October 27, 2010

E100 Challenge, Lesson One

Genesis 1.1—2.25 Creation
Below are some notes on this week’s reading. I hope you will find them useful.

Each note is prefaced with a chapter and verse citation. For example, the first note is prefaced with a 1.1a. That means the comment refers to Genesis chapter 1, verse 1, and “a” means the first part of the verse.

I invite you to keep your own notes as you work through the passages. If you keep notes throughout the entire study you will finish with a pretty complete set of reflections on the vital passages of the Holy Bible.

Let’s begin:

1.1a In the beginning God…
Before anything was created God already existed. God is eternal. That is to say, unlike anything else, God always was, always is and always will be. God was not created.

1.1b God created the heavens and the earth…
God is the source of everything in the universe, things seen and things not unseen.

1.2a The earth was without form and void, and darkness…
Apart from God nothing had being—just a black, shapeless, void. God created the world out of nothing, ex nihilo .

1.2b And the Spirit of God hovered…
That word “Spirit” can also be translated “breath.” The “breath” of God hovered. If anything comes alive, it is the consequence of this Spirit of God that was in the beginning.

1.3—1.26 And God said…And God saw that it was good…
God spoke the universe into existence. “Speaking” requires exhaling—breathing. So, the breath of God becomes the Word of God, God breathes out and the word is spoken and the universe is created. All that is created is good. God is not a malevolent God. He is the One who creates good things.

1.27 God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…
Humanity was created in God’s own likeness. We are created to resemble God, therefore to the extent that we are able to be godly we are living out the fullness of the human life He intended for us.

1.28 And God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…“
The momoent we are created God blesses us. God blesses. He does not curse. God never meant evil for us. God only ever wanted good for us. He wanted to see us reproduce and to prosper.

1.31 And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good…
Several times throughout the creation account God sees or says that his work is good. We do not live in an evil world. It is a world that was created good but has fallen. Nevertheless we can still see the divine hand of God in every aspect of His creation. This causes St Paul to comment that because of the Creation nobody is without knowledge of God. See Romans 1.18-23
2.7 God formed man out of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being…
The breath of God, the breath that hovered over the void, the breath that spoke the world into existence, that same breath is breathed into Adam’s nostrils and the humanity comes alive. Each of us contains the Divine breath of life.

2.18a It is not good for the man to be alone…
Man is a social creature by nature. We are intended for relationship. Isolation is not godly. Thus the Christian is called into community.

2.18b A helper fit for him…
A fit helper means a partner who is good for him, who completes his being. One partner brings characteristics that the other partner does not possess. Their gifts are complimentary. The fit helper for the man was a woman, not another man.

2.24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh…
Sex is not regarded as evil but as a God-given impulse which draws a man and a woman together so that “they become one flesh.”

2.25 And the man and his wife were naked, and were not ashamed…
The two were unashamedly naked, a symbol of their guiltless relation to God.

Sunday’s Prize Question (11/7/2010):
Two specific trees are named in the Garden. What are they?

Questions for study and review:
1. The beginning of Genesis assumes that God exists. Do you believe God exists? If so, what do you think God is like?
2. What evidence, if any, for God’s existence do you see in the world around you? How would you explain your “case for God” to a skeptic?
3. Do you think God loves you? Why or why not?

E100 Challenge Begins Sunday, October 31

Trinity Church, Beaver
E100 Challenge, Introduction

Nothing is more important than knowing God’s salvation, period. We are saved by God’s grace through Jesus Christ our Lord but we can only understand and appreciate that fact when we have learned the lessons we are taught through the history of God and his people. Those lessons, that history, is the content of the Bible. The E100 Challenge is a challenge to read, reflect upon and conform our lives to the teachings found in 100 essential Bible passages. The project involves setting aside a little time each week to read God’s Word and to pray and reflect on its meaning for us. The task is beneficial to young and old, experienced and inexperienced alike. Brenda and I will be taking the challenge together. I hope you will too.

Our goal is to read one reading a week for 100 weeks--simple, as long as we have some tools to keep us on track.

On Sunday Oct. 31 we will distribute ‘Track your Progress Punch out Cards’ at both Sunday services and at the children’s Sunday School. If you will be working on the project alone, please take one card. If you will be working on the project with a spouse or your entire family please take one card. Each card contains the reading citations that we will be using along with a punch out so that you can monitor your progress and other supporting materials.

If you would like to take cards for friends and neighbors, please let the office know so that we can order enough additional cards to cover both members of the parish and their guests.

Getting Started
FIND a Bible translation that is easy for you to understand.
LOG-ON to E100challenge.com to add your name to the wall.
SET aside a special time and place to read the Bible each day.
USE the “Track Your Progress Punch-out Card.”

A Useful Way of Reading the Bible for this Study:
PRAY: before you read, asking God to help you understand.
READ: the Bible passage, perhaps more than once.
REFLECT: on the passage. Write your thoughts in a journal.
APPLY: what God teaches you from His Word for your life.
PRAY: again, asking God to help you live out His Word.

Note: This program is doubly effective if you are doing it with someone else. Ask your spouse, your family, or friends to work through the passage together.

Other Resources:
READ:Fr. Scott’s notes on the week’s reading, written in a simple line by line commentary style, posted weekly at http://fatherscottsblog.blogspot.com Make sure to check out the weekly prize question!
ATTEND: Sunday School where we will address and discuss the passage each Sunday morning. Adult Sunday School meets at 9:15am in the Parish Hall. Youth and Children’s Sunday School meet at their regular times as well.
WATCH FOR: Small Groups may be forming to discuss the readings. Please check with the Church office for more information.

Weekly Prize Question:
Each week you will find a prize question online at http://fatherscottsblog.blogspot.com . Know that answer on Sunday morning and be the first to raise your hand at the announcements, and you will win a prize. One prize available at each Sunday morning service.

Make a Personal Action Plan:
1. My plan is to take _________ minutes to read the Bible and pray…
a. In the morning__
b. During my lunch break__
c. In the evening before bed__
d. On the weekend__
e. Other__
2. To help me keep going, I will read the E100 with my:
a. Small group__
b. Sunday School__
c. Friend__
d. Family__
e. Co-worker__
f. Other__
3. I will add my name to the E100 Wall to symbolize my desire to take the E100 Challenge at: E100challenge.com

October 22, 2010

Archbishop Duncan’s Address to the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

On October 19, Archbishop Duncan addressed attendees of Lausanne 2010 in Capetown, South Africa during a session devoted to global Anglicanism.

Scattering the Proud and Lifting Up the Lowly
Luke 1:46-55

By the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church in North America
Scattering the Proud

In 1960 the Episcopal Church in the United States reported 3.4 million members. In 2002 the Episcopal Church reported 2.3 million members, a loss of over 32%. By 2008, the denominational membership had declined to less than 2.1 million, with only 700,000 worshippers present on an average Sunday. The Church which boasted the majority of signers of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and still called itself the “Church of Presidents” in the first half of the 20th century, was by the first decade of the 21st century among the fastest declining Protestant denominations in the United States, now representing substantially less than 1% of the U.S. population. The Anglican Church of Canada declined even more precipitously. Average Sunday Attendance in the late 1970s was over 1 million. By the late 1990’s it was just over 700,000. For 2008, the number stood at a shocking 325,000.

Two trends that impacted North American Anglicans significantly from the 1960s onward were theological revisionism in the Church and social radicalism in the culture. Revised texts used for worship became principle vehicles of the theological revisionism.

Lifting Up the Lowly

During the decades between 1960 and 2010, the place of orthodox believers within the Episcopal Church and within the Anglican Church of Canada became ever more tenuous. Forced replacement of worship texts, allowance for re-marriage after divorce, church laws coercing every diocese to accept the ordination of women, and revisionist domination of theological education, resulted in the formation of more than 40 break-away groups of “continuing” Anglicans spread over both countries. Official sanction of the blessing of same-sex unions [marriages] in Canada in 2002 and the national approval of a partnered homosexual bishop in the U.S in 2003, proved the breaking point for an even greater flood who simply wanted to continue in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” [Jude 1.3]

The ecclesiastical ruthlessness of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada – removing bishops, clergy and even lay leaders who stood in opposition, coupled with civil legal proceedings confiscating congregational and diocesan properties – might well have succeeded in crushing every one who dared to stand in opposition, but for one thing: the intervention of orthodox Anglicans from the Global South. The first to act were Rwanda and South-East Asia. Then were added Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and the Southern Cone of South America. Local congregations were taken under protection of foreign archbishops and bishops. African, Asian and Latino leaders were taking in humbled and grateful Caucasians. The colonial ecclesiastical power structure was being turned upside-down. The crisis in America – and the willingness of peoples formerly subjugated by the West to “rescue” Westerners – is one of the principal factors in explaining what is happening in world-wide Anglicanism today. This “godly rescue,” together with the willingness of many North Americans to stand no matter what the cost, is why the Anglican Church in North America, of which I am Archbishop and Primate, now exists, and why it is experiencing extraordinary growth despite all that has come against us from the old hierarchies and the wayward culture.

