Andrew Evans: How to boil the frog of biblical ethics

Or… what will happen in the Church of England after the Pilling report.

Yesterday’s “Pilling” report on the ways in which the Church of England should respond to same sex relationships and marriage took 200 pages to say really very little (apart from the Bishop of Birkenhead’s admirable crafted dissenting opinion – which you can read here).

There were no recommendations for radical changes to the church’s liturgy or practice. The headline was the suggestion that the blessing of gay civil partnerships (which has, in fact, been going on quietly for years in liberal churches) should become officially OK.

Nevertheless the report admirably demonstrates the tactics of theological liberals in the CofE: to very slowly change what the church believes and does, one tiny step at a time, never allowing those who hold to a biblical view to present any one change as a huge, cataclysmic departure from Scripture.

This is to ensure that there is never an opportunity for evangelicals to rally together with their congregations….

Read it all


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

7 comments on “Andrew Evans: How to boil the frog of biblical ethics

  1. Capt. Father Warren says:

    [i]Nevertheless the report admirably demonstrates the tactics of theological liberals in the CofE: to very slowly change what the church believes and does, one tiny step at a time, never allowing those who hold to a biblical view to present any one change as a huge, cataclysmic departure from Scripture[/i]

    It is called the Overton Window Effect. Activists slowly change the perception of what is normal. This is why sodomy, seen as a crime 60 years ago, is simply another facet of sexual life in America to tweens. Over those 60 years, activists have shifted the window of perception on that sexual practice.

    This tactic is used everywhere to give us “change”. Those who stop to ask “why we need change” are vilified as “old fashioned, out of touch”.

    Works every time it is used!

  2. Milton says:

    Perhaps as apt a metaphor as the slowly boiling frog would be the liberal boa constrictor slowly squeezing the life out of its victim, the better to swallow it whole. Like Adam and Eve, the serpent didn’t stay in the garden, either.

  3. dwstroudmd+ says:

    For the outcome of this pile of processing, look to TEc and ACCanada. What you see is what you get.

  4. MichaelA says:

    One of the comments to the linked article well encapsulates an orthodox evangelical response. It should be considered carefully by all who take that mantle:
    [blockquote] “As an Anglican, my take is this: The CofE is Reformed. It belongs to the evangelicals (in the narrower sense). This is seen beautifully in other parts of the world. If we leave, it will be for another Anglican church in England, retaining episcopal oversight and being truly Anglican even as the CofE dies a rapid death.

    To my mind, that day becomes necessary when the fundamental basis for morality in the church is officially moved from the Bible to whims of the majority. At that point, we are finally accepting what has been going on in parts of the Church, albeit unopposed by bishops already, for some time. That is, the endorsing of immorality as moral. At that point the Church of England is constitutionally changed and ceases to be properly Anglican, Reformed or in any sense Evangelical.

    However, like many of my friends in parishes, my concern is for the parishioners who come to church and are being gospelled, who will remain behind and be killed by liberal teaching. So long as we can remain in then we must. When we have to leave we need to take our people with us.

    The outlook isn’t great but I don’t yet think the situation is beyond hope. Bishop Keith Sinclair has made a bold stand which many will stand behind. If we can hold off the rot long enough, the rise is happening now of a generation of conservatives in ministry. The tide can be turned but we are at a critical hour. [/blockquote]
    The writer accepts that it may be necessary for true evangelicals to leave CofE if the tide cannot be turned, albeit he intends to make every effort to prevent that. Similarly, another writer further down the page makes clear that he and his friends won’t be compromising their witness, but neither will they be leaving CofE unless their licences are withdrawn, i.e. they are forced out.

    In either case, it is helpful for orthodox Anglicans to have plans in place so that they can leave fairly seamlessly, if they need to.

  5. New Reformation Advocate says:

    MichaelA (#4),

    Thanks for citing that revealing comment, and for adding your own appeal for evangelicals in the CoE to start “thinking the unthinkable” and coming up with a contingency plan if they have to leave the CoE. And in all likelihood they almost certainly will, sooner or later, and probably sooner.

