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COLUMN: New church vows to follow the old ways, saving Christmas in a dying world

Susan D. Harris, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 12/24/22

Jesus is coming again. For Christians worldwide, the miracle of the manger bursts into hearts with the promise of a living God and eternal life.

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COLUMN: New church vows to follow the old ways, saving Christmas in a dying world


Jesus is coming again. For Christians worldwide, the miracle of the manger bursts into hearts with the promise of a living God and eternal life. It is the basis of a faith that has transformed the world like no other.

Even as Christians anticipate the first coming of Christ to earth – God incarnate – the babe in the manger – they also anticipate his second coming.

There are of course, scoffers and naysayers, as there have been throughout the ages. And across America, as church attendance dwindles year after year, there are fewer who even understand the Biblical teaching that God became man.

Bishop Dan Herzog of Christ the King Anglican Mission in Washington Mills, explains it this way:

“Most people believe Mary had a baby, but I doubt many understand that God became a man. I think the average person today misses that altogether. Instead, Jesus is treated as a great prophet, a wise teacher, a luminary. He’s right up there with people like Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi, but God incarnate? They don’t believe it. But as C.S. Lewis said, it’s either absolutely true, or it’s insanely false; he’s either liar, lunatic or Lord of all.”

Bishop Dan has seen a lot of Christmases. With over fifty years as a priest and bishop, he’s still as energized as a young man as he prepares his flock for the journey to the manger once more.

While it may seem to an outsider (that is to say non-clergy) that it might be hard for Bishop Dan to keep the message fresh and exciting every year, he explains why that’s not so:

“Because the person I am teaching about is alive and not dead. Otherwise, it would just become a very flattering obituary. And there is no other way that we could have become participants in the divine life except by His decision to come to us as He did. He came on the biggest rescue mission in cosmic history.”

And why is he so passionate about spreading the good news of Christmas in 2022?

“Because,” he explains, “as the world continues to recover from the aftermath of Covid and everything that accompanied it, the most encouraging truth they can hear is that God loves us so much he became one of us.”

Bishop Dan was formerly a bishop with the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. He came out of retirement to join the newly formed Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and start a new church in Washington Mills. Christ the King Anglican Mission currently shares a building with Messiah Congregation at 3810 Oneida Street.

The Wikipedia entry for ACNA states that it was “founded in 2009 by former members of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada who were dissatisfied with liberal doctrinal and social teachings in their former churches.” It’s been so successful in it’s short life that it’s one of the only denominations growing by leaps and bounds.

Bishop Dave Bena, a former Marine and USAF chaplain is an assisting bishop at Christ the King. One of the pioneering founders of ACNA in 2009, he says the breakaway group is growing because it’s “striking the core of souls in North America and around the world.” He added, “We offer a steady, biblical alternative to the unsteady and fickle cultural values presently in vogue. We’re centered on Jesus and His Gospel. We’re offering eternal hope to a hopeless generation.”

And he’s definitely onto something. A Washington Post article from earlier this month was titled, “Liberal churches are dying as conservative churches thrive.” Article author David Haskell outlines how church attendance began dwindling decades ago. Referencing a 20-year-old book by John Shelby Spong titled, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die,” Haskell claims that with prodding from Spong and other leading theologians of the time, congregations were told they “would grow if they abandoned their literal interpretation of the Bible and transformed along with changing times.”

It didn’t work.

Besides the virgin birth and God becoming man, the belief that Jesus rose from the dead also lies at the core of Christianity. Haskell’s research shows that 83% of people in growing churches agree with the statement: “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb.” Only 67% of worshippers in declining churches agreed on that point.

Haskell concluded his article this way:

“Spong and other liberals are right to claim that Christianity must change or die. They just get the direction of the change wrong.”

Bishop Dan’s teaching hasn’t changed with the times. His message is the same as It was when he began his service to God. In his Advent sermon titled “Anticipating Christ,” he proposed that the greatest message of Christmas is hope, which he explained is unique to the Christian faith:

“I heard a great teacher once talk about the way the devil comes after our lives. He said the most powerful tool he has available is the wedge of discouragement, because once discouragement enters, everything else can follow…but once you have hope, you have joy in your heart and you are liberated. So, if we see that in faith, hope and love we have steadfastness, joy and constancy, then we can rejoice at His first coming, and rejoice even more at His final coming.”

May Christians everywhere be liberated with the unchanging message of hope that Christmas offers us once more.

Susan D. Harris is on the board of the Christ the King Anglican Mission in Washington Mills,


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