Saints and Scholars

Civil partnership shame of the Church of Ireland

September 8th, 2011

The recent civil partnership of a C. of I. cleric, with the apparent permission of his bishop, is a day of shame for the Church of Ireland and marks a significant abandonment of its responsibility to hold out the Gospel to the people of Ireland.

Once again, an arrogant action by liberal catholics has effectively brought deep division into the Church of Ireland and its witness. Rather than uphold the faith, liberal catholics have re-interpreted it to fit in with what society finds acceptable - what God thinks no longer matters. Not only is this action deeply schismatic and divisive, but it is also contrary to the ordination vows of all those involved.

If this action has been approved by the Bishop, as it appears it has been, then both the clergyman and the Bishop should have the decency to resign. In the light of the enormity of this step, were others consulted before permission was given? Did any of the Archbishops know that this was going to happen?

Some serious questions need to be asked of the Archbishops of the Church of Ireland. It is well known that the present archbishops are regarded as liberal catholics. Indeed the response of the Archbishop of Armagh gives great cause for concern, as he appears not to be condemning this civil partnership, but rather viewing it as a new situation for the church to come to terms with and accept. Will the archbishops clearly speak out in support of the biblical, Gospel standards of the Church of Ireland?

It is not acceptable that clergy or bishops of the Church of Ireland ignore the Gospel standards of the C of I in favour of their own idiosyncratic ideas or in a desire to embrace the values of a sinful world. It is time that that C of I decides that it is a Gospel church, true to its formularies, as expressed in the Articles of Religion, the Prayer book and the ordinal.

Church of Ireland people, the people in the pews should rise up and reject this unilateral, arrogant and hypocritical situation. A special synod should be called on this issue. The cleric and all those clergy involved in the background to this action should resign. It really is time for action by God’s people.

Hope for the Church of England

June 23rd, 2011

Interesting times ahead in the Church of England. Whilst Anglican revisionists of a liberal view are busy destroying Anglican denominations around the world (as for example the oppresive regimes of the Episcopal church in the USA and the Canadian Anglican church with their multi-million dollar lawsuits against orthodox anglicans), some Anglicans are busy building up the Kingdom of God.

Full marks to those who have set up the Anglican Mission in England (AMIE), not only for their desire to preserve ‘the faith once delivered’ but especially to extend it. The new AMIE not only offers a haven for faithful anglicans from the oppressive and intolerant new religion being imposed by liberals in the Church of England, but even more importantly, it is offering a vehicle for the growth of a faithful biblical anglican witness in England.

For too long, faithful anglicans have been on the ‘back foot’, constantly having to react against the unscriptural innovations of liberals, who seem to control the corridors of power and legislating committees. Ultimately, this kind of liberal self-serving and pandering to the world brings no-one into the kingdom of God. It tells people ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace. It doesn’t do secular society any good, for in the end by its failure to be faithful to the Gospel it consigns the world to condemnation. The world needs a faithful anglican witness. AMIE seems to be just that.

We can only pray for God’s richest blessing on the aims of AMIE as it actively seeks to be a unitive force for the proclamation of the Gospel through faithful anglicans in the Church of England. When the liberals have finally poisoned the Church of England, perhaps the only thing left standing will be the AMIE, which, in God’s providence, may end up having a greater role than first appears.

The Church of Ireland needs to take note of these developments in the English Anglican scene. Irish Anglicanism is also affected by the kind of poisoning of biblical christianity that has been happening in England through liberal bishops and clergy. This poisoning has made itself particularly felt ever since the 1998 Lambeth Conference with growing support for the homosexual agenda within the Church of Ireland. Faithful anglicans in the Church of Ireland don’t want their denomination put to death by liberals, but want to see the Kingdom of God extended through the faithful, biblical witness of the local church. The cause of the Gospel and the honour of the name of Jesus is just as dear to many within the Church of Ireland as it is to those in the Church of England who have taken the wonderful step of establishing the AMIE.

General Synod should consider spiritual health of the Church of Ireland

February 26th, 2011

The Irish House of Bishops has called a special General Synod of the Church of Ireland for March 5th to consider the future of the diocese of Tuam. Given the dire financial circumstances of the Church of Ireland, the likely outcome will be that the diocese will be closed down as an independent entity.

