Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jesus in China: Important Television [Updated]

A massive wave of Christianity has been sweeping across China in recent years, and the ruling Chinese party, officially atheist, has been struggling to figure out how to control it. In "Jesus in China," a joint project of PBS' Frontline/World and the Chicago Tribune, reporter Evan Osnos investigates one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, and how it could possibly transform China at this explosive moment in the country's history.

While I am always somewhat cautious about the coverage of Christian subjects by secular reporters, this program offered a very objective and revealing look into a powerful movement of God in the world's most populous nation.

This program, which originally aired on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, can be seen in its entirety on the website, here. The reporter's video diary, an interview with a Chinese pastor, and other background material can be found here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Confessional or Conciliar: the GAFCON dilemma

If you read GAFCON's "The Way, the Truth, the Life" (484kb PDF) and Bishop Duncan's opening address, "Anglicanism Come of Age: A Post-Colonial and Global Communion for the 21st Century" (100kb PDF), you will encounter what can be regarded as one very significant contradiction: The writers of "The Way, the Truth, the Life" state, "The Anglican Church has always been a confessional institution..." whereas Bp. Duncan says, "Anglicanism is neither papal, nor confessional, it is rather apostolic and conciliar."

GAFCON's detractors may well see this contradiction as an opportunity to allege that those who are busily involved in crafting a new global Anglican future cannot even agree on the nature of Anglicanism's past and present identity. And, of course, there are those, from both the liberal and Anglo-Catholic camps, who have never liked the idea of Anglicans being a confessional people. It was considered a virtual article of faith in the Confirmation class I attended that the Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles) were in no way to be viewed as a confession of faith, such as the Augsburg Confession is for Lutherans or the Westminster Confession is for Presbyterians.

Such a view denies the obvious role that the Articles of Religion have played in both defining and describing the nature of a Reformed Catholicism that was no longer Roman. The fact that assent to the Articles is still required of those being ordained in the Church of England, and that, until 1824, assent was even a requirement for holding civil office in England, makes the Articles the nearest thing to a confession of faith possessed by the Anglican tradition.

But what about the future? Is the future of orthodox Anglicanism to be seen as confessional (as suggested by the authors of "The Way, the Truth, and the Life") or should it be viewed as conciliar, as articulated by Bishop Duncan in his plenary address?

I would argue that this apparent contradiction need not be an actual one. There is a strong case to be made that the two views can be reconciled, and the future identity of orthodox Anglicanism will be stronger and more complete if this happens.

Anglicanism should be seen as confessional in this sense: Can anyone imagine an orthodox Anglican future that is not grounded in the 39 Articles? If a movement is to be recognizably Anglican, it must stand in the theological tradition of historic Anglican norms. Those norms should then be expected to form the boundaries that determine who may participate in the councils of Anglicanism and what subjects may be considered.

To draw an analogy from history: Can anyone imagine that someone who did not subscribe to the doctrinal outcomes of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils (Nicea [325] and Constantinople [381]) would have been invited to the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus [431])? Would those who failed to assent to the previously established consubstantiality of the Son with the Father have been permitted to engage in further discussions of the nature of Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Trinity? Neither were later councils free to reopen these decisions or go beyond the boundaries (in the sense of straying from the confessional declarations) set by the earlier councils.

Thus, the two models of being both confessional and conciliar worked together in a complementary fashion as godly leaders, united in the confession of one Faith, led the Church in its Gospel mission.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

China needs our help (again)

My very first post on this blog was on December 10, 2004; and it was entitled, China needs our help. Three and a half years later, we have come full circle as a new report has emerged indicating that, in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese Government is cracking down on unregistered Christians, including funding of a campaign to eradicate house churches throughout China. A full report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide can be found here. A related story from Voice of the Martyrs can be found here.

What can Christians do? CanaAnglican, commenting on the Stand Firm blog had this to say:
The May issue of National Geographic is completely dedicated to China. It states that Christians comprise 8.4% of the population, roughly the same proportion as Buddhists at 8.5%.

That amounts to over 109,000,000 Christians in China !!
If a million in the U.S. would pray for our Chinese brothers each day for 110 days, we would have prayed for each of them once.

Actually, as I said in my December 2004 post, there are three things Christians can do:

Pray. Chinese Christians need our prayers for spiritual growth, the raising up of leaders for the Church, the growth of their witness to Christ in spite of persecution, and protection from persecution and temptations that would lead people away from the faith. "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results" (James 5:16b NLT). OMF International provides two guides entitled, How to Pray for China and China 30 Day Prayer GuideThe Voice of the Martyrs also provides information that is useful in praying for the Church in China.

Write. While carrying out a crackdown with one hand, China has been reaching out to form new trade alliances with the other. Write your elected officials to insist that concern over human rights violations are a part of all trade and diplomatic negotiations with China.

Go. There are many ways to meet and support the Chinese people. Below are just a few organizations that can help.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Gay Anglican U.S. bishop enters into civil union [with commentary]

The openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop at the center of the Anglican church's global battle over homosexuality, has entered into a civil union with his longtime partner at a private ceremony. [I usually think of a private ceremony being the bride, the groom, the minister, and two witnesses, not 120 guests.]

