Posts Tagged ‘anglicanism’

Perhaps you read my first three posts and and you thought to yourself “This sounds very different from how my rector described Anglicanism to me!”  “I thought we were a big tent?”  “What about the via media?”  You may even have had a t-shirt that encouraged people to join The Episcopal Church because “no matter what you believe, there’s someone else in The Episcopal Church who believes it too!”  You may feel this way especially if you entered Anglicanism in North America. I would wager that many Episcopal or Anglican confirmation classes would define Anglicanism as a sort of compromise position. In the 1840’s, this compromise position was termed the ‘via media,’ the middle way. More recently, this compromise position has been termed “Three Streams Anglicanism.”  This is the idea that in Anglicanism the three streams of catholic identity, evangelical truth, and charismatic experience come together. Those who identify Anglicanism in either of these ways would have a hard time with the sort of picture I’m painting here of different camps that have vastly different theological foundations. For them, Anglicanism doesn’t devolve into silly arguments over churchmanship or theology. We are a big tent! There is room for all here! (more…)

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This is part three in a series on how Anglicanism has viewed itself in different times and different places.  Look here for part I and here for part II.  

A few years ago, I was setting up our chapel for a worship service. We don’t have a pulpit in the chapel, so we use a sort of moveable podium when we need one. This podium had been set up right in front of the altar (which, by the way, was set up not as a table, but an altar). One faithful woman questioned this. “Wouldn’t it be more Anglican to move the pulpit to the side and have the altar in the center?” Behind her question was the assumption that resides in many American Anglican churches, that High Churchmanship has a greater claim to being legitimately Anglican than Reformation ideas or even broad Anglican Evangelicalism. If what I have said about the history of Anglicanism so far is true, then how did we get here?

In order to understand how we got here, we must look at a particular movement within Anglicanism that doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention, even though it has profoundly impacted Anglicanism in North America. At the end of the Carolinian period, James II succeeded Charles II as King. Many had already suspected Charles II of having Catholic sympathies. James confirmed their suspicions when he converted to Catholicism. In response, James’ detractors in parliament invited his Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange, to invade England and oust the Catholic King. William accepted the proposal and came to the throne in what has come to be known as The Glorious Revolution, due to the fact that James fled before any blood could be shed. (more…)

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina just released this statement in anticipation of this summer’s upcoming General Convention.  The General Convention has historically been the main governing body of the Episcopal Church.  In anticipation for GC 2012, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has published this 84 page document entitled Excerpts from ‘I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing’ Resources for Blessing Same Sex Relationships.”  This document ends with two resolutions.  Resolution A049 intends to ‘Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships’ and Resolution A050 intends to “Create [a] Task Force on the Study of Marriage .  The clear intent of this document and the resolutions is to begin blessing same sex relationships.  While the Standing Committee’s message is clear, I want to let you (especially members of Trinity Church) know where I stand as your Senior Pastor.

First off, let me simply reiterate that while I will be dealing with the issue of same sex blessings here, it is not the real issue.  The real issue in the Episcopal Church today is that we belong to a denomination that is increasingly abandoning the uniqueness of Jesus, His substitutionary death for sinners, and the authority of the Scriptures. 

The issue of same sex blessings/marriages, as an expression of these issues, has been to date one of the most controversial issues in the history of Anglicanism.  In the past decade it has threatened to tear apart one of the largest international Christian fellowships in the world.  It does not look like the issue is about to resolve itself either in the Anglican Communion or in the culture at large.  At the same time, this is an intensely personal issue.  It effects everyone who struggles secretly with same sex attractions, afraid of what friends and family will think if they find out.  It effects those who have taken the radical step of embracing a homosexual lifestyle as part of their identity.  And it effects everyone who knows and loves any of these people.  As such, it behooves the Christian to deal with this issue sensitively and in obedience to the full council of Scripture. 

