Daily Archives: July 16, 2016
..At a basic level, the assertion that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:10), requires a certain level of subjectivity, awareness and cognitive competence. But what happens if you cannot confess the Lord with your mouth? How do we understand the spiritual lives of those who have no idea and can have no cognitive idea about who “the Lord” is? How can you call upon the name of the Lord and be saved if you have forgotten who the Lord is? What does it mean to be a disciple when you don’t know who Jesus is or you have forgotten who he is?
In the annual Good Friday procession when leaders of all three churches come together to march from Methodist Central Hall to Westminster Cathedral and then Westminster Abbey, the drum beat has sometimes seemed to signal the slow rhythm of the churches’ own inexorable march towards crucifixion on the mount modern secularism.
Yet there are signs of resurrection.
In their new book, That Was The Church That Was, published July 2016, the journalist Andrew Brown and sociology professor Linda Woodhead argue that the Church of England is lost because the England of which it was the Church has disappeared. ‘The Church of England, if it is to return to reality and survive, must somehow recover the exuberant incoherence of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,’ they write.
Emerging data suggests that while ‘exuberant incoherence’ might not be precisely the right term, something new is indeed occurring that suggests the Church might not be quite the doomed entity Brown and Woodhead suggest it is.
The worst plenary session of all was the first one, and it was very telling that what many view as the most important theological question””what does Scripture say and how should we make sense of it””was the one most badly misjudged. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to describe it as an absolute travesty of process. There were three speakers, one of whom supports the current teaching position of the Church, the other two arguing for change. The first person stayed within the brief, and spoke for seven to eight minutes; the second appeared to ignore the brief and spoke for 17 minutes, without intervention from the chair; the third spoke for 12 minutes. So we were offered 8 minutes on the Church’s current and historic teaching, and 29 minutes on why this was wrong. And the dynamic of putting the ”˜orthodox’ position first meant that, as in all such debates, the advantage is handed to the others. Added to that, the first speaker, whilst eminently qualified in other ways, was not a biblical scholar, whilst the next one advocating change was. There was no voice from a Catholic perspective, engaging with the reception of Scripture within the tradition, and the ”˜orthodox’ view was repeatedly labelled not as the Church’s teaching, but as ”˜conservative’.
Even worse than that was the content of the second and third presentations, and the way the format prevented proper interrogation of the claims made. It was claimed that the givenness of sexual orientation is the settled view of Western culture, when it is contested both within and outside the church, is not supported by social-scientific research, and has been abandoned as a basis of argument in secular LGBT+ debate. It was claimed that all the texts in the NT referring to same-sex activity are in the context of porneia, ”˜bad sex’, which was either commercial or abusive””which is a basic factual error. It was claimed that St Paul ”˜could not have known of stable same-sex relations’ which is not supported by the historical facts. And it was claimed that same-sex relationships were the ”˜eschatological fulfilment of Christian marriage’ since they involved loving commitment without procreation. It was not even acknowledged that many in the chamber would find that a deeply offensive assertion, quite apart from its implausibility. But the format of the presentation precluded proper exploration of these authoritative claims. It felt to me like a serious power play, and I felt I had been subject to an abuse of expert power.
All this was made worse when one of the key organisers, having picked up some negative feedback on this, stood up near the end of the day to tell us (in essence) that if you thought this first session was unbalanced, then you were wrong. It confirmed a basic lack of understanding of the concerns raised by those responsible for the process””concerns not of some extreme group at one end of the spectrum, but concerns of those who simply believe in the Church’s current teaching position.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Lord God Almighty, shaper and ruler of all creatures, we pray Thee for Thy great mercy, that Thou guide us better than we have done, towards Thee, and guide us to Thy will, to the need of our soul, better than we can ourselves. And steadfast our mind towards Thy will and to our soul’s need. And strengthen us against the temptations of the devil, and put far from us all lust, and every unrighteousness, and shield us against our foes, seen and unseen. And teach us to do Thy will, that we may inwardly love Thee before all things, with a pure mind. For Thou art our maker and our redeemer, our help, our comfort, our trust, our hope; praise and glory be to Thee now, ever and ever, world without end. Amen.
–James Manning,ed., Prayers of the Middle Ages: Light from a Thousand Years (Nashville: The Upper Room, 1954)
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that [my] glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
–Psalm 30:11-12 (KJV)
At its recent General Synod the Anglican Church of Canada took the first step in changing its Marriage Canon to allow for the solemnization of same sex marriages by its clergy. The entire process, beginning with the hasty vote in 2013 and concluding with the vote and miscount this past week, has been flawed and has inflicted terrible hurt and damage on all involved. We absolutely condemn homophobic prejudice and violence wherever it occurs, offer pastoral care and loving service to all irrespective of sexual orientation, and reject criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
Though the change to the Marriage Canon would require a second vote in 2019 in order to come into effect, some bishops have vowed to proceed with same sex marriages immediately, contrary to the explicit doctrine and discipline set out in our constitution, canons and liturgies.
In passing resolution A051 R2 the General Synod has taken a further step in ordaining something contrary to God’s Word written and imperils our full communion within the Anglican Church of Canada and with Anglicans throughout the world. We believe that our General Synod has erred grievously and we publicly dissent from this decision. Resolution A051 R2 represents a change to the sacrament of marriage inconsistent with the Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition of the Church Catholic and the Book of Common Prayer. This would be a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of the Anglican Communion on the doctrine of marriage. Sadly, this complicates relationships within the Anglican Church of Canada and as a Province with the Anglican Communion.
— Church of England (@c_of_e) July 15, 2016
The Christian church now finds itself facing a new reality. The church no longer represents the central core of Western culture. Though outposts of Christian influence remain, these are exceptions rather than the rule. For the most part, the church has been displaced by the reign of secularism.
The daily newspaper brings a constant barrage which confirms the current state of American society. This age is not the first to see unspeakable horror and evil, but it is the first to deny any consistent basis for identifying evil as evil or good as good.
The faithful church is, for the most part, tolerated as one voice in the public arena, but only so long as it does not attempt to exercise any credible influence on the state of affairs. Should the church speak forcefully to an issue of public debate, it is castigated as coercive and out of date.
How does the church think of itself as it faces this new reality? During the 1980s, it was possible to think in ambitious terms about the church as the vanguard of a moral majority. That confidence has been seriously shaken by the events of the past decade.