About 120 guests gathered at St. Paul's Church in [Concord,] New Hampshire for Saturday's ceremony for Bishop Gene Robinson and his partner of more than 19 years, Mark Andrews. The event was kept private out of respect for next month's worldwide Anglican conference, Robinson's spokesman, Mike Barwell, said on Sunday. [Oh, yeah, right, which is why this "private" event has been one of the top stories of the day in world news. If he really had "respect for next month's worldwide Anglican conference" he could have waited until after it was over. And if he had any respect for the decisions of the Lambeth Conference (Resolution 1.10, 1998) he wouldn't have done this at all.]

"It was absolutely joyful," Barwell said by telephone. "A lot of his supporters and friends were there, including many members of the gay and lesbian community." [But, again, it was just a simple, private ceremony--just like Gene merely wants to be a simple country bishop.]

The 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a global federation of national churches, has been in upheaval since 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated Robinson as the first bishop known to be in an openly homosexual relationship in more than four centuries of church history. [Yup, and if +++Rowan doesn't do more than hold Indaba groups and pray that this will somehow, magically go away, the Anglican Communion is toast!]

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. [--Along with missionary districts established by the Anglican Churches of Rwanda, South East Asia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and the Province of the Southern Cone. Hey, this is getting to be some party!]

Disputes over scriptural authority, the blessing of gay unions and other matters have become a worldwide issue and threaten turmoil this summer when Anglicans gather for their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Britain. [Well, 280 bishops aren't even coming to Lambeth because +++Rowan hasn't done a bloody thing to deal with this mess, so that should lessen the turmoil somewhat--at least long enough to let the Indaba groups drink the Kool-Aid and sing Kumbaya.]

Robinson has in the past received death threats and wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments at his consecration in 2003. Two uniformed police officers stood guard at Saturday's ceremony in the state capital Concord, said Barwell. [Am I the only one who is sick of gay activists conjuring up imaginary death threats to get sympathy? 1, 2]

Robinson and Andrews held two ceremonies -- a non-religious one in which they became legal partners followed by a formal church service to give blessings to God for their relationship. ["These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13)]

Robinson, 61, a divorced father of two [but, of course, homosexuality isn't a choice, he was born that way], praised New Hampshire's lawmakers when they passed legislation last year to make the state the fourth in the country where same-sex civil unions are legal. The law took effect January 1. [But if he and his partner had gotten "married" then, it would have been old news by the time Lambeth rolled around.]

Robinson has suggested states go further and follow Massachusetts, which in 2003 became the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.

Robinson has said he wanted to enter into the civil union before leaving for England to ensure Andrew and his two daughters had legal protections given the threats to his life. [1. Just in case no one caught the previous reference to "death threats," let's whine about it some more, even if there is no proof any such threats actually existed. 2. Can anyone tell me what sort of legal protection this gives to his daughters, both of whom are now grown and were already his daughters from his actual marriage, not this weekend's bogus media event?]

Civil unions grant largely the same state rights as married couples -- from insurance coverage to tax benefits and hospital visiting rights -- but lack the full, federal legal protections of marriage.

Robinson has been excluded from the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference but plans to attend as an outside observer. [--Where he will give more interviews and be the subject of more news stories than anyone else at Lambeth. But, of course, he just wants to be a simple country bishop.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Michael Reagan asks, "Is This Our Future?"

Two Christian preachers were stopped from handing out Bible tracts by police officers because they were in a Muslim neighborhood in England.

According to British news reports, the preachers were told by a Muslim community support police officer in Birmingham that attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity is a hate crime.

They were warned that if they came back and were beaten up, it would be their fault, not that of the thugs who beat them.

"He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message," one of the preachers said. "He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station." The officer threatened, “If you come back here and get beaten up, well you have been warned."

Remember, this was not in the Middle East. It was a neighborhood in Birmingham, England, a nation whose official church is the Church of England, a Christian denomination.

Read it all.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brigitte Bardot fined over "racial hatred"

A French court has fined former film star Brigitte Bardot 15,000 euros (£12,000) for inciting racial hatred.

She was prosecuted over a letter published on her website that complained Muslims were "destroying our country by imposing their ways".

It is the fifth time Ms Bardot been convicted over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers. This is her heaviest fine so far.

The French film idol, who is 73, was not in court to hear the ruling.

The fine - equivalent to $23,000 - related to a letter she wrote in December 2006 to the then Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, which was published on her website, in which she deplored the slaughter of animals for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

She demanded that the animals be stunned before being killed.

She said she was "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts".

In a letter to the court Ms Bardot, who is a prominent animal rights campaigner, insisted she had a right to speak up for animal welfare.

The prosecutor said she was weary of charging Ms Bardot with offences relating to racial hatred and xenophobia.

[Original article, with photo, here.]

So let me get this straight: A letter to a public official, expressing a political opinion, can be cause for criminal indictment because the author chose to make it public on her website? Obviously, in France, liberty isn't what it used to be.

Monday, June 02, 2008

[Off-topic] Gas price and station locator

This is pretty nifty. Just go to the site below and enter your zip code. It will show you which gas stations have the cheapest prices (and the highest) on gas in your zip code area. It's updated every evening.