It is not often that a newly consecrated bishop describes the event of their consecration as “the making of history”.
Yet, for those gathered in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre this weekend, those words rang true. The consecration of Bishop Stuart Bell was indeed an event of national, global, and quite possibly eternal, significance.
As Bishop Stuart set out in his consecration, to serve in the Anglican Convocation in Europe was the inevitable outworking of the decisions made by the Church in Wales eighteen months ago.
“This event contains within it a twofold testimony. The first is a testimony, as orthodox Anglicans in Wales, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed to us in the Scriptures – so this is a testimony to something and that is our priority.
“But it is also a testimony against, which is the sadness of this day. A testimony against the Church in Wales, which on 6 September 2021 stepped away from the Bible and took a different course,” he said.
Bishop Stuart has served his Saviour in Wales for five decades. The gathered assembly included dozens of church leaders whose ministry he has nurtured over the years.
This experience will be invaluable as he assists Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal support and encouragement, oversight and accountability for the growing number of clergy and congregations of the Anglican Convocation in Europe, in the Principality.
That the consecration has global significance was made evident by the presence of Archbishop Foley Beach, Chair of the Gafcon Primates Council, who led the service.
Bishop Stuart’s consecration represents the continuing provision, by the global Anglican family, of a home for those seeking to remain faithful to the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ and uphold historic, orthodox, biblical, confessional Anglicanism.
Whether this event has eternal significance is in the Lord’s hands. But as Archbishop Foley reflected after the service, “It will now give the people of Wales a godly and faithful bishop who upholds the theology and moral teaching of the Bible and our Anglican tradition.”
As the congregation sang, with the first verse in Welsh, “For Wales, our land, O Father, hear our prayer:”
For Wales our land O Father hear our prayer, This blessed vineyard granted to our care; May you protect her always faithfully, And prosper here all truth and purity; For your Son’s sake who bought us with His blood, O make our Wales in your own image Lord.
O come the day when o’er our barren land Reviving winds blow sent from God’s own hand, As grace pours down on parched and arid sand We will bear fruit for Christ by his command, Come with one voice and gentle vigour sing The virtues of our gentle Lamb and King.
A Christian theology lecturer is considering legal action following his dismissal by a Methodist Bible college after tweeting an evangelical perspective of human sexuality.
Dr Aaron Edwards was sacked for misconduct by Cliff College, in Derbyshire, over a series of tweets shared on 19 February, in which he stated: “Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true.
“This *is* a ‘Gospel issue’, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.”
In another post, he said, “That *is* the conservative view. The acceptance of homosexuality as ‘not sinful’ *is* an invasion upon the Church, doctrinally. This is not controversial. The acceptance is controversial. Most of the global Church would agree. It is not homophobic to declare homosexuality sinful.”
After some backlash over his comments, he wrote in another post that his tweets were “addressed to evangelicals” and not intended as an attack on individuals.
“I expressed the conservative view as a doctrinal issue, re. the implications for sin/the Gospel … It seems that holding the view that homosexuality is sinful is only welcome if it remains ‘unexpressed’,” he said.
Dr Edwards’ tweets were a response to the Church of England’s vote in General Synod last month to move forward with introducing same-sex blessings.
At the time, the college asked him to remove the posts over concerns they breached its social media policy, and issued a statement saying that the language used by Dr Edwards “is inappropriate and unacceptable and does not represent either the views or the ethos of Cliff College”.
Dr Edwards refused the college’s request to remove the posts on grounds of conscience and was suspended while an investigation was carried out.
Following a disciplinary hearing, he was sacked last week for allegedly “bringing the college into disrepute”.
According to the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is assisting Dr Edwards, the college threatened to report him to Prevent, the government’s anti-terrorism scheme.
He is appealing against his dismissal and weighing up his legal options.
Dr Edwards called his dismissal “unjust”.
“What has happened to me demonstrates that conservative biblical views on human sexuality are no longer ‘tolerated’ in the Methodist Church in the UK. Rather it is clear that those beliefs are to be silenced and stamped out,” he said.
“My expressed view has not been received respectfully, tolerantly, or charitably. It has rather been met with harassment and personal defamation by many.
“It seems the college is a safe place for those who are pro LGBTQ+, but not for conservative evangelicals. What has happened exposes that living with contradictory convictions is not possible for an evangelical Christian.”
He added, “Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.”
Andrea Williams, CLC chief executive, said: “A Christian theologian working for a Christian Bible college tweeting about the biblical Christian teaching on human sexuality, has been sacked and labelled as a potential ‘terrorist’.