Lessons Learned
Now I want to share briefly about what we North Americans have learned that applies to the whole Christian Church throughout the world. Four lessons are foremost. I hope they prove among the “take-aways” this dialogue session provides. This session is not fundamentally about Anglicanism, but about the whole Christian Church. The words of the Lausanne Covenant Preface (1974) ring again in our ears: “We are deeply stirred because of what God is doing in our day.”

Lesson One
Standing in God’s Truth raises God’s Allies

First, when any of us stand for God’s Truth in first order issues, where the salvation of souls rather than condemnation of opponents is our goal, it brings unity in the Church, true unity. The whole Church throughout the world is also challenged to stand with you. Foreign and ecumenical partners are invited to be at their best, and allies emerge from countless unexpected places. “Fear not, for those who are with you are more than those who are against you.” [2 Kgs 6:16] Faithful Anglicans in other parts of the world were willing to stand with us once they knew we refused to compromise the faith once-delivered. Not only that, but ecumenical allies have come along side of us, allies as diverse as Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America and Dr. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, both at this Congress. Many here at Lausanne III, and countless souls you lead, have acted to encourage us and to intercede for us. This unity goes way beyond anything I have ever experienced. Both ethnic division and denominationalism fade away.

Lesson Two
Humility builds God’s Partnerships

Second, humility builds God’s partnerships. Humility and charity – as well as forgiveness and reconciliation – among those partnering are essential for God to work in situations where social, economic colonial and ecclesiastical inequalities have heretofore operated. Partnerships of extraordinary proportion emerge. New learnings abound. We in the U.S. and Canada have learned a great deal about ways churches can be planted, about the necessity of ending our silence concerning resurgent Islam, about evangelism and discipleship, and even about how ancient structures might serve mission once again.

The rich have to become poor in the things they previously judged to be their riches, and the poor have to see themselves as God sees them: perhaps from the “weakest of the tribes,” but “mighty men of valor” nonetheless. [Judges 6:11-16]

Lesson Three
God does lift up the Lowly

Third, God “magnifies” the lowly. Global South Anglicanism is now majority Anglicanism. The average Anglican is now a woman, an African, a mother, and under the age of 20. We are not the Church of England anymore. God speaks to us of previously unimaginable possibilities. For us in the Anglican Church in North America we believe God has set us to planting 1000 new churches in our first five years of life. 1 or 2 potential church-planters contacts our office every day! 500 will gather at our Anglican 1000 Summit in January. What is equally astounding is what I call “Anglican fever” on university and seminary campuses. Five weeks ago, Dean Timothy George of Beeson School of Theology in Birmingham, Alabama, a school of Baptist foundation, informed me that “the fastest growing group of students are the Anglicans.” I met with twenty eager Wheaton College students in August. All are part of newly formed Anglican congregations in the Chicago area. None of them were raised as Anglicans. All believe themselves called to some kind of missionary life as committed disciples of Jesus. They want not only to tell about Jesus, but to do what Jesus did. These are by no means isolated North American stories. From the ruins of the heretical and wayward denominations that marginalized, exiled and expelled the faithful of an earlier generation, a new generation is clearly being drawn to believing and serving in the humbled and renewed Anglican Church that is emerging.

Lesson Four
Personal Conversion deepens with Gospel suffering and sacrifice

Fourth, personal conversion deepens with sacrifice and suffering. We have learned that the cross of Jesus is the way of life. We have firsthand evidence that those who are prepared to give up buildings and endowments and pensions and relationships and respectability, for the sake of the gospel, are far more committed disciples than they were before their trials and their struggles. Deciding for Jesus changes people, not only at the first, but every time the cross is embraced. Among those already facing challenges of poverty, war, disease and famine – but who nevertheless act to help other suffering brothers and sisters – perhaps even on a faraway continent – for these God also deepens their conversion, often also bringing new friends and new hope, renewing godly self-image, and opening lines of provision for their original needs.

Scattering the Proud and Lifting Up the Lowly

I speak to you with all humility. Ours is no North American triumph. Ours is a rescue story in a global Church. It is not necessarily an Anglican story. It is a story of the whole Christian Church at its best.