Whilst this is the presenting issue before the General Synod, members of the Synod should take the opportunity to debate the real reason why things have come to this. The fact that the Bishops of the Church of Ireland are considering this closure of one of their dioceses is an indication of the poverty of the spiritual state of the Church of Ireland. It is this that should form the substance of debates in this special Synod.

Those concerned with the Gospel witness of the Church of Ireland today need to put forward a motion that will cause this crucial issue to be debated. It is not good enough for the Church of Ireland simply to be managing decline. The facts that face the Church of Ireland in modern Ireland are that churches are declining, church buildings are being closed, and now a whole diocese is being shut down? And why? At bottom, it is because the spiritual state of the Church of Ireland has been eroded and reduced by a growing lack of confidence in the power of the Gospel itself to change lives.

The truth of the matter is that the Church of Ireland as a body has no strategy for reaching Ireland. This is probably due to a number of reasons. As Reform Ireland has always pointed out, liberal theology has such a grip in the Church of Ireland that evangelism is a taboo word. Also, ecumenism as practiced by the Church of Ireland has robbed it of any urgency in promoting the Gospel since anyone that is baptized as an infant is regarded as a Christian. Furthermore, a kind of universalist theology dominates so that there is no real urgency to rescue sinners from Hell since all will probably go to heaven in the end.

To remedy this, the Church of Ireland needs to rediscover its doctrinal roots. Instead of trying to water down the 39 Articles as was attempted at previous General Synods, the Church of Ireland needs to rediscover them and own afresh the truth that they clearly portray. It needs to put in place a strategy for re-evangelizing the island of Ireland with the Gospel of Christ. It needs to raise up a new generation of Gospel workers, ordained and lay, that are equipped to do this. This is something that needs to be debated sooner and not later.

Therefore, this emergency Synod needs to debate the real issue behind the presenting issue. Ultimately the issue behind the problem of Tuam diocese isn’t economics - it’s the spiritual state of the Church of Ireland. Members of this Synod should have the courage to make sure that this is the key issue that dominates not only the agenda of this Synod, but also of all future Synods

Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011

January 30th, 2011

On the 25th January 2011 the Primates of the Anglican Church met in Dublin with some notable absentees - The Primates of the Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa, the Southern Cone of Latin America, and South East Asia have stayed away. The primary reason for their absence is their Biblical stance on the issue of human sexuality which is in conflict with many of those who are attending. Reform Ireland welcomes and has been encouraged by the Biblical stance of the absentee Primates.

It has been reported that on two occasions Primates of the Global South advised the Archbishop of Canterbury that they would not attend the current Primates’ Meeting if the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church were present. Of the fourteen Primates who made this representation, it appears that only one will be attending any part of the meeting. In this light, the defensive explanations of why Primates are not attending offered by the Secretary General and the Communion Office (e.g. visa problems, diary conflicts, etc.) must raise eyebrows. Why should we think that those who publicly stated two months ago why they were not planning to attend now really wanted to come, but forgot they had another appointment?

The tenor of conversation among the boycotting Primates centres round the realisation that Dr Williams is unable, and apparently unwilling, to resolve the Anglican crisis. Dr Williams’ successes in persuading conservatives to go along, will not be repeated this time due to their absence. The “rump” meeting in Dublin 2011 has already been dismissed as illegitimate by some of the boycotting Primates, who represent 40 of the Communion’s 55 million active Anglicans.

A little candor by those in attendance would be nice: there is a problem, and it is a major problem. Are the Primates who have gathered in Dublin facing it, or are they still pretending that everybody has “moved beyond” the resolute disrespect of TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada towards their previous commitments and the commitments of the Communion at large?

How ironic to read the following from the Primates meeting:
Aspects of primacy shared among all Provinces included the Primate having a ministry of reconciliation and peace building; of linking the local with the global and vice-versa; of being a consensus builder, a symbol of unity in the Province and the wider community; of being a pastor to other bishops; and of having a prophetic voice, to interpret the signs of the times in their local context.