You can expect a fuller treatment from me on the issue of homosexuality and same sex relationships from a biblical perspective in the future.  Suffice it to say today that I am in agreement with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina’s statement.  Marriage exists as a central piece of the Biblical narrative.  The Bible begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve and ends with Christ being united with His Bride, the Church.  Furthermore, the New Testament teaches that marriage is a living symbol of the reality of the Trinitarian God (Ephesians 5:28-32, 1 Corinthians 11:3). The relationship between a husband and a wife is designed by God to show the relationship between God the Father and God the Son as well as the Relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.  Because these relationships are essential to the Christian faith, any change in either the doctrine of marriage or the practice of marriage jeopardizes the Biblical understanding of who God is.  Recently I preached a sermon about how God is love because of His inter-Trinitarian relationship.  This sermon would be meaningless if we changed the doctrine of Christian marriage.

That being said, it is my opinion that the church has much to repent of in how we have dealt with people who have same-sex attractions.  Romans 3:23 states very clearly that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  That includes the homosexual and the heterosexual.  The church has been all to ready to condemn not only homosexual sin above heterosexual sin, but sexual sins above other kinds of sin.  The Gospel exists to free us from every kind of sin from adultery to envy, murder to gossip, the hatred of racism to the ambivalent acceptance of human pain and suffering while we live in opulence.  This means that no heterosexual Christian can boast in his sexuality.  According to the Scriptures, every human being is sinful and broken in every arena of their lives in desperate need of the salvation of Jesus Christ. 

Furthermore, the Gospel is readily available to forgive and cleanse any who would accept it.  To state that any non-Biblical behavior is beyond the transforming power of the Gospel is to deny the Gospel’s efficacy and relevance for our lives. In Romans 1:16, Paul says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes.”  If the Gospel were not powerful to overcome sin, I would be lost.  I must sensitively say then that the Gospel has the power to overcome any sexual desires condemned in Scripture. 

What Can You Expect at Trinity

Now that you know my personal stance here, what can you expect from your leadership in reaction to these upcoming events?  You can be sure that I will labor as vigorously as I always have to keep the Gospel in the very center of our vision.  I cannot communicate to you the level of concern I have that we would be sidetracked from the mission of the Gospel by these sideline issues.  Trinity must continue to labor to become a City on a Hill, a community that shines with the light of the Gospel.  There is no other option for us.  You can also be assured that I, the clergy, and the staff will continue to treat all people at Trinity with the same level of respect that we always have, regardless of sexual identity.  The ground at the foot of the cross is level ground and none of us has grounds to boast above another.  Finally, you can be sure that the Gospel, not morality, politics, or tolerance, will continue to be our message as long as I am here. 

In conclusion, I beg everyone at Trinity to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,” (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV).  Remember that it is He who has died for your sin.  Remember that it is He who lives for you today.  Remember it is He who will judge the living and the dead.  In light of that truth, let us treat one another charitably with respect knowing that none of us would be salvageable apart from the work of Christ.  I so dearly love being your pastor.  My prayer is that we would continue to move into a deeper and deeper knowledge and love of the One who died for us, and that we would do so together.

In Him,

Iain

n.b. I have decided to keep comments open.  Please remember to seek to honor Christ in every comment you make.

Although he died in the 19th century, Ryle dealt with many of the same issues the church is dealing with today. In his day, modern theology denied, or at least questioned, many of the essential elements of the faith.  Note that Ryle’s solution isn’t a resurgence of biblical fundamentalism, a heap of evidence verifying the truth of the Scriptures, or even a more enlightened understanding of the Scriptures.  Rather, Ryle says that if we knew our own sinfulness, the Scriptural story of God redeeming lost sinners through the cross would be undeniable.  In our own lives and in our witnessing, we should remember that knowledge of sin is the only path to rejoicing in the Gospel.

In the next place, a scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything, forsooth, is true and nothing is false! Everybody is right and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved and nobody is to be lost! The atonement and substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation–stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity and enable it to keep pace with modern science. Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old–fashioned and a theological fossil! Quote a text, and you are told that all truth is not confined to the pages of an ancient Jewish book, and that free inquiry has found out many things since the book was completed! Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men of broad views and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts and tell us whether their favorite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing “something” within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing “something” is the sense of sin, guilt and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all, we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple childlike faith in Jesus.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 13.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will not block the creation of a third Anglican province in North America, sources familiar with Dr. Rowan Williams’ Dec 5 meeting with five traditionalist archbishops, tell The Church of England Newspaper.

