision has implications for all parish pastors in all church bodies. He writes, “It seems that from now on we better check any baptism from the UCC on a case by case basis because any baptism not in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit cannot in confidence be a baptism at all…. just something to think about….”

I don’t think we can afford to stick our heads in the sand on this one.

Here are the important details of this disaster from the Louisville newspaper, the Courier-Journal

“According to a United Church of Christ spokesman, it isn’t news that the liberal Protestant denomination is moving to delete a reference in its constitution from “Heavenly Father” to “Triune God.” Decades of theological change lay behind it. Yet now it is putting the change on record.

The Rev. Bennett Guess told my colleague Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today:

“We no longer use exclusively male language to refer to God. We haven’t for a long time.”

The deletion prompted alarm among from a conservative activist group in the predominately liberal denomination.

It may not be new, but it’s still eye-catching to see the words crossed out in the constitutional change, even if the main point of the change was to merge five boards into one. The change would require ratification by two-thirds of the denomination’s 38 regional conferences by 2013. [PTM Note: I can't do a line through, so the words I've underlined are literally crossed out in the resolution passed by the UCC]

Here’s the salient paragraph from 13 pages of bylaw changes, with the revised language in blue and the deleted language crossed out. It was approved Monday at the denomination’s biennial governance meeting.

ARTICLE V. LOCAL CHURCHES

The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church. A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.

Guess said the denomination was dealing “with bylaws written decades ago, before the denomination’s commitment to using inclusive and expansive imagery for God.” (The term “bylaws” sounds more perfunctory than “constitution,” especially when the “basic unit” of the church is described.) Another spokeswoman said members are free to refer to God as father or mother.

The United Church of Christ recorded 1.08 million members last year, down nearly 3 percent from the previous year and down by about half since its peak in the 1960s.

It was formed by a merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church — itself formed by a merger of two historically German Protestant groups, with several congregations in the Louisville area — and the Congregational Christian Churches, whose organizational ancestors included the Puritans. Therein lies a tale.

In more recent years, the denomination has made headlines as the affiliate of President Obama’s former church in Chicago, headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; and a controversial TV ad showing bouncers keeping people out of church (in contrast to the UCC’s declared inclusiveness.)”

A Serious Argument Against the Ordination of Women

June 10th, 2011 6 comments

 

I appreciated these words from an Anglican bishop in Rwanda, perhaps you will too.

A Serious Argument Against the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and Episcopate

by The Rt. Rev. John Rodgers
June 6, 2011

A Case for the Male-Only Priesthood

God, being a God of order and being all-wise, good, and gracious, has ordered all things in creation for our good. This order in the creation he has retained and renewed in redemption. As part of this good order God has appointed the man to be the head of the family and to be the elder (presbyter) or priest in the wider family of the Church. God’s good order does not envision nor permit women to exercise the ministry of “headship” in the family, nor the ministry of oversight involved in the offices of the priesthood and episcopate as they are understood and practiced by Anglicans. This is in no way detrimental to women for God has an equally significant, different, and complementary ministry for women in the family and in the Church. This godly order is to be enjoyed and respected. When men and women are thus united in partnership we walk in the path of freedom and fulfillment. Other paths may seem attractive and promise much but in the end they prove deceptive and full of contention.

The reasons we hold these convictions are primarily drawn from Scripture. Attempts have been made to interpret the Scriptures to allow women to serve as co-heads of the family and as priests and bishops in the Church. Responsible exegesis simply will not support these interpretations nor does experience confirm them. Alongside Scripture there are other significant reasons found in the experience of God’s people in history and in God’s other book-the book of creation or nature-that corroborate the biblical reasons. We will mention only the most significant of them in this brief chapter.

The primary and chief factual point that we wish to make is this: nowhere in Scripture do we read of a woman being either a priest in the Old Testament or an elder in the New Testament. In the New Testament no woman was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles. Jesus could have chosen one of the women who accompanied him, prepared her along with the other apostles-in-training, and after the resurrection appointed her an apostle had he felt that to be appropriate. He did not do so. The same is true of the apostles. Not once did they appoint a woman to be a presbyter or bishop. It was the unvarying practice of God’s people from beginning of Israel to the close of Scripture to call men to these official, stated positions in the people of God. Israel did this in sustained and self-conscious contrast to the practice of the surrounding nations and religions.