“It is saddening and very concerning to see the Methodist Church, and a once renowned bible college, lose its way by no longer upholding marriage as God defines it, or supporting those who express it.”
She added, “This story sets a dark precedent for the Methodist Church going forward and also serves as a warning to the Church of England.”
Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “Expressing orthodox Christian beliefs should not be grounds for dismissal from a purportedly Christian organisation. I look forward to Alastair Campbell defending Aaron Edwards’ right to free speech, just as he did Gary Lineker’s.
“Defending free speech means defending the right of people to express views you do not agree with, not just those you agree with.”
We have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. – Daniel 3:16b &17
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego only wanted to live their lives and never asked for trouble to come looking for them. Trouble came anyway. These three had been brought as young men to Babylon as war captives. They excelled at their work, and were appointed to leadership over the province of Babylon. However, some men, who were close to the King, hated these three men for one reason: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Jews.
In an effort to remove them from power, the evil tattle-tellers noticed that these three did not obey the command from the king of the land: to bow down before the statue of the king. Bowing down to anything was an act of worship, and they desired to obey God above man, even though they lived in a country where God was not honored or even worshipped.
When the King asked them about it, (and threatened them with the fiery furnace) they replied: “We have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.”
The King was furious and had the heat turned up in the fiery furnace 7 times hotter, then commanded the guards to throw these men in. As they were arrested, tied up and carried toward the furnace, they heard the fires crack, they felt the intense heat, and yet they still believed in their God. Due to the overwhelming heat, the guards died as they drew close, dropping Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace.
However, these three men believed that God was able to deliver them before they got into the fire, but if not, that God would deliver them from the fire. They knew that nothing was impossible with God. He would deliver them. They were confident of that.
It continues in the story to say that everyone now can see four men (one with the face of a God) walking around in the fire! In astonishment, the king commanded the men to come out of the fire.
There are a few things that this story tells us:
Sometimes God delivers us before the trouble, sometimes he delivers us while we are in trouble. God had the power to prevent this situation from happening. He had a purpose for revealing His power. Can you trust Him to work in you and your troubles?
We always have a choice in our faith. At any point these men could have questioned how important it was to take a stand. They had been given plenty of time to recant what they believed. In the trouble you might find yourself in, can you hold true to God even if He doesn’t show up in your timing?
If we are walking with the Lord, the troubles will not linger around us. These guys came out of this intense furnace intact. Not one burn at all! Not even the smell of smoke on them! In the troubles you are walking through in faith, you will not be consumed by them. They will not linger or cripple you! You will emerge stronger than ever. Don’t give up!!
We are honored for our unwavering faith. These men did not waver in their faith. It amazed the king. He worshipped God, and made a law that no one could dishonor God again. He then promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God honored these men for their faith and trust in Him, and rewarded them in their careers. Cling to what you know to be true about the Lord. He will honor you for it! Don’t for one tiny moment even doubt the work of God in your life and your circumstances. He is most certainly at work in all of your troubles!
This story is so encouraging to me, and certainly strengthens my faith. Will you join with me today in saying, “Our God is able to deliver me from this trouble, and He will deliver me, but if not, I will not serve any other god?” May we be found faithful in our walk with the Lord this very day.
Tiffany Thibault enjoys living life with her husband, two daughters and one very large dog in San Diego. She not only homeschools her girls, but she also loves to write about Jesus and speak about Him to groups of women. She loves long walks, coffee and anything chocolate.
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“Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.” Philippians 1:25 NLT
The joy of your faith. Paul is writing to a group of people dear to his heart. The Philippians befriended Paul, prayed for and helped him when he was in need. When debating which would be better, to die and meet Christ or live and preach Christ, Paul couldn’t choose! He chose joy over and over. No matter what the circumstance, Paul understood what it meant to find joy in Jesus. Joy isn’t the fleeting feeling of happiness but the rock-solid hope in Christ Jesus. And because he chose joy, Paul rejoiced! The apostle Jude wrote:
“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” – Jude 3 NLT
Joy is worth fighting for! Though it cannot be taken from us who live in Christ Jesus, we surely do forget about it sometimes! Daily life can distract us from the joy we have in Jesus. Yet, Jude reminds us of the faith that God has entrusted to us. We are his holy people. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
There will always be something or someone threatening to distract us from our joy. We must choose daily to fight the good fight of faith. To remember the joy we have in Jesus.