The reasons for the absentee Primates has been aired in the media on many occasions over the past years. The presence of certain Primates, most notably Katharine Schori has meant that other Primates could not in all conscience attend. Her presence and the actions of the Episcopal; Church in the United States are in direct conflict with Scripture and therefore with fellowship. When we read that a Primate is someone who is considered to be a ‘consensus builder’, a ‘symbol of unity’ and engaged in the ministry of reconciliation and peace building we are left wondering how this applies to ignoring the pleas of the other parts of the Anglican Communion. Where is the peace building and reconciliation work in sanctioning liturgies for same-sex blessings? Where is the reconciliation and peace building in taking parishes to court to seize land, property and finances?
The avoidance of core issues of division by the Primates meeting in Dublin can be seen in the following part of the press release:
The question was raised, though not addressed in plenary, about how far Primates had a role in safeguarding the life of the Communion as a whole.
Here, in light of all that has transpired over the past five years, is an important issue that is being sidestepped – a typical Anglican fudge. Here is one elephant in the room that Archbishop Williams, and we suspect Schlori, do not wish to be addressed either in the plenary or small group sessions in case their carefully choreographed meeting disintegrates and the house of cards publicly comes crashing down.

Reform Ireland believes that the Anglican Communion is irretrievably split. GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration was a defining moment and we look to leadership in that fellowship for direction and for guidance. We can no longer allow those who ignore the plain teaching of Scripture and who openly practice and preach what is contrary to Scripture to guide the visible church.

Many clergy and parish vestries have endorsed and signed the Jerusalem Declaration and aligned themselves with GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Reform Ireland encourages clergy and Select Vestries to sign up to the Jerusalem statement and to bring it to the attention of the wider church family.
We continue to pray for God’s mercy on this part of His church. We continue to pray for all those in authority, at all levels, within the Anglican Communion. We ask others to pray for a true spirit of humility, and a true repentance from sin to be a hall mark of this Primates meeting. Scripture is clear that only by turning from sin, repenting of sin and seeking God’s forgiveness in Christ will a church be blessed. To do other is to be in danger of the judgment of God. We should not ignore the warning given to the Church in Ephesus in Revelation 2 verse 5 – a timely word for the Anglican Communion today.

Can the Church of Ireland afford so many bishops?

November 23rd, 2010

The bishop of Tuam has just recently announced his resignation and departure for a post in England in the New Year. It raises an important question for the Church of Ireland in these days of economic hardship in Ireland. Can we afford so many bishops?

The basic number of bishops in the Church of Ireland has not changed for a century or more and yet the circumstances of the Church of Ireland have moved on. Numbers have declined over that period and so has its ability to finance itself. Just recently, the Church of Ireland was one of the biggest losers in Ireland’s banking fiasco, losing €17million euro in its share values.

No-one wants to see Church of Ireland people not episcopally catered for, but do we need and can we afford the present numbers of bishops to do it? With approximately 500 clergy, the Church of Ireland has about the same number as a large diocese in England and such a diocese has only one bishop - plus possibly a suffragan! Surely, in these very difficult financial times for Ireland, the General Synod of the Church of Ireland should be seriously examining the financial feasibility of the present House of Bishops?

The Church of Ireland has faced difficult days before and these are similar times when some tough decisions about the number of bishops need to be taken. This needs to be debated. The General Synod, as the body which votes the finance of the Church of Ireland, needs to raise questions about the affordability and effectiveness of so many bishops. Surely, the job can be done with fewer bishops?

Only Evangelicals are Christians

November 15th, 2010

‘I used to be an Evangelical, but I’ve gone beyond that phase in my life’. How many times have those kinds of things been said, particularly by clergy? Evangelicalism is viewed as a thing of the past. Penal substitution, belief in miracles, and the view that Christ is the only way to God is seen by many as belonging to another age of the Church’s life, but things have moved on. Society has changed and the church with it.

The view that Christ suffered and died, the innocent for the guilty, to bring us to God is seen as immoral. Christ’s death is an example of self-giving love, an example for us as a way to live; but as payment for sin - surely not? Isn’t that what those ‘fundamentalists’ believe? We’ve moved on as Christians and we can no longer hold these kinds of beliefs anymore.

However, one of the craziest delusions of liberal theology is that it thinks it can abandon the apostolic Gospel of the New Testment and think it’s serving God! This kind of thinking isn’t new. Paul talks about it in the opening of his letter to the Galatians, where the Galatian Christians were moving away from their Gospel roots to embrace new ideas about God. He writes, I am astonished that you are so quickly abandoning him who called you in the grace of Christ, and are turning to another gospel-not that there is another one…’

It’s very clear from Paul’s words, that if you move away from the Gospel, you move away from God. Moving away from the Gospel is not moving to a more theologically sophisticated or mature way of serving God - quite the opposite, it’s an immature abandoning of God! The trajic irony of it all is that those who move away from the Gospel to some inadequate and unfaithful interpretation of it actually think that they are serving God and that God is pleased with them!

The only person who can claim to be a Christian is the one who holds to the apostolic Gospel. No matter how religious, how moral, how sophisticated, how erudite our theology and religious practice, if it is not predicated on the Gospel of Christ, it is nothing. No-one but those who hold to the Gospel, Evangelicals, are Christians.

What sort of Archbishop?

October 16th, 2010

Just this week, the Rt. Rev. Dr. John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin announced his retirement to take effect from the end of January 2011. It raises the question, what sort of Archbishop is needed to help steer the Church of Ireland in the days ahead? Ireland is more multi-cultural than at any time in its previous history, extremely angry at Church and State, and suspicious of authority. Christianity is at a low ebb and main-line denominations seem more concerned with managing decline than making any serious Gospel impact on Irish society. What sort of Archbishop is needed in this context?

The Bible doesn’t say anything about Archbishops, but it does say a lot about good church leaders and bad church leaders. From the world’s point of view, a good church leader is one who will not rock the boat, but will give good sound-bites for t.v., radio and newspaper, and will move with the spirit of the age on all sorts of matters. The world wants somebody just like itself - and has a good chance of getting it in today’s Church of Ireland.

For, in the new Church of Ireland ‘Book of Common Prayer’ service on ‘The Ordination or Consecration of a Bishop’, Bishops and Archbishops have been elevated to be modern day interpreters of the Gospel of Christ (page 576), not those who are determined to teach only what Scripture teaches and who ‘…banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word…’ as they once swore before 2004. The latitude given to the modern day Church of Ireland bishop or archbishop in ‘interpreting the Gospel of Christ’ means that they have no heed of the warning in the 1662 Prayer Book - ‘be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not’ -it’s left out of the new ‘Prayer Book’. It seems that according to our modern ‘Prayer Book’, no bishop could possibly turn out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing no matter what he teaches - it’s all interpretation!

From the Bible’s point of view, church pastors are expected to be godly men who can teach the Word of God accurately and faithfully. Ireland needs such men for its spiritual health and blessing. The Church of Ireland needs pastors, bishops, and archbishops who can meet the world with thoroughly biblical convictions. Only the Gospel can bring hope to Ireland. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church and His Word cannot be set aside. Let’s hope this is the kind of Archbishop that will be called to help lead the Church of Ireland in the 21st century.

Burning the Koran - is this love?

September 8th, 2010

An American pastor of a small Florida church has created a huge worldwide stir by promising to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Despite being repeatedly asked not to, he is determined to do so. His actions are hardly in line with the words of Jesus to ‘love your enemy’, but it seems that loving the United States and the freedom of democracy is more important than loving Christ and sinners in the name of Christ.

No Christian could agree with the actions of this rogue pastor. Where is the desire to see Moslem people come under the love of Christ? Where is the desire to see Moslem people enjoy the eternal life that is only available in Christ? Where is there any love for Moslem people in all of this? It obviously doesn’t exist. If it did, there would be no burning of Korans, only a Christ like desire to seek their greatest good through sharing the good news of Jesus.

Such a nasty, sordid little action is self-serving and idolatrous. Far from heeding Christ’s command to love, it puts political values in place of love of God. Not only that, this selfish action is not interested in the negative impact that it will have on persecuted Christians under some Islamic regimes. It will hinder Christian witness, undermine the work of those working to bring Christ to Muslims and cause heartache, trouble, and perhaps even death in some countries where Christians are already severely persecuted.

