Monday, 30 June 2008

Opinion piece on Anglicanism in Daily Tele.

I just got an opinion piece on the Anglican crisis into one of the local papers, the Daily Tele.

Here's what I wrote:

Like all old style bureaucracies, the Anglican denomination worldwide moves at about the same pace as the friendly slugs on the morning kid's programme my youngest daughter likes to watch.

But at long last, it looks like something may actually be happening within the normally staid and stodgy Church of England.

So this week more than one thousand traditionalist Anglicans—including all of the Sydney Anglican bishops, and nearly 300 other bishops from Anglican churches right round the world—have gathered for an unprecedented meeting in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Media headlines in Australia, the UK and around the world have breathlessly and inaccurately heralded a split in the Anglican communion.

This is wrong.

As Anglican Dean of Sydney Phillip Jensen said on Saturday, “You can’t split a marshallow.”

So what’s actually going on? Essentially this: Bible-believing Anglicans have finally reached the point where they want to reclaim Anglicanism from the accelerating decline in standard Christian belief within bits of the worldwide denomination, especially in the UK, the US and Canada. It’s a decline that’s been matched by a decline in numbers, and an increase in average age in many of the churches that have decided to walk away from the Bible’s teaching.

The departure has been on a range of key issues: whether the Bible itself can be trusted; whether Jesus actually rose from the dead; whether the eyewitness accounts of his life (the gospels) are even reliable; whether the message of the gospel can actually save us from God’s terrible judgement and bring forgiveness and change; whether in fact there is even a need for forgiveness and change—or whether God the heavenly senile grandfather (or grandmother, the same people would argue) will more or less just leave us alone while we live the way we please.

These are the real issues that the Anglicans at GAFCON in Jerusalem are concerned about this week. The trigger issue, however, was the election in 2003 of a practising homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop in the US diocese of New Hampshire. Anglicans are brilliant at politely avoiding controversy, but this was the Anglican equivalent of selling bacon-only burgers at the Jerusalem McDonalds, with a garnish of cow-dung just to make sure consumers got the point. Provocative to say the least, and guaranteed to bring a response.

Which is exactly what has happened. The response has been firm but gracious. Yes, granted that a handful of Anglicans in dying churches in the US and elsewhere want to ignore traditional biblical teaching. Let them do it. But don’t let them pretend that they are holding on to traditional Bible teaching. That traditional teaching talks about how, in the Christian gospel, we can be forgiven for our sinful behaviour—and then actually change! That forgiveness and change involves turning away, by God’s power, from all sorts of damaging things. Not just homosexuality, but marital unfaithfulness, other sorts of sexual immorality, selfishness, drunkenness, greed, polygamy, robbery, lying, cheating, abuse, violence, pornography addiction, racism—yes, even things as basic as dishonouring your parents. The Christian gospel demands we turn away from all of those things, and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

It’s an old message, but it also happens to be a powerful effective one. Millions of Christians and Anglicans worldwide can testify to its power. It still works to offer hope.

And Anglicans who continue to believe in it have now said enough is enough. Quite a number of them have worked out that it’s time for Anglicans to refocus on that simple message of rescue through trust in the power of Jesus. They want that message to be taught and promoted in the Anglican church worldwide. Good on them.

Lots more to be said, of course, and some of it has been said back at the sola panel blog.


Jonathan Hunt said...

Shame the Gafcon delegates don't agree on other matters such as female preachers.

Anonymous said...

Well done Gordon, your quirky mind helps to get orthodox Christianity into the newspaper - more please

David Palmer