Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gene Appel: Saul - Standing Tall, Falling Hard

A few weeks ago, in a post entitled, "My Love/Hate Relationship with Megachurches, I wrote about Gene Appel, a teaching pastor who recently left the staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Gene's insightful and anointed ministry of teaching and preaching has blessed me very greatly over the past few years.

Gene's last message at Willow Creek was just posted to Digg this past week, and you can listen to it or download it here. From the life of Saul, Israel's first king who stood tall but fell hard, Gene teaches a lesson every believer needs to hear:

Partial obedience equals disobedience. Partial faithfulness equals unfaithfulness.

I hope you find this sermon as moving as I did.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mark Steyn on Anglicanism and Post-Christianity

I recently ran across Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Although it is not always obvious whether he sees it as a cause or an effect of "the end of the world as we know it," Steyn has some biting observations about the decline (one might even say the "self-destruction") of mainline Christianity.

If ever there were a time for a strong voice from the heart of Christianity, this would be it. And yet most mainline Protestant churches are as wedded to the platitiudes du jour as the laziest politician. These days, if it weren't for homosexuality, the "mainstream" Christian churches would get barely any press at all. In 2005, the big story in America was the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop; in Britain, the nomination of a celibate gay bishop; in Canada, New Westminster's decision to become the first diocese in the Anglican communion to perform same-sex ceremonies. In Nigeria, where on any Sunday the Anglicans in the pews outnumber those in America, Britain, and Canada combined, the archbishop is understandably miffed that the only news he gets from head office revolves around various permutations of gayness. Getting a reputation as a cult for upscale Western sodomites and a few attendant fetishists doesn't help when half your country's in the grip of sharia and the local Islamoheavies are just itching to torch your churches (98-99).

Most mainline Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches, on the grounds that if Jesus were alive today he'd most likely be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally friendly car with an "Arms Are for Hugging" sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

...The United States has a strain of evangelical Protestantism strong enough to grow in the years ahead. Unfortunately, there is no such surging evangelicalism in Europe. In search of the guiding hand of God, some Europeans will return to Pope Benedict's church, some will accept Islam, but there will be no takers for the archbishop of Canterbury's watery obsolescent soft-left pap (101-102).

Okay, who wants to join me in being a "strong voice from the heart of Christianity?"

Monday, April 07, 2008

"My church went to the heretics, and all I got was a lousy T-shirt."

By now, anyone who reads Episcopal news, and especially the blogs (see: 1, 2, and 3) knows that the judge in the Virginia church property disputes handed down a decision that was a setback for TEC and a first round victory for the departing Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) in what, alas, promises to be a protracted legal battle.

In his written opinion, which centered on whether the difference between the two sides constitutes a "division" over a matter of religious opinion (as required by the Virginia statute at issue in the case), Judge Randy Bellows stated that "it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude."

This language echoed a phrase contained in the Episcopal Church's brief in the case, which had asserted that the ADV's position on the Virginia statute "blinks at reality." Both uses of the phrase were intended as euphemisms for the much harsher accusation of lying.

Then the fun began:

"AnnieCOA," commenting on Stand Firm, wrote:
"TEC: Blinking at Reality"
Somebody better be making the T-Shirts! Profits could go to the ADV Defense Fund.

A mere sixteen minutes later, blogger Billy Ockham replied
AnnieCOA, Check ‘em out! Any profits will go to the ADV fund.

The link Billy Ockham had provided went to this Cafe Press page where you can buy T-shirts, boxer shorts, mugs, magnets, and stickers, all bearing the line:

"The Episcopal Church: Blinking at reality since 1976."

Don't you just love cyberspace sometimes?

Billy Ockham, writing on his own blog, explained:
Why 1976 you ask? Well, that's the year the Right Reverend John Shelby Spong was ordained bishop. It marks the beginning of an era.
Indeed it does!

But as Billy, who comments on Stand Firm under the name "mousestalker" remarked:

"My church went to the heretics and all I got was a lousy t-shirt!"

Well, Billy, thanks for the laugh and for designing this very timely merchandise.

Personally, I am going to buy a pair of those boxer shorts. Then, when someone asks me what I think of The Episcopal Church's lawsuits, I am going to unbuckle my belt, drop my trousers, and show 'em!