Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Global Anglicanism and English Orthodoxy

The Anglican Communion is "in the first stages of divorce". Over the past 125 years, or so, two positions have been moving further and further apart. Evangelical and Liberal. Gregory Venables, the Anglican Archbishop of the Southern Cone (read South America) observed “at present we are incompatible doctrinally and ethically and quite different in our presuppositions. Once we recognize that maybe we can have an amicable divide. This is separation from an apostate situation.” “The Anglican Communion in the US has been hijacked” Archbishop Venables said, by a liberal clique that is less concerned with theological integrity than with power. They do not “mind as long as they control it.”

Let me illustrate how bad the situation has become and what led Archbishop Venables to say this. Dr James Packer is the 81 year old author of the Christian classic “Knowing God”. In 2005, Time Magazine listed him as one of the 20 most influential theologians in the world. Dr. Packer serves at the parish of St. John's Shaughnessy in Vancouver, Canada. But last month, Packer was kicked out of the Church of Canada by his Bishop, Michael Ingham, for apparently ‘abandoning the faith”. Bishop Ingham has been in the forefront in the leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada pushing the church to abandon traditional Christian doctrine on sexual morality and biblical authority. In February, Ingham issued a "Notice of Presumption of Abandonment of the Exercise of the Ministry" to nine Anglican ministers and two deacons including Dr Packer. Responding Dr. Packer told an audience of orthodox Anglicans that scripture stories "prompt us to ask what God was doing…

I ask the same question: what is God doing not to the Anglican Church of Canada but the disorder that only seems to grow in the old west?" meaning the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. “We pray for an end to it but we do not see an end to it. I continue to pray that out of all this God is going to purge the old west of its poisonous liberalism which is weakening and shrinking the churches." He said it is "God's way of purging" to allow problems to "grow to its full stature so that its real nature can be seen so that finally it is squeezed out." "It seems to me that in a situation where arguably, elected bishops become heretical, what is the divine answer to that, there must be possibility for realignment for the faithful where heresy, doctrinal and moral is approved." "God is preparing and toughening us for specially demanding conflict. In our call to mission, I suspect that over the next generations it is going to be exceedingly tough as we face secularism and ethnic religions surge which do not tolerate Christianity. The pressure is on and increasing. God is toughening us for mission."

More than 30 clergy have received licences to serve in the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) under the archiepiscopal authority of the Southern Cone because of disagreement with the Canadian Church over homosexuality. In a sermon preached recently on Romans 1:18-32 entitled, the Gracious Wrath of God, I highlighted God’s charge against us: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

Although Bishop Gene Robinson has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference this July, he will conveniently be there for a fringe event. He has decided to bring his male partner on a ‘honeymoon’ to London the same week. And no doubt he will be promoting his new book, “In the Eye of the Storm”

The former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, said this of the book: “A timely, courageous and revealing personal memoir from the figure at the centre of the explosive storm that is changing the face of Anglicanism worldwide…This is Gene Robinson’s own story, told with simplicity and humility and revealing his passionate faith.... This honest account will encourage anyone seriously committed to the message of Jesus, and shows him deeply committed within the Anglican Communion even to those who vilify him.” Isn’t this precisely what the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 1, “they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Is that not what Richard Harries is doing? This is why 280 Bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion will not be at Lambeth in July. Instead they will meet together in Amman to explore how to maintain a gospel witness in the Anglican Communion and prepare for an Anglican future in which the gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission a top priority.

And that is why, following the Bishop’s meeting in Amman, together with over 1000 leaders from seventeen provinces in the Anglican Communion, representing 35 million church-going Anglicans, I and Joanna hope to attend the Global Anglican Futures Conference in Jerusalem. And that is why I am also co-sponsoring, along with 29 other incumbents, an historic meeting for church leaders at All Souls, Langham Place on the 1st July entitled “Global Anglicanism and English Orthodoxy”. This meeting will be an excellent opportunity: to hear first hand from some orthodox Anglicans from around the worldto pray for the future of the Anglican communionto stand alongside our gospel partnersto express our concern for historical Anglican orthodox beliefto consider the way forward in gospel mission Speakers will include:

Henry Orombi (Archbishop of Uganda): Orthodoxy and Effective Mission
Greg Venables (Archbishop of the Southern Cone): Orthodoxy and Global Connections
Jim Packer (St John’s Shaughnessy Canada): Orthodoxy and Personal Experience
Peter Jensen (Archbishop of Sydney): Orthodoxy and True Anglicans

Despite what others may say we have no plans to “jump ship” and leave the Church of England or put ourselves under overseas bishops, but rather to stay as gospel-faithful Anglicans. Nor do we have any intentions to start some new “political’ organisation - the evangelical world has enough of those already! This could be a significant meeting both for the perceptions of orthodox Anglicans elsewhere in the world as well as within the Church of England, and for those who have the responsibility for putting together a way forward for our denomination.

Click here for more information on GAFCON and Anglican Mainstream

To listen to a sermon on Romans 1:18-32