Read more…

NEWS FLASH: Lutheran World Federation Seeks to Redefine Path!

June 10th, 2011 Comments off

I was very excited when this ENI story popped into my mail box recently. I hoped that it would be an article on how the LWF is going to finally embrace full-throated confessing Lutheranism and reject all errors contrary to it. Heck, I would have been happy enough with an announcement that it was even going to require all members to subscribe to the six chief parts of the Small Catechism, and reject errors contrary to them, but no…instead the LWF is redefining its path … to put more emphasis on climate change and disaster response. Shouldn’t they change their name to the United Nations or the Red Cross?

Lutheran community seeks to redefine path at meeting in Geneva
By Meritxell Mir

Geneva, 8 June (ENInews)–At a meeting taking place from 9 June through 14 June in Geneva, members of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will vote on adopting a renewal process for the years 2012 through 2017 that places greater focus on responding to emergencies, especially those having to do with the environment. The new focus also includes proposals for increasing the role of youth and creating financial sustainability.

“There is a need to explore how to get involved in advocacy work that is linked to climate change,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, who is leading the renewal process. Under the proposal, Lutheran churches hope to be able to better respond to human suffering through coordinated actions with partners.

The creation of regional hubs for emergency response in countries such as El Salvador, Nairobi, and Kathmandu will make it easier to distribute food, water, medicines, and blankets in the event of a natural disaster. Lutherans were on the forefront of issues such as AIDS and the environment, said Junge, and from now on this will make up a bigger part of the LWF agenda.

With membership of many big churches declining, the LWF needs to find new ways to ensure it can continue its mission. “We can have a reasonably realistic plan only for the next three years,” said Junge, “so we cannot say what the situation in 2017 will be. The organization has plans to develop relationships and raise funds, but if that doesn’t work, it will have to reduce expenses.”

LWF leaders think it’s crucial to give young church members a bigger role. “We believe young people should be able to participate in decision-making for the church as a whole, not just for youth programs,” said Junge. “Youth should not be treated as the future, but as the present of the church.”

The LWF’s proposed agenda comes in response to several factors, such as increased global connectivity, widening gaps between the rich and the poor, widespread natural disasters, more forced and voluntary migration, and increased secularization in the Western world. The new strategy consists of a more structured and efficient system for linking churches with training opportunities, scholarships, and education. The biggest challenge, according to leaders, is bringing different views and perspectives together in a way that affirms a shared vision for all Lutheran churches in a coherent, long-term strategy.

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Communion Without Baptism: A Perfectly Consistent Practice

May 28th, 2011 25 comments

David Virtue, who for years has been documenting errors and problems across the worldwide Anglican communion, had an interesting article on this growing trend, which I’ve also seen popping up in ELCA congregations as well. For that matter, in those congregations that do not practice a serious approach to closed communion, I think there is little to prevent this practice, de facto, from happening. Your thoughts? Here is Mr. Virtue’s article.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism
Date 2011/5/25 8:50:00 | Topic: Exclusives

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
May 25, 2011

[Holy Communion] It is unofficial of course. No one is supposed to know it is going on and it is certainly not approved by the canons of The Episcopal Church – but it is happening around the country. Communion is being offered to people who are not baptized. It is known as Communion Without Baptism (CWOB).

The most blatant case was at a House of Bishops meeting in 2001 presided over by then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. In Arrowhead in March of that year, bishops were forced to sit through lectures by a Jewish faculty member from Griswold’s alma mater in Massachusetts on how to lead the Christian church. The man was truly offensive, according to a bishop who wrote to VOL at that time. Later, following the lecture, then Bishop of Vermont, Adelia MacLeod, dragged the speaker to the altar rail for communion.

The bishop wrote, “Others, the sicker kind, had a sick need to make up with this offensive person and actually forced him to receive Holy Communion, one dragging him on either side, managing to violate his integrity and the integrity of his religion and ours. The perpetrators were women who did not care that he was clearly not in love and charity with his neighbor and who see the sacrament as nothing more than ‘hospitality’.”

There was no apology for his behavior, no apology for the violation of the sacrament and we went on, he wrote. My story on this and other behaviors of Frank Griswold “GRISWOLD AGONISTES” appears here: (http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3367).

A decade later, CWOB is now more blatant than ever and publicly obvious. St. Mark’s in Washington, DC, describes itself on a billboard as The Church of the Open Communion – “wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever you believe or don’t believe, baptized or not, we welcome you to join us.” http://www.stmarks.net/who-we-are/about-us/about-st-marks/

Today with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, liberal Episcopal parishes pay lip service to baptism as a pre requisite for taking Holy Communion. In The Episcopal Church, all baptized Christians-no matter age or denomination-are welcome to “receive communion. Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take our baptism so seriously. Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the presider. Nowhere is communion offered to an unbaptized person.

Episcopal Church Canon I.17.7 however, is unambiguous. It states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

But The Episcopal Church flouts canon law on a number of issues especially and including sexuality. CWOB is just one more issue where canon law and ecclesiastical polity have been tossed out the window.

In a video put out by the Episcopal Church, The Rev. Paul Lane of St. Paul’s, Chicago, says that “everyone is welcome to eat at this table…” no mention is made of baptism as a prerequisite for partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

The video mixes worship styles in a changing culture with strong emphasis on diverse contexts. “The community is gathered around the altar. Everyone is welcome to eat at God’s table…the table is wide open. [We] welcome everyone to the table without exception,” states Lane.

In reconfiguring the church to meet the growing diversity in the Chicago neighborhood, Lane determined the cross to be offensive. “The cross is non welcoming to non-Christians so it was put at the back of the church.”

St. Jude, Wantagh, NY, is also featured by The Episcopal Church as being a healthy Episcopal congregation under the rubric, “Transforming Churches, Changing the World”. The church bills itself as “a welcoming community of faith, embracing and serving all of God’s children regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic condition.” No distinctions of behavioral practice are mentioned.

A study released in 2005 by the Diocese of Northern California estimated that a majority of dioceses have congregations that practice CWOB. Of the church’s 110 dioceses, 48 responded to the Northern California survey. 24 reported they had parishes that practice CWOB while a seven dioceses were reported to “probably allow CWOB.”

The dumbing down of doctrine to make the church more acceptable to non-Christians might have short term gains. In the long run, however it will fail. The church is supposed to be a counter culture to the world’s values. TEC’s attempt to downplay its exclusive character will only make it indistinguishable from the world.

People who have not confessed Christ as personal Savior and Lord remain in bondage to sin and therefore, in the words of St. Paul, “anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Cor. 11:29) – NIV

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Rodgers in his new book Essential Truths for Christians, A Commentary on the 39 Articles wrote of Article 28 that “to participate in unbelief, or in any other unworthy manner, is to profane the sacrament, to dishonor God and to bring judgment upon oneself. Repentant faith is essential to a right use of the sacrament because the nature of Christ’s self-giving is personal and because the Lord’s Supper is for sinner who receive unmerited grace therein.

“Jesus speaks about the importance of humble, repentant faith in connection to worship. The Apostle Paul warns us that to profane the Sacrament will bring serious consequences. It is far better to judge oneself and partake of the sacrament only in a worthy manner, in repentance and faith, than to offend the Lord,” concluded Rodgers.

The Episcopal Church’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will prove to be yet another nail in its coffin.

END

This article comes from VirtueOnline

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal

Following Jesus While Rejecting the Bible? Another Tragedy in Mainline Protestantism

May 11th, 2011 5 comments

I was going to put up a blog post on this, but…Al Mohler’s remarks are so good, I will just pass them along.

 

Yet another denomination has voted to ordain openly homosexual candidates to its ministry. Yesterday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) presbytery of the Twin Cities in Minnesota voted to approve a change to the church’s constitution that will allow the denomination’s 173 presbyteries to ordain persons without regard to sexual orientation.

The Twin Cities presbytery cast the deciding vote in what is now a 33-year effort to remove all restrictions on homosexuals serving in the church’s ordained ministry. It became the 87th presbytery to affirm the action of the church’s 219th assembly last summer authorizing the constitutional change. The action not only concludes over three decades of controversy over the ordination standards; it also reverses actions taken in 1997, 2001, and 2008, when similar efforts failed.

