For what should we think of global Anglicanism today? It has often been said during the past few years that the Anglican Communion is like a torn net, due to denials by some of things that the rest believe to be integral to the gospel and affirmation, mainly by the same people, of behaviour that the rest believe the gospel absolutely rules out. In certain cases communion with a small “c” – that is, full and free welcome and interchange of clergy and communicants at the Lord’s Table – has been suspended. How, we ask, has this come about? In brief, it is the bitter fruit of liberal theology, which has become increasingly dominant in seminaries and among leaders in what we may call the Anglican Old West – that is, North America in the lead, with Britain and Australasia coming along behind.
This has been the story over the past two generations, since Anglo-Catholic leadership began to flag. Let me explain. Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each “in thing” is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss.
Well now; with liberal leaders thinking and teaching in these terms, a collision with conservatives – that is, with upholders of the historic biblical and Anglican faith – was bound to come. It came over gay unions, which liberals wish to bless as a form of holiness, a quasimarriage.
As part of its current agenda of affirming minority rights (that is the “in thing” these days), western culture has for the past generation accepted gay partnerships as a feature of normal life. Despite the pronouncement of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in favour of the old paths, New Westminster diocese began in 2002 to bless gay couples, and others followed suit.
The Windsor Report called for a moratorium on this, which was not forthcoming. The St. Michael’s report said that the issue, though theological, was not against Anglican core doctrine so was not a matter over which to divide the church. On a side wind and by a stopgap motion, the General Synod of 2004 declared gay unions to be marked by “integrity and sanctity”. The 2007 General Synod affirmed the St. Michael’s position. So here we are now, the Anglican Network in Canada, accepting the invitation to realign in order to uphold historic Anglican standards, not only regarding gay unions but across the board, as those standards were formulated in our church’s foundation documents and reformulated in the Montreal Declaration of 1994.
Read it all.