We live in a world in which uncertainty and agnosticism are more valuable than conviction and commitment. People can make their own way to God if they are sincere and determined. And that everyone should find their own way to God. So my way is just as good as yours.
Sincerity and Truth Many people think all religions lead to God because they assume that all religions are essentially the same when you reduce them to their core beliefs. They liken the religions to different paths up a mountain, believing that as we approach the summit we realise how much we have in common. But this just isn’t true and only shows they have not looked deeply enough at what the various religions teach. If you let each religion speak for itself, you find they differ greatly on the basic concepts-God, truth, reality, the basic human dilemma and the solution to that dilemma. They differ so much that many of their statements contradict one another. For example, God cannot be both personal, as Christians, Jews and Muslims believe, and impersonal, as Buddhists and Hindus believe. Jesus cannot be a false Messiah as Judaism teaches, a prophet as Islam teaches and the Son of God as Christians believe. Those are contradictory statements. According to the rules of logic, contradictory statements cannot all be true. Therefore, all religions cannot possibly be true. It is a logical impossibility. And if they are not all true, and if they lead us in different directions, then not all of them can lead to God. The Sincerity of adherents of other religions is not in question. You can be sincere but sincerely wrong.
Persuasion and Respect
Some people make this assertion for another reason. They think that it is intolerant to believe only one religion has things right. But this response shows a misunderstanding of what intolerance really is. Intolerance comes from the word “tolerate.” To tolerate means to allow something, such as a belief, to exist even though we don’t like it or agree with it. Tolerance does not mean never disagreeing with anybody. The word implies disagreement. True tolerance means allowing differing views to coexist without necessarily agreeing with them or claiming that all views are true. Therefore, we can hold that one view is true or better than other views without being intolerant or disrespectful. If we were truly intolerant, we would silence other points of view. But merely engaging in persuasive conversation with someone you disagree with is not intolerance. We show more respect for each other when we take our religious claims seriously than when we clothe them in a patronizing cloak of relativism. Continue reading →
This week, Craig Dyer (training director of Christianity Explored), Jim McAnlis (of Fields of Life and East Africa coordinator of Christianity Explored) and I are in Burundi to launch the new Kirundi translation of Christianity Explored.
CE is a popular ten week evangelistic course, based entirely on Mark’s gospel which includes talks, group Bible discussion and personal reflection. Now available in more than 20 languages and being used in more than 70 countries, CE is designed to help participants answer three simple questions around which Mark’s gospel is structured: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What is his claim on my life? It is literally a walk through Mark’s gospel to explain, through the teaching, the miracles, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the incredible claim made in the very first verse, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1).
The course is also designed to help give church members confidence in the Word of God and learn how to share their faith as well as train new church leaders. The strategy is to train hundreds to equip thousands to reach millions. CE is distinctive among other similar courses because it simply allows the gospel to teach the gospel.
This is the fourth year we have visited East Africa to train pastors and clergy to use Christianity Explored. In previous years we have held conferences at Carlisle College in Nairobi, Kenya, at Kiwoko Bible Week, and for clergy in Luwero and Masindi Dioceses in Uganda. Working closely with the Anglican Bishops, Pentecostal leaders, the Uganda Bible Society, Kiwoko Hospital and Fields of Life, we have launched translations in Luganda and Swahili and trained several thousand clergy to use the course. It is estimated that tens of thousands have completed the course in Uganda and we know of new churches that have been planted as a result.
At the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop of Burundi, the Right Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, this week we visited Matana Cathedral and trained about 70 of his clergy to use the course. In Makamba Diocese, with the blessing of Bishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, the Diocesan centre hosted a similar conference for over 200 pastors and clergy from 35 different denominations. This was the first time many of them had experienced a small group bible discussion. They discovered the value of group study to personalise, compliment, reinforce and apply Biblical teaching.
Returning to Bujumbura, through the beautiful mountain scenery of Burundi, we stopped by the shores of Lake Tanganyika at the large stone making the place where in 1874, Livingstone, coming from the coast of Tanzania, met Stanley coming from the Congo.
The world has changed dramatically in the last 140 years, but the heart of the human problem remains the problem of the human heart. Transcending the barriers of language and culture, people are discovering through CE and the teaching of Jesus, that we are more sinful that we ever realised but more loved that we ever dreamed.
The Anglican Mission in England (AMIE) held its inaugural event on Wednesday June 22 during an evangelical ministers’ conference in central London.
AMIE has been established as a society within the Church of England dedicated to the conversion of England and biblical church planting. There is a steering committee and a panel of bishops. The bishops aim to provide effective oversight in collaboration with senior clergy.