Father, You are pure joy, creating the heavens and the earth and all we see and know in Your goodness. Father God, we run into Your loving arms today, so incredibly thankful for joy. Thankful that joy isn’t the same as fleeting feelings of happiness. Thankful for Your faithfulness to create and implement joy in our hearts and lives. Thank You, God, for the joy we have in Jesus. We cling to it in our desperate days, God, as we cry out to You. And we cling to joy when we are rejoicing in gladness. Constant joy echos off the borders of our hearts because of You, God, and the compassion You have for us. The perfect love which You express towards us. We are so thankful for You. So thankful for joy.
Solidify our faith more than ever before, God. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit in us through Christ Jesus, sharpen our senses to be on guard. Firm our stance in the faith. Develop courage and bravery in us which we cannot conjure on our own, to face trials and fight them …or to wait on You. We want Your will for our lives, God. Your good plan, which You promise for us. Your purposes, which You express through our lives, to Your glory.
When we are weak God, give us strength. Make us strong in You, God, and mighty in Your power. Strength to be humble, gentle, meek, empathetic, and kind. Strength to have the depth of perception we need to see the people in our lives the way You see them, Father. Strength to pray for our enemies, for the people who have devastated us. Give us the strength to obediently forgive them, and place them in Your hands.
Anything which has, is, or will threaten our joy … in the name of Jesus, we pray it be eliminated, removed, and the slate wiped clean, God. Let nothing distract us from the joy we have in Jesus. Let us be amazing stewards of the faith You have entrusted us with. Help us to love the people in our lives, God. Help us to love them well, as You would love them. In Jesus’ Name,
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I wish this was one of those questions like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” You know, those questions that are entirely philosophical and have little to no connection with the real world.
This is, sadly, not a question for textbooks. It’s a question that churches and denominations are facing, it seems, almost daily these days.
This is not an easy question, either. There is a difference between restoration to ministry and restoration to fellowship; that line is often blurred.
There are also differences within denominational structures in how a pastor is called — this makes it difficult to speak universally. And there are also differences of opinion on which sins might be permanently disqualifying.
Perhaps it is best to answer another fundamental question first. Who decides if you are a pastor?
Who Decides if You’re a Pastor?
Let’s begin with a kind of silly example. We’ve all awkwardly watched those talent shows where someone with a singing voice that makes you wish you could be placed in a room with a screech owl, nails on a chalkboard, and a vomiting cat instead of having to endure their “song.”
And yet they assure the judges that they were made to be singers, they’ve given their lives to this pursuit, and they know this is their calling.
We can easily understand this in the world of music and any other profession. You aren’t something just because you think you are.
You aren’t automatically qualified for something simply because you believe that you’ve heard from the Almighty on the matter. Your calling is never simply just between you and God.
Do you meet the qualifications as outlined in Scripture? Do you desire the task? Are you gifted with the work of ministry? You can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, but until a local church officially calls you to be their pastor — you aren’t yet called to be a pastor.
A local church, or the governing body with which the local church has been given this responsibility, must affirm this calling. Churches call pastors.
Can I Become ‘Uncalled’?
At this point, we tend to get overly mystical. We relegate God’s calling to something which happens in secret between the pastor and God. Yes, there is such a thing as an internal call.
There must be a desire for the task at hand. God will shape the pastor and work through these desires. However, as outlined above, there also must be an external call.
What if you do something by which you are no longer qualified? Doesn’t Romans 11:29 say that “the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable”?
If God has called me as a pastor, is even my personal sin enough to overturn the calling of God? And how dare some church body say that I’m no longer called?
The problem with that view is that Romans 11:29 isn’t talking about pastoral ministry. The “gifts and callings” in that section are not referring to spiritual gifts, and the “call” is not a call to pastoral ministry.
But rather, it discusses God’s plan of redemption. This has more to do with the eternal security of the believer than it has to do with whether or not a person can be unqualified for ministry.
Yes, it is possible to become unqualified. You can have a different internal call that moves you out of pastoral ministry (in that God can call you into a different avenue of ministry), you can get to the place where you no longer desire the work, and to continue would be like being a hired hand, a local church or governing body can remove the external call, and you can have moral failure in such a way what you no longer meet the qualifications outlined in the pastoral epistles.
So, yes, you can become “uncalled.” If you’ve fallen, can you be restored?
Can a Fallen Pastor Be Restored?
This is where things become difficult, and there are a variety of opinions. What sin is disqualifying? Is divorce? How can you be restored from that? What about adultery?
Can a pastor who has sexually abused someone ever be brought back to a place of restoration? What if a pastor is overcome with sinful anger and begins to bully the congregation or other leaders? Can such a one be restored?