    It’s probably presumptuous of me as an American to weigh in as an outsider to life in the UK, but I’ll venture my opinion anyway. As an American, I have a deep, abiding distreust of established churches. They always, ALWAYS, end up favoring the interests of the state and the dominant culture at the expense of the Church. The historical record is abundantly clear about that. ALL the hsitoric state churches of Europe have collapsed and withered away to almost nothing, no matter which tradition withing Christianity they represent, Catholic or Protestant, Lutheran, Reformed, or Anglican.

    To me, the disastrous Pilling Report is simply Exhibit 847 that illustrates the fundamental dilemma of our time for all true Christians in the Global North. That inescapable dilemma is that we are faced with a fateful and momentous choice as to which of two mainstreams we will identify with and which we will resist. For the days when you could simultaneously be in the mainstream of the Christian tradition and the mainsteam of civil society are now past, for the two mainstreams are now increasingly opposed to each other. The philosophical and moral relativeism that now pervades and dominates the public life and culture of western societies is utterly incompatible with Christian values.

    As a result, we desperately need bold Christian leaders in all the churches, including the CoE, who will play the role of Moses in Deut. 30, or Joshua at Shechem in Joshua 24, or Elijah on Mt. Carmel in 1 kings 18, challening the People of God to make a fateful and meomentous choice: [b]Whom will you serve?[/b]. Their is a fork in the road that can no longer be avoided, and it’s a choice between life and death (Deut. 30), a choice between loyalty to the true God or the to popular idols of our increasingly neo-pagan society (Josh. 24), a choice between Yahweh and Baal (a fertility god associated with all sorts of sexual deviance and excess, 1 Kings 18).

    Personally, I believe that GAFCON II’s recent decision in Nairobi to beef up the AMiE is very timely. It may even be too late for many people, for it’s going to be extremely difficult to set up enough lifeboats to save the huge numbers of people who are going to need to flee the sinking Titanic that is the CoE before it inevitably slips beneath the waves and plunges all the way to the bottom of the sea.

    The handwriting is on the wall for all with the eyes to see it. And you don’t have to be a Daniel to interpre it either. The CoE is doomed, just as TEC was, and as the Canadian church was.

    But Anglicanism, as a Protestant-Catholic hybrid, can and will survive the self-destruction of the CoE. The kernel can survive the loss of the institutional husk.

    And freed from its captivity to the state and the now highly toxic and secularized dominatn culture of England, the best days of Prayerbook Christianity may yet be to come. That is my ardent hope.

    David Handy+

  6. New Reformation Advocate says:


    Without belaboring the obvious, let me just point out relatively briefly that it’s probably easier for those of us who represent the catholic tradition withing Anglicanism to consider separating from the CoE than for those who belong to the Reformed tradition. If you’re a Protestant at heart, as the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide are (not least in the booming low church provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan), then the reasons for being a member of the CoE instead of Presbyterian/Reformed have a lot to do with the established nature of the CoE and its historic, privileged, and central role in English society. But if you’re the kind of Anglican that’s a “biblical catholic” at heart, then it’s probably easier to consider disentangling Anglicanism as a distinctive hybrid religious system (a Protestant-Catholic hybrid) from its historic alliance with the powers that be in England.

    John Henry Newman pointed the way in the 1830s with the very first of the famous Tracts for the Times. When Parliament moved to strip the (Anglican) Church of Ireland of ten bishoprics, and Keble preached his famous sermon in July, 1833 on “National Apostasy” over that interference in church affairs, Newman posed the right question in his usual far-sighted way. If Anglicanism is to find some other basis for its authority than its backing by the State, what is that authority to be? Newman’s answer: the apostolic succession of bishops, whom he thought could be trusted to uphold the true apostolic succession, which is the passing on of apostolic doctrine.