The AMIE has been encouraged in this development by the Primates’ Council of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON) who said in a communiqué from Nairobi in May 2011: “We remain convinced that from within the Provinces which we represent there are creative ways by which we can support those who have been alienated so that they can remain within the Anglican family.”
The AMIE is determined to remain within the Church of England. The desire of those who identify with the society is to have an effective structure which enables them to remain in the Church of England and work as closely as possible with its institutions. Churches or individuals may join or affiliate themselves with the AMIE for a variety of reasons. Some may be churches in impaired communion with their diocesan bishop who require oversight. Others may be in good relations with their bishop but wish to identify with and support others.
At the London conference three English clergy who have been ordained in Kenya for “ministry in the wider Anglican Communion” with the support of the GAFCON Prımates’ Councıl were welcomed and prayed with by bishops and church leaders in support of their ministry.
The launch of AMIE follows four and a half years of discussions with senior Anglican leaders in England about ways in which those who are genuinely in need of effective orthodox oversight in the Church of England can receive it.
The AMIE will continue to encourage church planting and all forms of Christian witness in accord with the Jerusalem Statement of the GAFCON Conference in June 2008.
“The AMiE is not only committed to adventurous church planting and the re-conversion of England, but is also prepared to provide alternative episcopal oversight in cases where it is clear that diocesan bishops are failing in their canonical duty to uphold sound teaching. The key institutional innovation is a panel of bishops formed by Bishops Michael Nazir Ali, John Ball, Colin Bazley, Wallace Benn and John Ellison which enjoys the support and encouragement of the GAFCON Primates’ Council.”
Archbishop Edmund visited Virginia Water yesterday. He serves in the Anglican Diocese of Kebbi in Nigeria. In this interview he speaks about some of the challenges the church faces in northern Nigeria today.
The Right Revd Dr P.J. Lawrence serves in the Diocese of Nandyal in the Church of South India. dioceseofnandyal.org/
In this short interview he shares about the challenges of ministering in a community that is almost exclusively Dalit.
The etymological meaning for the Sanskrit word ‘Nandi’ means a Bull, and ‘Alaya(m)’ means Temple . Traditionally it is a belief that ‘Nava Nandis’ ruled this area under Sir Krishna Devaraya dynasty who constructed 9 bull temples and the name Nandyal is derived from these Nandi Alaya [Nandyal(a)]. Hindu religion in this area is very predominant. Nandyal is major center for education, agriculture, wildlife, pilgrimage and has some of the most fertile land in Rayalaseema , as it is surrounded by water on four sides.
The Diocese of Nandyal lies in the Deccan Plateau in Andhra Pradesh, a state created in 1956 with Hyderabad as its capital and formerly it was in Madras State . The people are Telugu speaking Dravidians, prevalence of Hinduism exist. Anglicans specially the S P G Missionaries preached the Gospel among ‘Malas’ a scheduled caste whose traditional occupation was weaving. The Diocese geographically lies mostly in Kurnool District, also extended in Cuddapah, Prakasham, Mahaboobnagar and Anantapur Districts. Nandyal lies in the western part of Andhra Pradesh. This region is bounded by thick Nallamala forests. Due to meager rainfall the drought conditions frequently occur and may be followed by famines. Because of the configuration of the land, its climate and its remoteness, the area is economically poor.
John Coles, the Director of New Wine and Leader of the New Wine Networks facilitated a ‘Leaders Day’ at St Paul’s, Addlestone today. Afterwards I asked John about New Wine and about an exciting new ministry training initiative.
Members of the FCA Theological Resource Group outside Christ Church, Virginia Water.
Orthodox Anglican Bishops, clergy and theologians from Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Australia, the USA and UK were meeting at Sunningdale Park in Berkshire over the weekend.
They also attended the morning service at Christ Church, Virginia Water. The Right Revd. Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu from Nigeria preached a moving sermon on Matthew 16:21-28 (front row fourth from right). Warm greetings were received from the Right Revd Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford. Members of Runnymede Deanery also attended.
Back and middle rows: Dr George Malek (South Africa), Canon Dr Kevin Donlan (USA), Revd Dr Charles Raven (UK), Revd Dr Roger Beckwith (UK), Revd Dr Mark Thompson (Australia), Revd Professor Stephen Noll (Uganda), Canon Dr Chris Sugden (UK)
Front Row: Canon Etienne Mbusa (Congo), Dr Ngozi Okeke (Nigeria), Revd Erin Clifford (UK), Rt Revd John Akao (Nigeria), Rt Revd Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu (Nigeria), Mrs Imsola Odunayia (Nigeria), Canon Arthur Middleton (UK).
In preparation for the first Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church of North America, to be held in Bedford, Texas, 22-25 June 2009, the Right Revd John Ellison, the retired Bishop of Paraguay, discusses the marks of a true church – apostolicity, catholicity, holiness and unity.
