Friday, 29 June 2018

A Recovery of Church Discipline

Seminal Moments

The Anglican Church has been effectively split for a long time.  There are major "parties" within the church, of which the predominant ones are the High Church Anglicans, the Modernists, and finally the Evangelicals.  

The Evangelical wing has a vibrant (but minority) presence in the United Kingdom.  The same is true of New Zealand and Australia--although through the ministries of the Sydney Anglicans the presence and influence of the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church in Australasia is growing.

We are not all that familiar with the High Church Anglicans, but they appear bound up with traditionalist Roman Catholicism.  The Modernists, however, we know well, largely because they have their own representative voices in New Zealand.  Modernism can be described as largely secularist with icings of religious practice dotted in disarray over the cake.

World wide Anglicanism, however, is another beast entirely.  It is largely dominated by the doctrines and practices of true, hard core, Bible believing Christianity.  Recently, this international, global group held a conference in Jerusalem.  They sent a clear message back to the Anglican hierarchy in England.

Delegates at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, which was attended by 1,950 representatives from 50 countries, made a passionate call this week to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim Jesus Christ to all nations.

They also agreed on a letter to the churches in the Anglican communion which calls for the Archbishop of Canterbury as its leader, to reaffirm the clear teaching of the Bible in line with historical Anglican orthodoxy.  [CBN News]
In effect the Conference called upon Anglican leadership in the UK and the United States to return to the fundamentals of the faith.  The conference asked the Archbishop to return to the teachings of the Bible only.  But there was a corollary.  Living in submission to the holy Scriptures necessarily means that the Church return to classic, historic, faithful church discipline.
"This is a stunning declaration of the gospel. I believe it to be an historic moment; a defining moment in the life of the Anglican communion worldwide for the 21st century," Andrea Minichiello Williams, the CEO of Christian Concern said in a press release.

"The letter presents as a loving and firm challenge to the official structures of the Church of England to return to the true gospel and to discipline church leaders who refuse to teach or live in the light of that gospel. If the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are unable to assent to the statement and take appropriate action, the consequences before God will be severe," Williams said in the press release.

The letter points out the uniqueness of Christ and the need for repentance from sin.  But the letter also focuses on threats to the gospel within the Anglican communion. It points out the Episcopal Church USA's rejection of the settled teaching of the Church on sexuality and the failure of senior Anglicans to exercise necessary discipline. [Ibid.  Emphasis, ours]
To our mind, the conference has taken careful aim and hit the bulls eye.  If a teaching is revealed and declared in the Scriptures, it must bind the consciences of all Church officers, both teachers and rulers.  Therefore, biblically faithful church discipline is an essential aspect of the very being of the Church itself.

For the entirety of our lives we have never known any other kind of Anglican Church but one effectively dominated by the Modernists.  Now, it seems as though the faith and practice of the former colonies is throwing  down the gauntlet to the Modernist hierarchy.  It remains to be seen what will be the outcome.  In this regard, a specific challenge has been issued to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The letter goes on to urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite bishops from biblically faithful Anglican groups around the world to Lambeth 2020 and to exclude: "bishops of those Provinces which have endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions."  If this does not happen, the letter urges GAFCON members "to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion.
It is possible, but unlikely, that the Modernists will repent.  But the recent developments in Jerusalem reflect the very real possibility that the Anglican Church will split apart.  This, we believe, would be a good outcome.  For as the Scriptures rhetorically ask:

What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
[II Corinthians 6: 16-18]

No comments: