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We update our blog several times a week, with news and comment on ministry, theology, the Bible, liturgy and issues of the day.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 27 Jun 2017

As we're adding to the audio archives on the website, we'll be highlighting some of the great talks from previous Church Society Conferences.

Two lectures by Revd Dr Mike Ovey on the theme of justification from previous Church Society conferences.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 22 Jun 2017

In the final lecture of the 2017 Church Society Conference, Revd Dr Lee Gatiss investigates Luther's work on the freedom of the Christian, asking why it is that reformation Christians like us are so often known for traditionalism and the insistence on rules?

Lee Gatiss examines the nature of Christian freedom in Luther’s work both before and after the publication of his 95 Theses.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 21 Jun 2017

In the second of his 2017 Church Society Conference lectures, Revd Dr Peter Adam discusses how Cranmer's evangelisation strategies could be adopted and updated in the contemporary church.

If the Bible was at the centre of Cranmer’s evangelisation strategy for the nation, how should we learn from this in our contemporary context?

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 21 Jun 2017

Our readings this coming Sunday urge us diligently to do good for Jesus's sake, and look forward to the reward of those who obey his word.

The Lectionary readings for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity (Year A) are Jeremiah 28:5-9, Romans 6:12-23, and Matthew 10:40-42. In this short video, Lee Gatiss expounds those readings for us today.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 20 Jun 2017

"Knowing God and Making Him Known" was the theme of the 2017 Church Society Conference. Revd Dr Peter Adam addressed this with two talks on the subject of Thomas Cranmer's evangelistic strategies.

At the 2017 Church Society Conference, Revd Dr Peter Adam outlined Thomas Cranmer’s strategy for evangelising the nation, which could be summed up in one word: Bible.

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The Council of Nicaea

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Posted by Mark Smith, 20 Jun 2017

Mark Smith examines Justin Welby’s use of ancient canons to oppose “cross-border interventions.”

On Friday 30th June, Andy Lines will be consecrated at a meeting of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), as a ‘missionary bishop’ for Europe. This is in response to the recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) to modify its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, placing it at variance with scripture and with the majority of the Anglican Communion.

In a letter to the Primates of the Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby expressed profound concern over the upcoming consecration of Canon Lines. For Welby, the Church’s continued commitment to “those with differing views” (exemplified by the role of the Bishop of Maidstone in providing oversight for those who oppose the ordination of women), made the appointment of a missionary bishop unnecessary. Such an argument rests, of course, on a theological parity being drawn between disagreements over ordained ministry, and over sexual ethics - a parity that is by no means self-evident, as Lee Gatiss argued last week.

What was most intriguing, however, was what the Archbishop went on to say next:

The idea of a ‘missionary bishop’ who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England. Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church’s existence. Such weighty authority as canons 15 and 16 of the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 are uncompromising in this regard and make reference to the “great disturbance and discords that occur” when bishops and their clergy seek to minister in this way.

Here, the claim is made that the consecration of Andy Lines, and the episcopal ministry he would exercise, would be contrary to Canons 15 and 16 of the Council of Nicaea. If Welby is correct in his interpretation, then it is indeed a palpable hit - for Canon Lines’ ministry, far from strengthening the cause of orthodoxy, would be in direct transgression of that most ‘orthodox’ of all councils.

This is not the first time that appeals have been made to Nicaea in the context of disputes over Anglican jurisdiction.

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Photo by Fresco in Capella Sistina, Vatican - http://ariandjabarimchenry.com/first-council-of-nicaea/, Public Domain.

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Posted by Tiffer Robinson, 19 Jun 2017

There are two schools of thought about how to weave the Eulogy or Tribute in to a Christian funeral. Either, as envisaged by Common Worship, it’s a separate item usually at the beginning, or it is done as one with the sermon, after the bible readings. There is of course a huge benefit to personalising funerals, and it is very much what families are looking for nowadays, and I think that it can be very powerful to use the eulogy as a springboard into presenting the gospel. But there are a number of reasons why I keep the eulogy and sermon separate.

Firstly, I believe that a eulogy and a sermon are different things, with different purposes—the eulogy is for presenting the deceased to the mourners in a concise but representative way whilst the sermon is for proclaiming the Christian hope as revealed in the scriptures. Where else in our preaching would we merge a sermon with another element? I wouldn’t merge the intercessions with a sermon, or the notices (though I have heard the latter done, and I didn’t find it edifying!).

Secondly, I don’t want to be misleading with respect to the deceased person themselves. The Church of England’s approach to funeral ministry is predicated on the “generous assumption”, that despite someone’s religious background we offer all in our cure a Christian funeral without prejudice.  But the liturgy is, for the most part, clear that it is the resurrection of Jesus that we have assurance of, and not of Mildred in the coffin. Some have criticised our liturgy for being too subtle in this nuance, and I think it would be wise not to add to this confusion in the sermon—which is for proclaiming the gospel to those still living rather than applying it to the life of the deceased in a direct way.  I also want to ensure in my services that the eulogy does not become the focus—I want the gospel to be the focus.  I keep the eulogy and sermon separate to avoid the impression that we are primarily gathered to remember the deceased, rather than being in an act of Christian worship.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 14 Jun 2017

The readings this coming Sunday are about identity and identification - how our new life in union with Christ cuts us off from the world, the flesh, and the devil - and how painful that disconnect can be.

The Lectionary readings for the 1st Sunday after Trinity (Year A) are Matthew 10:24-39, Romans 6:1-11, and Jeremiah 20:7-13. In this short video, Lee Gatiss expounds those readings for us today.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 13 Jun 2017

Lee Gatiss examines the idea that the church should just agree to disagree about issues of sexuality, and get on with more important things instead.

Last week, the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to alter that church’s Canon on Marriage, to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman. Furthermore, it added a new section which acknowledges that there are different understandings of marriage, which now allows clergy to solemnise marriage between same sex couples as well as couples of the opposite sex.

Although the revised canon also stipulates that no member of the clergy will be required to solemnise a marriage against their conscience, clearly the orthodox understanding of marriage has now become merely one option for Scottish Episcopalians. The pressure on those who do not wish to offer same sex weddings will now only increase. As Richard John Neuhaus once said, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

In the light of this long-anticipated rejection of Jesus’s word, the Bible, as the supreme authority over the church, GAFCON have announced that they will be consecrating Canon Andy Lines as a missionary bishop for Europe, including Scotland. Andy is a man of unimpeachable integrity, godliness, and clarity of teaching whose episcopal leadership will be welcomed by all those Scots who have been marginalised by their leaders, and by those outside the Church of England who wish still to remain Anglican in their doctrine and polity. We congratulate him on his consecration by bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, which will take place later this month. We can only wish that there were more bishops like him within the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Archbishop Welby’s response
In response to this, Archbishop Justin Welby wrote to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, several of whom are behind the plan to care for those “outside the structures of any Anglican province.” In his letter, Archbishop Welby sadly seems far more concerned about “cross-border interventions” than with the schismatic and heretical teaching which has infiltrated the Episcopal Church in Scotland (and elsewhere) and emptied churches in the process.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 7 Jun 2017

Trinity Sunday is the day we realise not that God is some incomprehensible philosophical construct that is difficult to get our minds around, but that his Trinitarian-ness is something familiar to all Christians from our new life's first cry.

The Lectionary readings for Trinity Sunday (Year A) are Isaiah 40:12-17, 27-31, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 28:16-20. In this short video, Lee Gatiss expounds those readings for us today.

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