He argues that the Church of England is in danger of becoming a backwater within Global Anglicanism if it fails to recognise and partner with the new Province.
Bishop John Ellison reflects on the marks of a true church as found in the Anglican Church in North America
As I have been thinking about the first Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) I have wondered how leaders, especially those bishops in the Church of England who have been invited, will in fact respond. Will we as a church make sure we are represented? My firm conviction is that the ACNA shows the marks of the true church as affirmed by the Nicene and the Niceno Constantinoplan Creeds, that it to say apostolicity, catholicity, holiness and unity.
1. The mark of apostolicity. Then as now apostolicity links the contemporary church with the Apostles of the New Testament and ensures that the church is both earthed historically as well as establishing the vital link of continuity. To speak of apostolicity is to affirm that there is a clearly definable content to the Bible which is not ours to tamper with. The ACNA in its commitment to Scripture and apostolic teaching is clearly worthy of our encouragement and support.
2. The mark of catholicity. Catholicity speaks to us of the church worldwide across national and international boundaries, as well as temporally across the centuries. “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church”, famously wrote Ignatius of Antioch in 110AD. Here is the vital safeguard against parochialism, being concerned only with the local and negligent of the wider church catholic. “Those to whom God is Father, the church may also be Mother”, wrote John Calvin (Institutes 4.1.1) He added “One may not put asunder what God has joined together”. As English Christians we should rejoice in the coming together of so many different expressions of North American Anglicanism embracing the vision of both Ignatius and John Calvin. At a time when TEC is sadly but relentlessly turning its back on the wider Anglican Communion, we should be glad to know of the continuing witness to the church both catholic and reformed that is represented within the ACNA and give it our support.
3. The mark of holiness. Holiness has been so emphasized as a mark of the church by both Protestant and Catholic theologians, that we might be tempted to take it for granted. Nevertheless, given the worldliness of so much of the contemporary church in the West, it is reassuring to have in the ACNA a firm testimony to the Christian difference seen in the holy living of the church over against the surrounding secular culture. The ACNA unequivocally affirms that holiness is God’s calling to God’s people, both individually and collectively. In the coming together of different Anglican traditions within the new province there is a renewed emphasis on the corporate nature of our common discipleship. ACNA represents a clear turning away from the excessive individualism that we have seen in TEC and gives us hope that in other western cultures by God’s grace, orthodox belief and behaviour can be brought back together again.
4. The mark of unity. The unity of the church only assumes significant meaning as it grows out of apostolicity, catholicity and holiness. We have in the new province a serious expression of all these characteristics. We might also add that if the church’s suffering is a further sign of authenticity, then the ACNA has much to teach us.
We need to hope and pray that the Church of England will be properly represented at the inauguration of this new province at Forth Worth later this month.
Bishop John was interviewed this week by Stephen Sizer on the ACNA. The transcript is below.
Q What would you say to those who say you are breaking up the Church in forming a new province?
JE That only makes sense if your priority is some sort of institutional unity and that you actually put order above doctrine. My fear is, looking at this from within the English perspective, that the priority in the Church of England is order rather than doctrine – order in the sense of conforming to the rules and regulations that we as a church have put in place which no longer function and have not been exercised to stop the spread of heresy both in belief or behaviour either in the TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) Those who have had the courage to stand up and be counted on these issues are the very people who are part of this new province.
Q What are the specific issues that have led to the formation of this province?
The fundamental issue is the loss of the focus on gospel. However you look at TEC or the ACoC, The people of deep gospel conviction who have obviously been there as the classic evangelicals over the decades and also within the anglo-catholic end of the spectrum, they have been chopped off. What you have ended up with is a bland middle – that is particularly the case in the ACoC, and in the TEC you have not a bland middle but an aggressive neo-liberal leadership which is actually preaching a different gospel. That is well documented on the various websites. That is the heart issue – it is a rejection of authentic Christianity.
Q. Were these issues prevalent while you were a serving in Paraguay as bishop?
JE They were in South America where we in the process of establishing new congregations and founding new dioceses, you have to ask what is the church, who are we and what we are doing that neither Roman Catholic nor Pentecostal Churches are already doing. What is our reason for being here as Anglicans? We have received immense encouragement to be ourselves from the Roman Catholic leadership and the leadership of many Pentecostal denominations. What shocked them and the areas where we were called to give account was when they asked the question over recent years – “Is the Anglican Communion a serious church?” because of the things we were tolerating both about belief and behaviour. So we had to redouble our efforts to make sure our people were taught about the nature of the true church and that we are part of it.
Q What is the timescale for this new province?
