Monday, June 16, 2008

Anglican church in meltdown over gays and women

Cover story in todays Times... Anglican church in meltdown over gays and women, by Ruth Gledhill. Tired old question, but could this be the straw that breaks the camels back, or is there still reason for the evangelicals to stay in fellowship with the anglo-catholics and the liberals?? I love (most of) the 39 articles as much as anyone else, but this thing has drifted so far off that it doesn't even realise the problem.

Further into The Times it's noted that having Rabbi Sacks speak at Lambeth is a positive step... Now, it's good to understand others, but I'm not entirely sure how someone who doesn't think the Messiah has come yet is going to help the CofE move forward positively

Drift happens. The Bible shows us that.
And history sings the same song.

What matters when that's happening is staying with the gospel. The gospel is then far more important than the sentiment historical unity. Unity is always selective anyway (note there are plenty of people not in the Church of England in the first place) and should always be surrendered for the sake of holding to the gospel, for the sake of the glory of Jesus. Maintaining unity without the gospel is just pointless. Where unity based on the gospel can be maintained then obviously that's the ideal, a clear basis for friendship, relationship, partnership....

The Jehovah's Witnesses who popped into our house on Sunday afternoon would have had us believe that we shared the same gospel as the four newfrontiers-types they were sitting around the table with - but that's only true if you skip Anglican articles I, II, V, VIII amongst others (that is if you skip Trinity, divinity of Jesus, the historic creeds etc). The Reformed Charismatics and the Jehovah's Witnesses hold to different gospels. We can't unite in gospel-fellowship. Likewise, how can those in the CofE who have such different gospels prentent to be united? Why would someone who loves the gospel want to fellowship with those who openly flaunt sound doctrine?

Furthermore, given that Anglican churches are essentially independent churches, and that the evangelicals are usually more than capable of self-funding - why stay in the bigger thing? I know you can never have a totally pure church. And I know it is possible that evangelicals might one day be a majority... but is that faint future hope worth the cost today? There are plenty of churches to form fellowship with instead of those that deny the things that matter. Plenty of churches who love the gospel, who will contend for the truth...

8 comments:

  1. Hi Dave
    I guess i should perhaps be in a position to comment on this briefly (as someone who is an ordained Anglican). i completely sympathise with your comments and know that you are certainly not the first to suggest that camels' backs might be broken by this straw. But the big question at one level is 'what's new?' I would suggest that if we were to leave this funny old, broken and flawed denomination, we should have done it YEARS AGO! Long before issues of sexuality were even a twinkling in anyone's eye. For what about the big issues of denial of the resurrection, or even the uniqueness of Christ. These have been questioned and challenged by senior church bods for decades. If it was as simple as the question of being in the same organisation as these folks, then we've been barking up the wrong tree for generations - to put it bluntly, Martyn Lloyd Jones was right and John Stott wrong.

    But of course I don't think things are as simple as that (but i would say that, wouldn't i? I'm an Anglican). We, the orthodox, are the ones on the moral and theological high ground, not those who have clearly moved away from us. Why should we be the ones who have to leave? It is gospel churches that are growing and sending people forward for ministry. If we can still hold our own and make it clear where the lines need to be drawn and still have gospel opportunities then why not. Surely this is one way of making a stand in a wider culture that is rapidly moving away. I know that this seems a cop out to non-conformists. But whether you understand it or not, it is certainly how many gospel people who are hanging in there feel, justly or not.

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  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for commenting. Fair point that it could have been years ago. I do take the point about 'taking a stand' and you are the ones who belong... sadly the loons are running the assylum. Maybe you need to go for being a Bishop!

    I have very strong Anglican sympathies and I would love to see it re-taken for the gospel. It is good to be reminded that under the surface there is a positive tide moving, even if the public face seems to be ever-increasingly depraved.

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  3. "Why should we be the ones who have to leave?"

    Evangelical Anglicans may be more faithful to Anglican tradition (e.g. the 39 Articles) than the liberals are.

    But is the constant fighting worth the effort? Why not just leave, and focus on developing unity with non-comformist evangelicals who are probably more similar theologically to Evangelical Anglicans than the Evangelical Anglicans are to liberals.

