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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Taking stock


Archbishop of Wales John Davies                                                                       Source: Mail Online


The two great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter provide an opportunity to re-connect with people who have given up on going to church and with newcomers. As Christ commanded: 'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. It is an opportunity too often missed. Hence full marks to the bishop Bangor for his Easter message.

Numbers regularly attending church continue to fall but the bishops keep digging.  See previous entry Digging their own grave

Opportunities to draw in people through the rites of Holy baptism, marriage and at funerals become less as faith is watered down. Much is trivialized as the church attempts to cash in on secular hatch, match and dispatch celebrations.

Before Christmas 2017 the newly elected archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev John Davies, bishop of Swansea and Brecon, featured in an article in the media magazine Christian Today, a global media ministry which "provides thoughtful, biblical perspectives on theology, church, ministry, and culture".

The 64-year-old former lawyer called for the Church in Wales to 'pause and draw breath' after his appointment. 'The coming into post of a new archbishop is an opportunity for me to say to the very good and very many people that we have as part of our church, that we need to take stock', the BBC reported Davies to have said.

"I want to try and refresh the vision of the church as that institution to support and nourish the lives of wider society" he said, as ever neglecting the many true believers who have not compromised their faith to remain in the church of their baptism.

Before Easter 2018 the archbishop was again interviewed for Christian Today. As usual politics reared its head - Archbishop of Wales interview: I am not 'left-wing' for backing justice, equity and compassion.

It was another damp squib. Previous intellectual positions were alluded to with unforeseen repercussions.

Moving on to talk about his forthcoming Easter sermon Davies said that his sermon would discuss the origins of the faith he used the headline grabbing suggestion – "and the initial belief that the resurrection story was 'fake news'."

Following the lead he had provided the archbishop was asked about  " 'the practical reality of the resurrection' and the empty tomb, a difficult concept for the modern mind to grasp".

"Davies is thoughtful. 'I don't think any of us actually knows, quite frankly. What I believe is that something radical happened that changed the lives of the people who were there at the time.'

He cites the late bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, who said the resurrection was 'not just a conjuring trick with bones'.

And Davies says: 'It is about something far more than a dead body coming back to life – it is the complete renewal of the being of Christ."

A simpler response would have been, "if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain." 1 Corinthians 15:14. Instead he circled around what the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth had to say about the meaning of the empty tomb and came a cropper, as Rowan has done in the past leading some to speculate that he needed a minder to protect him from media traps.

Ironically Davies was caught out by the very people he and the liberal elite have used to advance their agenda, appealing to secularists with no concept of the spiritual implications for support. The Mail Online headline was

Unbelievable! Archbishop of Wales chooses EASTER to cast doubt on the Resurrection after saying 'I don't think any of us actually knows' when quizzed over Christ's biblical return

It was reported in 2002 that "a third of Church of England clergy doubt or disbelieve in the physical Resurrection and only half are convinced of the truth of the Virgin birth."

Trendy clergy are even more in evidence following the ordination of women and the sexual freedom they demand of the church. As one commentator put it when responding to my 'Easter Message' entry, "Many remain entombed in the dark ages with their misogynistic and homophobic rants against this that and the other; wake up and discover the resurrection life at work in those around out. Come out!"

Rowan Williams said in his lecture I referred to above, "Believing in the resurrection is believing that the new age has been inaugurated, the new world has begun. And that new world is, as you might put it, the final phase of the history of God's relation with his people. So to say 'Jesus is risen', is to say that we have now entered on the last days, on the final decisive phase of God's interaction with Israel and through Israel, with the whole world.

Too many people in the church interpret 'new age' as do as you please, taking the Christian understanding of love out of context. Instead of 'Love the Lord thy God...'  and 'Love thy neighbour...' we are bidden to 'discover' the meaning of love, anything goes under the umbrella of love. There is no hell as the Pope may or may not have said.

Archbishop Davies was right when he told the BBC that we need to take stock. I have heard on a number of occasions that the Church in Wales is finished. Save for the rare occasion the bench have nothing to offer but political posturing. Forget 20/20 Vision. There isn't any apart from setting up Local Ministry Areas which are designed to keep the liberal elite employed until they can draw their pensions.

The only hope for the Church in Wales is to  be re-absorbed into the Church of England which despite its many faults has a longer life expectancy.

35 comments:

  1. Well done Ancient Brit. Well said, (for once) Bishop of Bangor. Shame on you the Pharisee of Brecon.

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  2. The Archbishop needs to go back to college and start again. In response to the Archbishop's interview, Mark Griffiths, a new tutor at St Padarn's in Cardiff, published this on his blog (https://t.co/KjyXoclVPh)
    "Where is the line? The line which if crossed means I do not believe the person I am talking to should be a minister in Christ’s Church, because I am not even sure they are followers of Christ Jesus!
    The line is the event we celebrate on this day. It’s called Resurrection. I BELIEVE IN THE BODILY RESURRECTION of Jesus. It is my FUNDAMENTAL. It is my measure of ORTHODOX."
    (His capitals!)
    A punch on the nose for the archbishop, from a tutor at St. Padarn's college. Good man, Mark - but I suggest consulting the jobs pages!

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    1. 'If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you shall be saved' (Romans 10:9)

      The implications of confessing other than this are pretty clear to St Paul at least and God himself if one believes the scriptures.

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  3. An incredibly smart biblical response, Rev Whamab.

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  4. Ron the Reasonable5 April 2018 at 09:27

    Sorry to have to cause precipitation on anyone's bonfire, but I couldn't help noticing that Shirley's recognition that a physical resurrection is hard for people to grasp is uncannily similar to remarks made by Cardinal Basil Hume in his Easter homily in 1997. He was hardly an arch-liberal and, by making the point, he wasn't actually denying anything. He was simply alert to the kind of secular society in which his words would be heard.

    OK, Shirley is hardly of the same calibre as Basil Hume, but I think you should cut the man a tiny bit of slack - not least because journalism exists (and survives) on its ability to take things out of context and sensationalise them.

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    1. RtR it is precisely because, as you say, journalism exists (and survives) on its ability to take things out of context and sensationalise them, that those in authority need to consider carefully what they say.

      Another commentator made the valid point, "On Easter Day the Archbishop preached in no uncertain terms about the fact of the resurrection - 'But it is because of the subsequent experience of all those people, that faith and certainty grew from the ashes of doubt and scorn. Fake news became Good News. And it’s because of that fact, the fact of the resurrection, that you and I are here this morning, rejoicing to be called Christians who, like those first followers, believe and proclaim that ‘Christ is Risen’.' "

      The comment was removed because the commentator, as do many critics of this Blog and other commentators, failed to follow the guidelines summarised in the Blog notes, above, but consider the few in the Cathedral against the many readers of the Mail Online and the problem becomes obvious.

      Believers are getting fewer and fewer. Unguarded remarks, especially by those in authority, can serve only to worsen the situation.

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    2. @Ancient Briton 'those in authority need to consider carefully what they say.' Absolutely. Which is why, if you are going to quote Bishop David Jenkins on this influential blog, you should do so correctly. The resurrection 'is MUCH MORE than a conjuring trick with bones' is what he said - and this opens up the mystery and power of the resurrection to far greater exploration. I'm no fan of Shirley the dodgy former solicitor (and he's no theologian, that's for sure); but he does deserve some credit for trying to meet people half way who are not convinced by the predictable trotting-out of arid doctrinal certainty.

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    3. Don, the quote to which you refer was taken from the Christian Today article which, according to the quotation marks, was directly quoting the archbishop. You may wish to have a word with Mr Davies to express your concern.

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  5. Surely the Archbishop has been misrepresented again. He was simply saying that there is a fine balance between faith and doubt. That down the years has gained many strong theological arguments, he was not preaching heresy as implied but offering a perspective on the mystery of the resurrection. If we want to get theologically heavy, we can also see similar scholarly debate in the work of: Bultmann, Barth, Newman, Hume, GM Hopkins and others, including ++ Rowan. At least ++ John has the "b..." to open debate, unlike his predecessor.
    But my concern is the Church's PR Machine. Surely, the communication team at HQ/Dio should have seen a pre embargo copy of the article, are they not tasked with protecting its imagine? Most secular and spiritual institutions would do so. As noted in other replies, ++ John should be cut some slack - it is equally interesting that suddenly +John Bangor, is flavour of the month with is excellent Easter Podcast. Perhaps the Bench needs to really look at its image, PR scrutiny and sing from the same hymn sheet, and listen carefully to the background grumbles that we rightly make and listen, listen and listen some more! Perhaps someone should suggest a bench cross diocese laity panel and clergy panel independently informing from the coalface? PP.

