Well, Lambeth Palace appear to have dropped another clanger (hard to believe, I’m sure you agree). To be fair to them, it may not be a clanger at all. Indeed, it may have been entirely unconcerning to them – it is so hard to tell these days. The Archbishop Cranmer blog gives Justin Welby a pass on it, whilst noting the evident problem. The blame they aver, lies elsewhere.
So, what’s the problem? The Anglican Centre in Rome – the Embassy of Worldwide Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic Church – lost its director last year after he was forced to step down following allegations of sexual misconduct. Those in a position to do so evidently moved swiftly to ensure that this scandal was dealt with appropriately.
The interim replacement – the man who now effectively acts as the ambassador of the Anglican Church to the Vatican – is the Very Rev’d Dr John Shepherd. By all accounts, there is no suggestion of sexual impropriety. But, having dodged that bullet, the Church appears to have waded into another problem. Here is Dr Shepherd in his own words:
That’s right. The man tasked with representing Worldwide Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic Church rejects foundational orthodoxy thus making Roman Catholicism – generally regarded as outside the fold by Protestantism (and vice versa) hence the 500-year-old schism – more orthodox than himself, and appear more orthodox than the communion he is supposed to represent. Ruh-Roh!
Now, such things are hardly surprising. There have been Anglicans denying the resurrection for a good 150 years or so. Ryle had to contend with this sort of thing. But even if that was a minority position then, there is no denying in the 70s and 80s such liberalism was rampant and very much in the ascendancy. The problem certainly never went away and those I talk to within Anglicanism tend to see the problems getting worse.
But I have a few questions for my Evangelical Anglican friends. It is a question I’ve posed before but it bears asking again. And I know some (though not all) of you think I’m just being mean and unkind. I know some of you think I’m just poking, prodding and baiting. I promise I’m really am not. I would love to see you flourish in your ministries.
Yes, I disagree with your polity and don’t see any warrant for your view on baptism (though I understand there are credobaptist Anglicans knocking around, so we are edging ever closer to Biblical unity brothers!) But I would rather see a gospel preaching Anglican church thrive than see no church or, worse, a liberal “church” leading people to destruction with their false gospel. I would stand with my Evangelical Anglican brethren against the onslaught of liberalism, if only they would let us. Yet so often it feels to Dissenters as though many take the highly offensive option of preferring the company of their liberal counterparts and having a closer relationship with their liberal bishops than seeking genuine fraternal links with genuine brothers and sisters, in theological sympathy, from different groups outside of their communion.
But here is my question: What red line will it take for you to leave on the grounds of faithfulness? Over the last few decades there have been quite a number of lines drawn in the sand. But each time the line is crossed with impunity, Evangelicals wring their hands and cry ‘woe is me’, before rubbing the line out and insisting the new line is definitely the one that can’t be crossed.
A secondary question must similarly be asked. When the liberals were in the ascendancy and the gospel fidelity of the communion compromised, noises were made by nobody voted with their feet (or, rather, they did vote with their feet and they all stayed put.) When the gospel was under attack, discipline utterly ignored despite the most egregious denials of basic orthodoxy, there wasn’t even a bit of the noise that is now being made over affirming lifestyles contrary to scripture.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the more recent stuff isn’t a departure from orthodoxy. It most certainly is. But there can equally be no denying that there are, as Jesus affirmed, weightier matters than others. Christ and the apostles saved their strongest critique for those who deny the very foundation of the gospel and depart from orthodoxy. In the table of serious doctrinal errors (without wishing to dismiss the importance of any of them), which is weightier: denying the resurrection or affirming LGBT+ lifestyles? Both matter. But the fundamental denial of the gospel, of Christ himself, would seem to be the more abominable error. So, dear friends, why the loud noises now a transgender affirmation has been slipped under the radar when the weightier matters of the gospel, that of the cross and resurrection of Christ, were not (apparently) matters leading to schism?
What is more, we now don’t even have to choose which is the worse. For you have both the press toward LGBT+ affirmation, along with the surreptitious bringing in of such things under-the radar, and now the appointment of a fellow to significant office who openly denies the bodily resurrection of Christ (which, I am going to suggest, isn’t the first time this has happen even in more significant roles). But these are the people with whom you are actively choosing fellowship. You may not wish to have fellowship with them, but as long as you remain in your communion, that is what you are doing.
My Church of England friend recently made a call for Anglicans to remain faithful to Christ. You can read that here. Here is the question: what does it mean to be faithful? What does faithfulness demand of us in relation to our denominational allegiances? Is it faithful to simply keep one’s head down and do nothing until we are pushed? If open gospel gospel denial through heresy isn’t a red line worthy of leaving, why should lesser issues of adopting wider-cultural views on progressive values any more represent a red line?
To ask this as provocatively as I dare, are there any circumstances under which you might decide Lloyd-Jones was right, after all?