    Shouldn't Evangelical Anglicans at least refuse to give any financial support to dioceses if they diocese tolerates things like gay weddings amongst clergy, or clergy converting to Hinduism.


    I found the latest 9Marks audio discussion on separation quite interesting.

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  4. An important discussion and good points across the board. I know it's tough, although maybe you might not be surprised to hear that I'm with Mark - for us Anglican Evangelicals to hold fast and hang on for now. I think that the Biblical gospel is clear in the Articles and BCP. As Mark says there are lots of Gospel people in the CofE and while the "official" stance of the Church is to teach Scripture I think there is good reason to hang on. Theologically, historically and arguably (?) numerically in the Anglican Church world-wide I think the CofE is Evangelical. I think the next few months will be significant times - with Lambeth, GAFCON and Synod all in the pipeline.

    I agree Dave - it would be great to see the CofE retaken for the gospel!

    Ben - you may be interested that I quite enjoyed April's 9 Marks interview with Philip Jensen on Anglicanism and Evangelicalism!

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  5. Chris,

    If the Church of England was like the Diocese of Syndey we probably wouldn't need to have this discussion.

    I noticed that Phillip Jensen said that a few years ago evangelicals in Sydney were thinking of leaving the Anglican church.

    Where would you draw the line on being in the Church of England? What, if anyting would need to happen before Anglican Evangelicals would decide that it is best to leave to form a separate Evangelical Anglican denomination?

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  6. Hi Ben,

    Nice to say hello - fair point about the Sydney Anglicans!

    Thought provoking question about the line - one that would be good one to think and talk through carefully - a complex issue with lots of angles (that I need to get my head around!).

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  7. There are a small number of encouraging stories of denominations moving back to a more orthodox theological position. The Southern Baptist Convention is one I can think of. This was possible because grassroots could vote people into positions where they had influence over the denomination, and people were prepared to take over institutions like seminaries, and fire people who disagreed with offical doctrine (e.g. I think there was roughly a 90% turnover in faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary within only a few years).

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  8. This whole thing will of course run and run. A few quick thoughts:

    - a cliche but there is no perfect denomination. And every grouping generates its (mis-)perceptions. If i said that everyone in your denomination was "..." or "..." then most likely you would reply by saying well not everyone is... you just have to meet them. Well, it's the same in the CofE. We're not guilty by association before proven innocent. Our job, as with all ministry is to get out there, prove the lie to misconceptions by our talk and walk. People will always say what they will say. After all, just consider what people say about CU groups on campus - until they actually meet individuals (although i would be the first to admit that just as with churches, that doesn't necessarily help since Christians do not always get the being an ambassador for Christ thing very right)!?

    - "is the constant fighting worth the effort?" Well, i have questions if you enjoy this sort of fighting. But i also have questions if you imagine you can avoid it. Every single NT epistle has some sort of heterodoxy or heteropraxis as its presenting issue. And 'twas ever thus. Don't think that Sydney diocese is perfect or doesn't face it's own gospel challenges. Whatever church you are in, you will face them. Again as the cliche puts it, if you ever find the perfect church, don't think for a minute of joining it because you'll just spoil it!

    - re finances - it is easy to assume from the outside that people are being irresponsible with their money. But i do not think this is the case. A large proportion of (usually smaller) CofE churches have a (sometimes small) net gain financially from the diocese - and most of the time the larger churches do deals with their dioceses either to pay their own ministry and/or to support other gospel ministry. It is not simply about throwing things into a bottomless pot for use by churches with whom we have little in common.

    - finally, 'where would you draw the line?' Well as i said before, if it was a matter of drawing lines, then we should have done it years ago. Denying the resurrection and divinity of Christ is FAR WORSE and more obviously a gospel issue than sexual ethics (and one which would rally far more people to the cause). But while we have the opportunities, resources, buildings, heritage in our hands, it would be foolish (and irresponsible) not to make the most of them for the gospel while we still can. I'm not going anywhere until I'm thrown out. Which of course may well happen!

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