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  6. Quote Newman and Hopkins please as purportedly supporting your views, Anonymous. I bet you are unable to do so.
    Bob

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  7. The Bench has appointed numerous advisors plus press officers in each diocese, so I agree this should not happen.
    The Archbishop was also clumsy in his apoarena dismissal of evangelism.......joking about telling people in food banks that Jesus died to save sinners.....but many food banks based in churches do indeed use them for evangelism.

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  8. PP @Bob, I can quote both Newman and Hopkins having taught there theology for some years, but choose not too.

    Sad so it seems if this criticism becomes anymore toxic that the frost settles on the bench, as the the footfall recedes like Miss Haversham's wedding breakfast. That is of course, this hard critical picture sees no future. Surely its not a true picture, as we pray for our leaders, who are like us all, just human. Mistakes happen to us all, cut some slack and give the new dynamic on the bench time to meld, no Church can function successfully without margin of faith and a measure of doubt.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous: I knew that you would be unable to quite Newman as favouring disbelief in the Lord's bodily resurrection.
      You must be more careful and not mislead.
      Bob

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    2. Bob, having studied at Masters level the Oxford Movement,I disagree. You have not understand my comments at all. I was speaking of the fine line between faith and doubt, which included the physical resurrection debate Newman spoke of his journey of faith, which seared between faith and doubt. Ask any academic who has studied the rise of the Oxford Movement. If you look a Newman's faith journey you will find careful scholarly reasoning in this subject. Even some of his darker prose reveals the threads of faith and doubt.
      I certainly was not misleading anyone, simply making a point of fact. Which is clear in my comments, where I cite Newman among others.
      In this blog, it is so easy to misunderstand some comments, but at no point was I seeking to mislead.

      Unfortunately, the comments of ++John have been misunderstood and the consequences are for all to see. The tenet of his sermon and the press article were simply saying, can we really know the truth of the bodily resurrection? Its a matter of a personal faith which sometimes wavers between faith and doubt, but the awesomeness of Easter remains, which cannot be put adequately into words or explained. PP.

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    3. A nice attempt to wriggle out of my challenge. I have most of Newman's major works, and am at present rereading his 'Grammar of Assent'. I fear that you do not do justice to his immense, relentless faith. I will go so far as to claim that it will be impossible for you to find in his writings support for the archbishop of Wales' wobbling on bodily resurrection. Sorry, but there is indeed a line between faith and doubt.

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    4. The last lost was written by me, Bob.

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    5. PP, a bishop is supposedly the focus for unity in the diocese. A bishop is also called to be the guardian of Faith and morals. Bishops are not given the luxury of being the guardians of their own personal faith - they are expected to be guardians of the Faith delivered once and for all to the saints of old. When quizzed by a journalist about the empty tomb, the archbishop should have had no qualms in stating God raised Christ. How he did it I don't know and I wasn't there, but I firmly believe he did, and I am a Christian because of it.
      The reason that the Church is in the parlous state it is is because we have had far too many woolly liberal bishops who don't know what they believe or what they are supposed to believe. If you stand for nothing, you fall for everything. Satan has never had it so easy. Rather than cutting him some slack, I think the Governing Body of the CIW should be calling him to account next week for bringing the CIW into disrepute. But then pigs might fly first!
      Seymour

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    6. PP. Bob, I was not trying to find or make light of the Archbishop's comments, but the debate between faith and doubt remains. Newman did admit prior to his leaving Anglicanism that there is a fine line and he frequently waived. On his transfer to Roman, he also noted the lesser impact of his doubts, as he had found his security in the doctrine of Roman.

      I have studied his theology for some years and acknowledge his legacy.


      Seymour, a bishop can make mistakes, taking him to task is the duty of the GB and may be they will, but probably not. But who knows.

      As for liberal bishops they have there place. Bishops of late have there own legacy and place in the Church. Some more than others, but fallible people they all are, as are the current bench.