Personally, I believe the answer is different for each of these questions. There is a difference between a pastor who has used their position in order to sexually abuse a congregant and a pastor who is overcome with something like the sin of drunkenness.
There are different dynamics at play, and restoration to ministry (if even possible) would look different in each circumstance.
I really like what John Piper says on this in regard to adultery:
“A man who commits adultery in the ministry should immediately resign and look for other work. And he should make no claim on the church at all. He should get another kind of job and go about his life, humbly receiving the discipline and the regular ministries of the church, whether in his former church or in another church.
If he returns to ministry, it should be after a long time of humble, contented acceptance of a new way of life outside the official ministry of the church.”
The key statement here is when Piper says, “He should make no claim on the church at all.” If a fallen pastor is clamoring to get back in the pulpit, there is a high likelihood that such a one has not truly dealt with their sin. This is especially true when we are dealing with something like sexual abuse.
Can someone who has sexually abused a congregant ever be restored to ministry? That might not be the right question.
It might be better to ask, “Would someone who formerly sexually abused a congregant and is now fully repentant ever desire to put themselves or others under their care back into that circumstance?”
I would be remiss to not also include these words from Piper,
“What I’ve seen is this: men who have lived in deception and immorality and hypocrisy for a significant time, and then are caught, have hardened their hearts and dulled their capacities to repent for so long, that their ability to see things for what they really are is profoundly impaired. They’re calling themselves repentant, but they can’t see. They don’t have the sensibilities; they’ve been deadened for so long. And so, they are in no position — now mark this; this is really important — they are in no position, soon after their discovery, to make any good judgments about their fitness for ministry and what is good for the flock and the glory of Christ.”
This leads to our final point and the answer to the original question. Who, then, gets to decide if someone re-enters ministry?
Who Decides When and if Someone Re-Enters Ministry?
Imagine this scenario. It shouldn’t be difficult; you can probably find one with a simple Google search. A celebrity pastor has fallen. He committed adultery. Hid it for over a decade. It comes out. He expresses remorse, resigns from his position, and accepts the discipline of his local church.
But after a few months, he decides that this restoration business is taking entirely too long. He moves his membership to another church. He creates a restoration council of a few friends.
And after a little under a year, these men declare that he is restored to ministry. He hops back on the preaching circuit and, in no time, will be back within a pulpit. Though not technically pastoring a church, he’s fully back in ministry.
Does this meet our criteria earlier? He has an internal call. He has an external call. He still has the gifts of preaching and teaching.
One might quibble with whether or not he meets the qualifications of the pastoral epistles — especially that pesky “above reproach.” But these men in that restoration council assure us that he has repented, he is restored, and he’s now qualified again. All good?
This is where what Jared Wilson has written must be considered:
“Even if a pastor in view of restoration is planning to assume the pulpit of another church or plant a new church, his restoration to ministry should still be affirmed by his previous community. There are some extreme cases where this may not be possible, but it should be normative for disqualified leaders humbly submitting to discipline.”
Except under extreme circumstances, that is who should be deciding when you are qualified to re-enter ministry. It’s the place where the offense has taken place.
It’s the place wherein the restoration ought to take place. They are the ones who get to decide. The people who were originally harmed ought to be the ones who hold those keys.
Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake.
Driven in part by the suicide of her church leader uncle in 2021, Dr. Ayana Jordan, a Christian addiction psychiatrist recommended several things faith leaders can put into practice to ensure they’re “functioning optimally” as they work to serve their communities.
Jordan, who is also the Barbara Wilson associate professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine, shared her professional wisdom with a group of faith leaders at a mental health faith-based summit hosted by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships at the International Interfaith Research Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University on Thursday.
“So we are not immune to the social isolation and to the emotional and psychological duress that we are experiencing [during the pandemic],” Jordan told the group as she asked faith leaders to “think about the soul as the life source within.”
“What are we feeding our life source to make sure that it’s functioning optimally?” she asked.
“I think about the essentials of our existence. Our physical, emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual well-beings. We can’t just be totally focused on our spiritual well-being if we’re not focused on our emotional, our physical. How can you take care of others if you are not fed?” she posited. “If your diabetes are out of control, if you’re depressed, if you are experiencing insomnia? So really understanding our life source has to receive attention in all of those elements.”
Jordan then explained how practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, and self-compassion can help faith leaders experience better mental health.
“Really waking up every day and having a sense of gratitude, really practicing gratitude and saying out loud, I am so thankful for this. Every single day [works],” she explained.
“It’s not just having gratitude for the sake of gratitude, but it actually changes, trains our brain to release negativity, and replace it with positive thinking. And that happens in the limbic system, is structured within a vein on either side of the thalamus that actually allows you to release negative thoughts and focus on the positivity.”
