Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Splits and schisms

The decision of Senior Evangelical Anglicans to set up a 'church within a church' has been met with dire warnings from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but these are hardly likely to deter them. The FOCA grouping represents at least half of Anglicans worldwide, and in terms of what they believe, probably 80% of those who actually attend church.

More than 60 years ago Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great Congregational leader appealed to evangelical Anglicans like John Stott to come out from among them and join evangelical non-conformists in a new grouping. Alas, they did not, and while at times the Church of England has had evangelical leaders like Donald Coggan and George Carey, and even today has real Bible believing scholars like Tom Wright among its bishops, too often we have had to suffer the leadership of liberal politicians like Runcie or the unworldly liberals like Ramsay and unworldly intellectuals like Rowan Williams.

Anglicanism has always been a broad church incorporating three groupings, evangelicals, liberals and catholics. The church hierarchy is dominated by liberal catholics, since they are appointed largely by politicians with little faith or none, who are influenced by academic distinction. There have been some very clever Archbishops, but not many wise ones. At present 1300 catholic priests are threatening to leave the Church of England over the possibility of women bishops which demonstrates that the liberals are beset on either side.

The evangelical dispute is portrayed as anti-gay, but that is not a true characterization. The appointment of a practising gay bishop in America is only the trigger of a long running dispute between conservatives and liberals over the basis of faith. Conservatives hold to the supremacy of Scripture. They are not fundamentalists who refuse to see that the Bible is written in various literary forms which need to be interpreted accordingly, but they will not depart from the plain meaning of Scripture as liberals do when it does not coincide with modern mores.

Gay people tend to justify themselves by saying that this is a hard-wired state that they have no control over. That may or may not be true, but what the Bible teaches about sex is that it is designed for marriage. I consider myself to be hard-wired to be attracted to pretty women. I do have control over whom I sleep with, however.

Just as we would not choose a serial adulterer to be our pastor neither would we choose anyone else who misuses sex. This is not a sex thing, it is a sin thing. We would not choose as our pastor a gossip, a thief, a wife-beater, a tax-cheat, or anyone else who fits the description in Romans chapter 1. There is always room for repentance, of course, and all sinners are welcome to our churches. We just don't ask unrepentant sinners to lead us.

I use the word 'pastor' rather than 'bishop' because the words are used interchangeably in the New Testament, which sees no hierarchy of church office. 'Bishop' (episcopos = overseer) is used interchangeably with 'presbyter' (which some say is where we get the world 'priest', but actually means elder) and with pastor (or shepherd). The New Testament does not recognise 'priest' in the Old Testament sense of someone who makes representations on behalf of the people to God. The Protestant reformers spoke about the 'priesthood of all believers'.

This is what Martin Luther said about it: That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 says, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and Revelation 5:10, "Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings." For an extensive discussion see this link.
Neither am I much impressed with the other priestly function of being able to conduct the Eucharist in a way that a lay-person could not. This derives from a supposed 'apostolic succession', that Roman Catholics deny belongs to Anglicans anyway. When St. Paul gives instructions for the taking of communion in 1 Corinthians ch 11, there is no mention of a special officer with magical powers to turn bread into flesh and wine into blood. This is a memorial meal (v24 'do this in remembrance of me'). He does, however, emphasise unity and the body life of the church.

One of the difficulties conservative Anglicans find in breaking away from their liberal colleagues is the ownership of church buildings. Although a recent decision of a court in Virginia has suggested that the resident church owns the building, not the distant diocese, this may not hold on appeal and in any case mistakes the church for the building. The church is the people. The building is just a convenience. My daughter visited a church based in a rented school hall last week. they were happy not to have the responsibility of a building to maintain. My own church is facing a large financial outgoing to repair or replace its building. The Church of England owns a huge number of old buildings that the nation sees at its own. They have the responsibility of repairs and upkeep of structures that are increasingly a burden rather than a blessing.

There are some fine buildings among them and no doubt they are peaceful places that aid meditation, but they are a mess of potage when it comes to our (new-)birthright. We worship a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the gold in every mine. Let the heathens have their fine buildings, their colorful vestments, their delightful music, their pomp and show. We would rather have the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your explanation of the gay pastor dispute.

I find it incredible that this discussion is even being held.

The reason we even concern ourselves with one percent of the population thinks is (1) misinformation from people like Kinsey, who, being homosexual himself, wanted it to appear that many people were homosexual yet normal, so he made up the 10% figure.

The figure is more like one percent.

The 99% who are not homosexual have been victims of a concerted effort from people such as Kinsey and the Hollywood elite who exploit movies, television, and other forms of indoctrination to mislead and misinform.

Ask yourself why one percent can lead ninety-nine percent astray.

Gay pedophiles have cost many young men their innocence and extracted a terrible cost; it has cost a misbehaving Catholic church millions in hush money and in civil actions to 'take care of' the problem.

I applaud the actions of churches who set themselves apart from the agenda of the one-percenters.

I fiercely oppose gay 'marriage' as well. It is an abomination, and imposed by judges for unknown reasons who make up law to match their personal feelings.