JE Later this month there will be the inauguration of a new province in North America, moving beyond the different strands that have been working together and seeing growth over recent years and coming together as never before. The exciting this is that it brings together people of deep conviction both of a more catholic and more reformed background.
Q What do you think the response is going to be from the Church of England towards the new province.
JE The evidence at the moment is that it is trying to ignore it. My hope and prayer is that a diocesan bishop who will have the courage to say that this is something we must identify with for the sake of the global communion. That is where the majority of Anglicans worldwide will be. They will be identified with what is happening in the United States. Not to do anything , to pretend it is not happening, will be further evidence to our brethren, particularly in Africa but in many other parts of the Communion too that the Church of England is moving out of the mainstream of Anglican identity worldwide.
Q The primary support that we are seeing so far for ACNA seems to be coming from the provinces that have been planted as missionary churches in Africa and South America.
JE It is this old story of the family grows up and the children assume responsibility and leadership. How do we as aging parents, if you like grandparents, respond to the new reality. The Church of England is finding it desperately difficult to respond to this new reality – of leadership being given in quite extraordinary ways by non-Anglo-Saxon leadership.
Q. We see TEC trying to seize properties of faithful gospel churches, removing the licences of clergy, seek to defrock bishops in North America, and numerous court cases are going on as well. Where do you see this going?
JE. The litigation culture saturates North American society and it is prevalent within the life of the church. The first thing you do is to go for the properties. These are measurables. What we are seeing in the process is a part of what was once the Anglican Communion beginning to move in its own direction to become an independent organization. It is no coincidence that it simply calls itself The Episcopal Church and seeking to influence many others worldwide. They have their own agenda which they will follow fairly relentlessly.
Q Where do you see Global Anglicanism in the next 10 years? What would your hope be for the Anglican Communion and what is your fear?
JE We see the historic shift of the Church from the East to the West and now to the South. That movement will continue. It does not depend on the Church of England. It has its own momentum and its own pattern. The question is whether we are prepared to learn from the experience of the wider church or not. They want to learn from us. The high regard with which many Anglican leaders and many others hold the Church of England is quite remarkable. We have to enter into a different kind of partnership where we are prepared to learn from one another and much more humbly recognize our interdependence. My hope is that we will do just that. We need the help of the wider church catholic to move forward here in England. They are ready to give it. It is a prayerful yearning for the restoration and the renewal of the Church here in England. They want to be alongside us so that by God’s grace that can happen.
My fear is that we will further isolate ourselves from what is happening in the church worldwide and without being aware of it get further out of step with God the Holy Spirit in terms of the moves that is so dominant in the south and in the worldwide church. We must avoid the terrible kind of parochialism which is not just there in parishes but also in provinces which forget the global catholic reality. This could happen in the provinces of Canterbury and York if we further isolate ourselves from the vibrant Anglicanism of the wider Communion.
Q Where do you see the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans gathering on July 6th having a strategic role to play?
JE. It can be a key moment for raising our awareness of the global Catholic church and to help us to see the great things that God is doing in other parts of the world and saying : “This is tremendous. What more could we do in England with the support of these our brethren and what do we by God’s grace have to give them so that we are truly working together, perhaps as we never believed possible in recent years in partnership in the gospel.
Last night we hosted + Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes and President of the Church of England Evangelical Council at Christ Church, Virginia Water. + Wallace spoke on Confessing Anglicans in Global and Local Mission. You can view his two presentations here:
THE launch in the UK and Ireland of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), an orthodox Anglican movement for mission at global and local level, is to take place on July 6 in London.
The Fellowship is the outworking of last year’s GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, at which 1200 delegates signed up to the Jerusalem Statement. Those attending Gafcon 2008 represented some 40 million Anglicans world-wide, 70% of the total active membership of 55 million.
The launch event, entitled ‘Be Faithful! – Confessing Anglicans in Global and Local Mission’ will be held at Westminster Central Hall from 10.30am-5.30pm. The aim is to encourage and envision Anglicans who are committed to the orthodox teachings of the Anglican Church and who are passionate about global and local mission. It will be the first of regular ‘fellowship’ events both in the UK and across the world.
Speakers at the July 6 gathering, where around 2,300 bishops, clergy and laity are expected, will include contributors from across the Anglican Communion, including Bishops Keith Ackerman (President of Forward in Faith North America), Wallace Benn (Bishop of Lewes), John Broadhurst (Chairman of Forward in Faith UK) and Michael Nazir-Ali, Dr Chik Kaw Tan plus Archbishop Peter Jensen (secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans www.fca.net). They, and others yet to be announced, will also lead gatherings in London churches on Sunday July 5th. the day before the launch.
For further information about the event, email email@example.com, or book on-line here