Spend time in nature
Breathing in fresh open air is also quite therapeutic, she added.
“Really thinking about how can you spend more time in nature, marvel at God’s greatness, and the beauty and wonder therein but also really having that time to breathe in the natural oxygen,” she said. “We don’t have to go later into the city to go to an oxygen bar and paying for oxygen. But being in nature and having the opportunity to really breathe in oxygen, allowing our minds to function optimally, allowing our hemoglobin to take the oxygen to places in our organs that we need to thrive.”
Practicing self-compassion, she added, can help faith leaders and people, in general, avoid burnout.
“So protecting and myopically focused on making sure those essential elements are balanced — the spiritual, emotional, psychological, social and physical — is being compassionate with ourselves. Just because we have an hour free doesn’t mean it has to be overscheduled,” she says.
“Sometimes I look at my calendar and I remember I start talking with my project coordinator. I said, ‘No, I just need a day.’ And I used to feel guilty about that. Like, are you kidding me a day for a black woman in America? Yes, to walk around Harlem and look at the birds. Pigeons. And be grateful for it.”
The Rev. A.R. Bernard, leader of New York City’s 40,000-member Christian Cultural Center, who has some 45 years of experience in ministry, was also on a panel discussing the best practices for optimum mental health and he praised Adams for “boldly declaring his relationship with faith and the role that faith plays in his life.”
He also thanked millennials for their work in helping to destigmatize the discussion of mental health in the public square.
“When 9/11 hit, I got a call for a gathering of clergy. Because what they found was that the first responders who were being traumatized by what they were dealing with, on a daily basis, it was so intense. They didn’t want to meet with … a health care or mental health professional,” he recalled.
“They wanted to meet with their Imam, their pastor, their priest, a rabbi. That was 22 years ago almost, a lot has changed. One of the reasons why they wanted to meet with their clergy person is because of the stigma associated with mental health and seeking mental health care,” he explained. “Thank you for the millennials, for removing the stigma. So now you can say, I’m going to see my therapist, or like my therapist said to me the other day and not have people look at you funny. We’ve come a long way. But it was very real. Because along with many, many clergy, some of you here, we felt the stress the trauma that 9/11 brought.”
Bernard also drove home the need for pastors to take sabbaticals as a part of their self-care regime.
“However you arrange your life creates a rhythm. That rhythm establishes a pattern. If that pattern is healthy, good, keep the arrangement. But if that pattern is unhealthy, and causing you deep and profound stress and mental anguish, then you’ve got to go back to how your life is arranged,” he said.
“The Sabbath was first and foremost, a principle to be practiced before it became a religious identification for people. Because it’s during the days of creation that God worked and then rested before there was an Israel. He rested,” Bernard explained.
“If we don’t understand the need to rest, then we will arrange our lives, our time, in a way that forces us to rest because work will continue to expand to the time given to it. And if you don’t control that, you’re gonna burn out,” he added.
Research conducted by Barna Group in January 2021 and March 2022 showed that more pastors faced with stress, loneliness, political divisions and other worries like their church being in decline considered quitting their jobs.
The share of pastors who gave serious consideration to quitting full-time ministry within the last year increased from 29% in 2021 to 42% in March of 2022.
Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement, told The Christian Post at the time that the growing number of pastors now looking to leave their full-time positions is cause for alarm.
“This particular stat, this is the highest we’ve ever seen it,” Jensen said, pointing to the burnout he believes many pastors are experiencing in the wake of the pandemic.
“We’ve been tracking this in our State of Pastors report that we did with Pepperdine University in 2016, 2017. We didn’t have this exact stat but we were tracking burnout. [And] pastors were feeling burnout and the risk factors involved,” Jensen said.
In his presentation, Bernard explained that the failure of pastors to properly incorporate rest in the work can lead to unwanted consequences.
“I’ve worked with pastors who have burned out, caught some just before they burnt out. One particular church and pastor, he’s worked for 30 years, and he took vacations, but he never took a Sabbath. So we actually created a policy and built it into the corporation, the church corporation that requires a Sabbath every seven years, which means that the pastor has to take some time off, not vacation time on a beach, but time to refresh, to renew, to strengthen, which included mental health professional counseling,” the Brooklyn pastor explained.
“And we created a document, and the church had the budget (sometimes a pastor can’t afford it) and the church made it a part of the budget. We established that in our church as well. And it’s called a sabbatical policy. And sometimes if you don’t do it structurally, it’s not going to happen.”