Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hope for Anglicans

Perhaps from a desire for ecumenical unity, I have been following the ups and downs of the global Anglican Communion for the past few years. As you may be aware, deep-seated controversies have arisen between conservatives and liberals among the Anglican churches (including the Church of England and the Episcopal churches in North America). The real issue at stake is the authority of Scripture and its traditional, orthodox interpretations by church leadership. This has shown itself most painfully among the liberals in their muddling of sexual standards, going so far as to bless same-sex unions and ordain clergy who openly practice a gay lifestyle.

Most recently, the conservative/orthodox GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) met in boycott of the Lambeth conference, held every ten years. As I read through the most recent updates of this conference on BBC News, three things struck me. (1) In reading the GAFCON statement, I was amazed by the sense in which their council embodied both a commitment to the purity of the gospel under the authority of canonical Scripture, as well as eagerness to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Of course, this meeting was not quite on par with Acts 15 or the seven ecumenical councils that defined historic Christian orthodoxy in Christianity's first millenium (or four councils, as the GAFCON statement claims). But I sense a similar spirit in which such "apostolic" things are still going on today, the Holy Spirit guiding and purifying Christ's body from all defilement.

(2) I am amazed at how far some of the liberals' understanding of biblical doctrine departs from orthodoxy. Conservatives such as me are perplexed at how anyone can openly bastardize "clear teachings" from the Bible. (See especially Bishop Andrus's last point here, concerning the Great Commission.) But I'm learning that what's always at stake in these debates is whether or not we presuppose the authority of God's Word over us and our own reasoning and human principles (cf. Colossians 2:8).

(3) The Anglicans pushing for orthodoxy and loving reform in the Communion are by and large from "Global South" countries, namely, those in Africa. The doctrinal and moral collapse and "enfeebled witness" of the European and North American churches shows that we are no longer in a Christianized realm. The heart of Christianity is moving southward more and more. This is certainly an indictment of compromise--Christ removing unfaithful churches' lampstands, as it were (Revelation 2:5). But is is also a glorious sign of the gospel's triumph; the message of Christ will not be snuffed out by the world. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Though weaknesses and syncretitistic compromise are ailing parts of the Communion and thereby weakening the church as a whole, yet other parts of the body are growing in health and strength. I especially praise the Anglican leaders in Zimbabwe who are fighting against the despotism of Robert Mugabe, who won another rigged election and was sworn in on the Bible. Apparently Mugabe believes only divine action can overturn his rule--and it shall.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree, Andrew. And what most stands out to me is the failure to acknowledge Jesus as the only way to God. As well as the denial that Paul evangelized or believed in evangelizing the lost. The gospel is at stake here, no doubt.

I try to hear out others as to why they think the way they do, what is their source. I know even C.S. Lewis, while believing all salvation comes through Jesus Christ, did not believe those saved would necessarily know the name of Christ. I have often wondered myself at stories given to missionaries of those who first heard the gospel being prepared by deceased ancestors who had stories which evidently were from God and prepared their people for the reception of the gospel. God's word doesn't fill in all the blanks, but it does tell us that people are lost apart from faith in Jesus Christ and we must believe that, leaving issues about those who haven't heard in God's good hands. I certainly believe no one is deserving except of judgment.

We must be true to Scripture and what it says on the gospel as well as on homosexuality of which all such acts are sin.

It does look like there will be a split. It seems to me the Anglican Church has historically always had problems- and I think there are sincere Christians who are uncertain on the homosexual issue due to misinterpretations of Scripture, or a watered down view of Scripture. Of course there are those who are just religious and think all religions are good or can end up leading to God.

I enjoy listening to Krista Tippett "Speaking of Faith", not because I believe all religions and faiths lead to God, but because I like to hear them speak their faith and mind. The deeper you get into each faith, the more the differences will become evident and really deeper. This all reminds me of the injunction to us in Jude that we are earnestly to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted by God to us, his people.

Thanks for bringing this up, and I'll be paying attention to how it unfolds in coming days.