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    7. PP, either you are being naïve or you are being deliberately obtuse. I would call it a mistake if a bishop left someone's name out of a report, or added up a few figures incorrectly. Not proclaiming the Faith of the Church is not a mistake, for a bishop, it is a dereliction of duty. I attended a memorial service in January when the Archbishop told the congregation in relation to the resurrection - "if that's what you want to believe". Many of my teaching colleagues at the time questioned whether he believed in the resurrection. His interview now answers that question. The current Archbishop seems to have a "pick and mix" approach to Christianity - as did the last one - and then people wonder why the Church in Wales is going down the pan.
      Last Sunday on BBC 1, the Bishop of Sheffield had no problem standing in the pulpit and proclaiming the Easter Faith, and inviting people who felt that, like Peter, they had got it wrong, to reconnect with their baptismal vows.
      If the Welsh bishops were politicians - and by God, they enjoy playing politics without submitting themselves to the electorate of this country - they wouldn't last long as leaders. Yet, by implication, what you are saying is that we should sit back, pay our dues, and let them get on with destroying the Church and destroying people's faith. And Jesus wept.
      Seymour

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    8. Seymour, I appreciate your view and accept the picture. What I am saying is we are faced with leaders who make mistakes.
      I have like you, over years heard many bishops have no problem with declaring their faith. Which has, does inspire congregations.

      What you are saying is, our Church faces demise largely due to episcopal failure to remain close to theological and pastoral insight, while managing the church.

      On your other point, you state the nub of the church's condition, which is for all to see, including myself.
      The worry is when colleges are in session to elect a bishop, obviously, serious questions of the candidates does not take place. If we take the CofE model, cumbersome as it is, at least candidates are interviewed and scrutinized before an announcement. Whereas the flaw in Wales is we elect who we want, recent colleges and the Llandaff Jeffrey John debacle show this clear as day.
      Accountability is the problem which has failed dioceses. The other aspect of accountability, in any large institute is, appraisal, does this even happen? Then there is mentoring, another contention. Do bishops designates attend any formal pre-responsibilities course as in England?
      Then there are other appointments in England that follow similar lines, in particular Dean's and senior roles.
      It is all well and good for us to voice our concerns but what is clear, the GB, fails to challenge and discipline its leaders.

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  9. https://jobs.churchtimes.co.uk/jobs/Team-Vicar-in-Wales-jn5963

    Team Vicar
    Pontypridd
    Contract: Permanent
    Location: Wales
    Recruiter: Llandaff Diocese
    Recruiter logoRef: JN005963
    Job Description for the Ministry Area of PONTYPRIDD

    We are looking for a priest colleague to share in the leadership of this innovative and diverse parish who will be
    . a rooted and visible presence in the communities of Ynysybwl and Hopkinstown/Trehafod
    . committed to being a pastor to two churches and to exploring and leading mission activities in the wider Ministry Area
    . deeply committed to collaborative working with the clergy and people of the Ministry Area
    . comfortable with a wide range of styles of worship while rooted in traditional Anglicanism
    For more information or an informal chat, call
    The Revd Michael Gable
    Email: michaeldgable@gmail.com
    Tel: 01443 650336 • 07561 313199
    The Ven Christopher Smith
    Email: Archdeacon.morgannwg@churchinwales.org.uk
    Tel: 01685 378455

    Application Form available from:
    Bishop’s Office, Llys Esgob, Cathedral Green
    Llandaff, Cardiff, CF5 2YE
    Closing date for applications: 25 April 2018

    This post is subject to a DBS Enhanced Disclosure


    "comfortable with a wide range of styles of worship while rooted in traditional Anglicanism" ?
    The Bishopette's office will be deluged by the sackfuls of applications flooding in.
    Not.

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  10. Meanwhile....Cwmbran has gone from 5 full time clergy to a ministry area with no paid clergy since August....a roaring success hey? 5 churches and a CiW school.......but the parish share has remained at over £120K per year.......But at least the governing body will be debating politics soon, that will really help this crisis and grow the Church!

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    1. DMP Mission Areas are here to stay, despite the failure rate and clergy exodus. Why the status quo with its growing list of failures, begs sound judgements. As for parish share, surely if there are no incumbents, empty, sold or in disrepair the share should significantly drop. Has anyone challenged.

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    2. Why doesn't Cwmbran simply refuse to pay up if they are getting nothing for their money in return?

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    3. As in politics... so in our now Bowdlerised, secular church........

      “...The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return...”

      And we don't even get to see the accounts!

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    4. The Llandaff accounts seem to be missing again this year. Perhaps one has to be bothered to show up to the Easter Vestry meeting to be given a copy.

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    5. In law the rules of domestic private clubs apply even here within the context of an 'Easter Vestry'. To which area of public or charity law could it be pinned? As the man said "Welcome to the ecclesiastical banana republic of Wales" - "We continue as we please" (His Hon Michael Evans QC). Would you like the sick bucket Episkopos?