In 1996, the denomination restated its ordination requirements to include “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” That policy had also required that candidates “refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

The new constitutional section will read:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

All references to marriage and chastity are gone, along with the language about refusal to repent of sin. The new language speaks instead of submission to the Lordship of Christ and being guided by Scripture and confessions. In any other context, that language might not seem revolutionary, but in this case, it means the denomination’s surrender to those pushing for the normalization of homosexuality.

Put another way, this church has now decided that “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” is just too restrictive.

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly, explained the meaning of the change: “Clearly what has changed is that persons in a same-gender relationship can be considered for ordination . . . .  The gist of our ordination standards is that officers submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and ordaining bodies (presbyteries for ministers and sessions for elders and deacons) have the responsibility to examine each candidate individually to ensure that all candidates do so with no blanket judgments.”

Why now? Parsons suggested that the victory by proponents of the ordination of homosexuals has come because of the exodus of larger conservative congregations from the denomination (approximately 100 over the last five years), the fact that many Presbyterians seemed “ready to get past this argument,” the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the larger culture, and the less controversial wording of this revision. He, along with others, expressed some measure of surprise and relief that the decision was made.

He told The New York Times, “We’ve been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision. . . . Some people are going to celebrate this day because they’ve worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it’s a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have.”

The Presbyterian Church (USA) now joins the Episcopal Church (US), the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in ordaining openly homosexual candidates to the ministry.

Both sides in this controversy understand the meaning of the decision. While this action deals specifically with ordination standards, it is really about the larger issue of homosexuality. Most observers expect that the decision to allow same-sex marriages will follow closely.

But even beyond the specific issue of homosexuality, the church faced two of the most fundamental questions of Christian theology — the authority of the Bible and the Lordship of Christ. In making this change, the church clearly affirms that one may submit to the Lordship of Christ without submitting to the clear teachings of Scripture.

That is a fundamental error that leaves this denomination now in the implausible position of claiming to affirm the Lordship of Christ while subverting the authority of Scripture. The removal of the constitutional language about marriage and chastity, coupled with the removal of the language about repentance from what Scripture identifies as sin, effectively means that candidates and presbyteries may defy Scripture while claiming to follow Christ.

Clearly, this action could not have happened without this denomination having abandoned any required belief in the full authority, inspiration, and truthfulness of the Bible long ago. This most recent decision sets the stage for the total capitulation of this church to the normalization of homosexuality — an act of open defiance against the Scriptures.

In a “churchwide letter” to the denomination, PC(USA) leaders stated:

Reactions to this change will span a wide spectrum. Some will rejoice, while others will weep. Those who rejoice will see the change as an action, long in coming, that makes the PCUSA an inclusive church that recognizes and receives the gifts for ministry of all those who feel called to ordained office. Those who weep will consider this change one that compromises biblical authority and acquiesces to present culture. The feelings on both sides run deep.

Well, the feelings no doubt run deep, but the injury to this church runs far deeper than feelings. This is yet another tragedy in the sad history of mainline Protestantism’s race toward total theological disaster.


I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler

Laurie Goodstein, “Presbyterians Approve Ordination of Gay People,” The New York Times, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Presbyterians to Allow Gay to Be Ordained Ministers,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wednesday, May 11, 2011.

Jerry van Marter, “PC(USA) Relaxes Constitutional Prohibition of Gay and Lesbian Ordination,” Presbyterian News Service, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Approves Change in Ordination Standard,” Presbyterian News Service, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Episcopalian Priest Gives up Christianity for Lent (What Will Those Wacky Episcopalians Think of Next?)