Instead of purchasing Korans to burn, this Pastor should re-read his Bible, consider Christ’s love for the world, embrace the way the Gospel is meant to be lovingly shared with others, and wake up to the evil this action will result in for many of Christ’s persecuted people. This worldly and ungodly action is rightly condemned by the vast majority of Evangelicals around the world, who want to hold up the love of Christ to the world, not the love of a political system. Such an action by this Pastor and his church is certainly not Christian love. The pastor and his people should be deeply ashamed and repent of such an action.

Does the Church of Ireland believe in evangelism?

September 2nd, 2010

Is there such a place as Hell? Do people go there? Was the death of Jesus on the cross a rescue or an example? Officially the Church of Ireland believes that Heaven and Hell are real and that people need to trust in the death of Jesus if they are to be rescued from Hell and fitted for Heaven. At least that’s the official (historic) theology. But what’s the actual working theology of the Church of Ireland?

Judging from its activities, we seem to have a difference between the official and the actual theology of the Church of Ireland. There doesn’t seem to be an aweful lot of evangelism going on. There was once upon a time, back in the last century, ‘a decade of evangelism’, but nothing much ever came from it. Bishops marshalled often reluctant parishes and clergy to do something vaguely connected with ‘mission’. So much time was spent debating the meaning of words like ‘evangelism’, ‘outreach’, and ‘mission’, that the idea of presenting a message of God’s rescue in Christ was defined out of existence.

The truth is, with some few exceptions, there is a spiritual malaise about the Church of Ireland. Somehow, taking seriously its official theology is akin to fundamentalism. Nobody wants to touch it. It’s far better and easier to organize political action, ecumenical action, spend thousands of euros on endless Synod committess coming up with endless ideas about secondary matters. But evangelism?! Telling people that they are on the broad road that leads to Hell and that they need to repent and turn to Christ?! That’s just fundamentalism, isn’t it?

No Christians need apply!

April 2nd, 2010

No Christians please! Christians need not apply for posts with the Irish civil service! That’s the latest message from an Irish government TD, Martin Mansergh, in the light of the Civil Partnership Bill currently making its way through the Irish political system.

The Irish government are so far refusing to contemplate an opt-out clause for Christian conscientious objectors in the marriage registry office, who cannot carry out their duties in relation to performing ‘civil marriages’ for same-sex couples. In a recent address at Trinity College Chapel, Dublin, TD Mansergh said that ’state officials are required to implement the law without reference to their own religious beliefs’; and ‘that to act otherwise would imply that religious beliefs should be allowed to take precedence over State impartiality and, in effect, to discriminate through a la carte implementation of the law.’ Astoundingly, he goes on to say that ‘no-one is obliged to be or to stay a public official, if a conflict of beliefs occurs!’ The plan is then to follow up anyone who refuses to perform a civil ceremony with a fine and even imprisonment!

Effectively, Mr. Mansergh and the Irish government, if they pass such legislation, are saying there is no religious freedom for state officials. It’s reminiscent of Cromwell’s policy - Connaught or Hell! Surely, a government that wants to ensure equality for all its citizens would be able to provide a body of sufficient registrars, those with no strong religious beliefs, to perform the necessary duty for homosexual and lesbian couples without either jailing, fining, or forcing other civil servants out of a job!

Mr. Mansergh even had the audacity to attempt a theological justification for such a politically repressive move. Just as God gave way to the Israelites, he said, in giving them a king against his will, thus bowing to the people’s will, so God today in Irish society should bow his will to the growing secular will of the people. Not being much of a theologian, it’s not surprising that Mr. Mansergh misses the whole point of the election of Saul as King. God is not surrendering his sovereignty, rather in his sovereignty, he’s giving the people what they want, that they may come to see that this is a rejection of him. In the same way, in Romans 1, Paul argues that God gives sinners over to what they want, not because he is not sovereign but so that they might reap the full outcome of their sinful rebellion. By such reasoning, we can expect that the Irish state is not only moving further from God’s will, but will reap what it sows in the growth of sinful, ungodly lifestyles that will have a detrimental effect on the health of the nation.

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