    Alas, in 1845, it became clear to Newman that the bishops of the CoE could by no means always be trusted to uphold the apostolic faith. And we are witnessing the same sad lesson in our time. Even though four of the five top bishoprics in the CoE are currently held by men that can rightly be thought to be basically orthodox, the English house of bishops as a whole are clearly willing to compromise in ways that are unwise and will only contribute to the further erosion of orthodox theology and further loss of orthopraxis in morality, because they are still desperately trying to hang on to the hopeless notion that the CoE can be “the church of the nation,” or the church of the majority of the population. They still haven’t grasped the nettle and come out of denial. England is no longer a Christian country and the vast bulk of the population aren’t authentic Christians, even though millions of them have been baptized in the CoE.

    It’s time to face the grim reality that it’s back to the catacombs for the Church in the Global North. It’s time to face the fact that we are an endangered species in the western world. We’ve lost control of the mainstream culture, and we aren’t going to get our former privileged position back no matter how much better we get at evangelism.

    That fundamental sea change in the culture, from a pro-Christian and majority Christian culture to an increasingly unChristian and even anti-Christian culture, literally changes everything. It demands a total overhaul of Anglicanism, redesigning everything about Prayerbook religion from the ground floor up, in order to free us from our former hapless dependence on the support of the powers that be in a world that has turned its back on Christ.

    Or to restate my main and original point, when conservative evangelical Protestants consider their options in light of how hostile the CoE is becoming to them, they have less reason to stay Prayerbook Christians than Anglo-Cathplics do. Seeing Anglicanism as merely being the English form of Protestantism, there is less reason to try to stay distinctively Anglican. Why not just join the United Reform Church and be openly Calvinistic?

    OTOH, if you’re the kind of “3-D” Anglican that I am, who is at least as critical of the English Reformers as I am of the Catholic Church, then there is far more motivation to try to preserve the unique blend of Protestant and Catholic elements that is the real genius of Anglicanism. Joining any plain vanilla Protestant denomination is simply not an option for us. We can never go back to being Protestant. Some of us may swim the Tiber, but we’ll never, ever go back to being Protestant. We have to have an altertive to both Rome and Geneva, to both Wittenberg and Zurich.

    But it Anglicanism is interpreted as being, as I put it earlier, “Prayerbook religion,” then you can envision being a Prayerbook Christian without needing the support of the Crown, or Parliament, or Ox-bridge, or the whole inherited English system that has subordinated the interests of the Church to the interests of the State from the 1540s to this very day.

    Disestablishment of Anglicanism has become a necessity as much now in England as it was in the USA, or in the rest of the UK. Freed from the corrupting influence of the political, economic, and cultural powers that be, Prayerbook religion just may finally flourish as never before. That would be a true Second Reformation, worthy of being compared with the “tragic necessity” that was the original Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

    David Handy+
    Ex-Protestant, but not anti-Protestant

  7. MichaelA says:

    “If you’re a Protestant at heart, as the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide are (not least in the booming low church provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan), then the reasons for being a member of the CoE instead of Presbyterian/Reformed have a lot to do with the established nature of the CoE and its historic, privileged, and central role in English society.”

    I think the reason that those in the countries you mention cleave so strongly to Anglicanism is that their churches were founded by Anglican missionaries who truly believed what they taught. Men like Bishop James Hannington who told his assassins, : “Go tell your master that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.”

    If they had been evangelised by Presbyterians or Roman Catholics, they might well be such today. And in fact there were and are many Presbyterian and Catholic christians in Africa for precisely that reason. But these Anglicans have stuck to the gospel they were taught, within the tradition they were taught, and they do not see the contradictions which so many western liberals claim to see in Christianity or Anglicanism. Rather, they see the need for obedience to that which is sufficiently clear to understand.

    The Lord has greatly blessed the western nations in centuries past, but soon I believe his blessings will fall heavily on those who now hold firmly to his word.