March 17th, 2011 22 comments

 

You probably thought Saint Louis was just another boring quasi-Southern/Midwestern city, boring and predictable. And you would be wrong! We are cool. We are hip. We are cutting edge, baby. And to prove it we even have our own local Episcopalian priest who is giving up Christianity for Lent! How awesome is that? Here’s the story, and here’s a snippet:

The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent. Instead, Lawler, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson, decided to adopt the rituals of Islam for 40 days to gain a deeper understanding of the faith. On Friday, he faced being defrocked if he continued in those endeavors. “He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim,” said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. “If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.” Lawler, a part-time rector at the church, didn’t foresee such problems when he came up with the idea. He merely wanted to learn more about Islam, he said, especially in light of the ongoing congressional hearings on the radicalization of the faith On Wednesday, the first day of Lent, he began performing salah five times a day, by facing east, toward Mecca, and praying to Allah. He also started studying the Quran and following Islamic dietary restrictions by abstaining from alcohol, pork and fish. During Holy Week, he planned to fast from dawn to sunset as Muslims do during Ramadan. But in Smith’s eyes, the exercise amounts to “playing” at someone else’s religion and could be viewed as disrespectful.

 

Lutheran World Federation Invites Pope to Help Plan Celebration of 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

December 21st, 2010 5 comments

No word yet if the Pope is going to invite the LWF to help him plan an ecumenically appropriate celebration of Luther’s excommunication….

From LUTHERAN WORLD INFORMATION

VATICAN City, Vatican/GENEVA, 16 December 2010 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan has invited Pope Benedict XVI to work together with the Lutheran communion in realizing an ecumenically accountable commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
“For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the reformers, and we will celebrate that,” said Younan in a message today, when he led a seven-member delegation in a private audience with the Pope. He underlined the need to recognize both the damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress.
“But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.”
Greeting the LWF delegation, Pope Benedict expressed gratitude for “the many significant fruits produced” by decades of bilateral discussions between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, saying it had been possible “slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical cooperation, especially at the level of local communities.” In the years leading up to the next Reformation anniversary, “Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord’s guidance and help for the future,” he said.
The Pope pointed out that the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), whose tenth anniversary was marked in 2009, “has proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion.”
He reiterated his expectation that the close contacts and intensive dialogue which have characterized ecumenical relations between Catholics and Lutherans would continue to bear rich fruit.
Representing every LWF region, the delegation included also the General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge and regional vice presidents from Africa, Presiding Bishop Alex G. Malasusa (Tanzania); from Central Eastern Europe, Bishop Tamás Fabiny (Hungary); and from the Nordic region, Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien (Norway); and staff. Also present was Kurt Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), and other Vatican staff.
In his statement, Younan reiterated the LWF’s commitment to “moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the summa evangelii.” The LWF president pointed out that while it was important to “rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.”
Younan presented to the Pope a gift from Bethlehem, a carving depicting the Last Supper. Referring to this image, he said, “Each of us can bear witness to the importance of this sacramental meal in nurturing our own Christian lives. Each of us also knows the yearning for the time when we will be able to celebrate this feast together,” said the LWF president.
Younan noted that the LWF had taken a significant step toward Christian reconciliation at its July 2010 Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, by asking forgiveness from Mennonites for the persecution of Anabaptists in the 16th century. In preparing for this act, he said, the LWF was mindful that this legacy was shared by other traditions, including Roman Catholics, who with other ecumenical guests stood in solemn solidarity when the action was pronounced at the Assembly.
“We believe that we took this action on behalf of the whole body of Christ. We pray that this spirit of repentance, reconciliation and renewal will continue to grow among us.”
Younan, who is head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, noted that Catholics and Lutherans share a vision for just peace in the Middle East and support a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. He thanked the Pope for his moral leadership in exposing the injustices and idolatries of the global financial crisis – also a concern shared by the LWF, notably in its advocacy against illegitimate debt. On both issues, he urged closer collaboration.
“Our witness will be stronger if we will work together on these problems. Thus we look forward to forging multiple cooperations with our Catholic sisters and brothers at all levels, locally as well as globally,” Younan said.
The LWF president noted that he and the General Secretary represent the new leadership of the global Lutheran communion. Younan was elected President at Stuttgart in July, while Junge began his term of office in November.
The audience with the Pope honors the extraordinary journey by the two churches in recent years, and is a sign of hope for their future relations, Younan said.
Lutherans continue to rejoice, he added, because of the ways the two churches have reached new degrees of theological understanding and agreement, noting in particular the landmark Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
“Within our own lifetimes, the climate of relations between Lutherans and Catholics has warmed dramatically – and this climate change has been for the good! Around the world our churches live in a new ecology of relationship.” Younan concluded. (915 words)

Additional texts are available at lutheranworld.org