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    6. There's a full page (14) of comedy to be seen in this months edition of The Bell.

      http://www.llandaffcathedral.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/BELL-Apr-2018-Final.pdf

      LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL STEWARDSHIP UPDATE

      "Llandaff Cathedral’s Stewardship campaign started in October 2017 and
      has been running now for nearly 5 months. Our aim was, and still is, to fund
      our aspirations for the development of Llandaff Cathedral and to increase
      greater resilience in its structures and its ministry.
      The Cathedral has made significant cost savings in the way it is run and
      managed financially, but we need to build financial reserves in order to meet
      our objectives. The Cathedral's witness and mission involves providing
      opportunities for lay ministries of pastoral care, teaching and exploring faith, particularly among the younger members of our congregation. In addition to this objective, we strive to strengthen the music of the Cathedral, (such a vital part of our witness) and improving the visitor experience for the increasing numbers of tourists who are making Cardiff a leisure destination.
      Since the start of the campaign, one in four people have either started to
      donate via Gift Direct or have increased their existing donation via Gift Direct.
      This is a positive start and has enabled Llandaff Cathedral to turn around a
      £5,500 deficit in October 2017, to a small surplus at the end of December
      2017.
      The Stewardship Committee would like to all thank those who have reviewed
      their giving as we would have been in a particularly dire financial position
      without your help and support.
      It is worth remembering that stewardship is not a one-off activity. Whilst we
      have made progress, we are still some way from generating the additional
      revenues we need to extend our mission and outreach. The new financial
      year is fast approaching and we urge those who do not donate via Gift Direct
      to take this opportunity to do so, and for those currently donating to review
      their giving in-line with inflation.
      The Stewardship Committee will broaden its campaign to look at maximising
      donations from the many visitors the Cathedral gets during the year.
      We give thanks to God for the generosity offered continuously by the many
      people in their weekly and monthly giving. We hope our efforts will ensure
      the Cathedral flourishes now and into the future.
      Members of the Stewardship Committee are: Ian MacDonald, Mark
      Edwards, Richard Inkin, Ben Jenkins, Willa King, Ben Staniforth}"
      Cathedral Stewardship Committee


      "we strive to strengthen the music of the Cathedral, (such a vital part of our witness)"?
      Now you can pass the sick bucket around Enforcer.

      But look, what's this, ?
      "This is a positive start and has enabled Llandaff Cathedral to turn around a
      £5,500 deficit in October 2017, to a small surplus at the end of December
      2017."

      Is that why there are no copies of Cathedral accounts available at the back of the building?

      Delete
    7. Gerwhine and Mr Toad away again, no accounts, no nominations for Church Warden or PCC and certainly not the required 3 weeks notice of the EVM.
      When will Caiaphas pull her thumb out, get off her backside and do something about the incompetent glove puppet?

      Delete
  11. It's my Aunt's Parish and I have been saying the same but people have written to the Archdeacon with no response! I suppose they fear never having clergy if they fail to pay.
    Crazy to put all your eggs in one basket as has happened with Ministry Areas. At least in most parts of England they have clergy in most Churches and it's all about doing joint mission.

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    1. Expecting or hoping for a response from that dimwit Peggy the Pilate?
      Don't hold your breath.
      That's like expecting or hoping Diane Abbott will manage to get 2+2 to equal 4.

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  12. PP, good idea. In passing did Cwmbran get either the sale amount or rental for its empty Vicarages?

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    1. Rent goes to the diocese! How crazily top heavy it is that both Llandaff and Monmouth now have 3 archdeacons each....yet can't get Ministry Team Leaders!

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  13. Thinking in purely business terms Danny, there are more than enough Anglican clergy in the UK to fill these posts. Is it time now make the terms and conditions for these posts really attractive to draw clergy into Wales rather than the other way? The stipend is poor, holidays even worse and leads to a dependence on occasional office fees. This would take serious imagination and investment but why let parishes wither on the vine it merely becomes a maintenance pattern slowly spiralling into extinction?

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  14. Well said Whamb. It feels as though Parishes are in the way and the important thing is the top levels playing unelected politics, having endless meetings, coming up with policy and agendas. It's staggering that GB are discussing politics this week while Parishes wither. Ministry Areas could so easily have been about finding and using every person's gifts, rather than just ordaining anything that moves to keep the machine going down the one way root to extinction.
    Thankfully God's faithful church will survive, just sad that it wont be the CiW.

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