However, the archbishop will not give it his endorsement either, arguing his office does not have the legal authority to make, or un-make, Anglicans.

read the rest here

Now the significance of this paragraph is not that Milbank has unearthed the Calvinism of early Anglicanism.  It takes about five seconds to do that.  Simply read the primary sources and it becomes clear within seconds.  Sadly, most have not read the primary sources but only read about the primary sources (this accounts for the ludicrous “three-legged stool” of Richard Hooker, which of course historically was no stool at all).  Rather, the trend of interpreting the historical development of the Anglican movement seems to be squarely centered on the Oxford Movement, where many Anglicans have swallowed the historical readings of John Henry Newman (especially “branch theory” and “via media”) whole sale.  Therefore, it is refreshing to see an Anglo-Catholic that actually takes the Reformed DNA of Anglicanism seriously, even if I believe his eventual conclusions in this essay are somewhat dubious.  Perhaps we will be blessed with an Ad Fontes! of Anglicanism, where the 39 Articles, historic prayer books, and primary sources are taken up and reviewed rather than merely assumed.  Maybe that will be a future project of this blog…

“Let me begin with a couple of remarks.  The first one comes from my own perspective as an Anglican.  Anglicans, for their sources of authority, tend to appeal back to the church fathers and, to some extent, also to earlier Scholastics, particularly to Aquinas, and this began with Richard Hooker.  But also they appealed early on and throughout the seventeenth century to John Calvin.  Even high church theologians in the seventeenth century were Calvinists:  this included Hooker, Andrewes, and Laud as well as poets Herbert and Donne.  They were basically Calvinist despite their development of themes of deification, high sacramentality, and ontological participation.  These developments were not necessarily moving away from Calvinism; indeed, we see the same evolution among non-Anglican Puritans like William Ames, Benjamin Whichcote (who was a puritan Anglican), Ralph Cudworth, and, later in America Jonathan Edwards.”

-John Milbank, “Alternative Protestanism”

In my opinion, the answer (on either side of the issue) is not nearly as obvious as it seems to many.  After all, there are faithful men on both sides.  Bishop Duncan, who I admire and respect has obviously left the Episcopal Church.  Other men who I admire and respect, such as Bishop Salmon and Bishop Lawrence (as well as Ackerman) have decided to stay.  The times call for thoughtful, Biblical, and theologically formed responses.  Not knee jerk reactions from armchair quarterbacks who just like being liberal or conservative.  Lets all make a real effort to seek the mind of King Jesus on this, and try our best to avoid the natural and unauthoritative inclinations of our own sinful hearts. 

Schism or the Beginning of Healing?

Many Episcopal leaders see this move by conservatives as schismatic. At the Wednesday press conference, one reporter asked if church historians would point to this meeting as the clearest mark yet of the moment when the Anglican split became final. Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the Anglican Mission in America, replied, “Today is the day that the Anglican Communion began to be healed.”

Over the last 10 years, the worldwide Anglican Communion, representing about 75 million Christians, has been embattled due to controversies over sex, power, theology, and money. The 2003 consecration of the openly homosexual Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire was one of many flashpoints.

The centerpiece of Wednesday’s service was public affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration, drafted by 1,100 conservatives, including 291 bishops, this past June when they gathered for GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference. The declaration condemns “overt heterodoxy” as well as the lack of discipline against anyone teaching a “false gospel,” such as full inclusion for noncelibate homosexuals.

After the bishops at Wednesday’s service signed the declaration, hundreds of worshipers lined up to sign it as well. At the beginning of the service, a young man walked to the center of the stage and blew a shofar that had been purchased in Jerusalem. The service was punctuated by ecstatic worship and two standing ovations for Duncan, who was removed from Episcopal office by his former fellow bishops in September. Duncan is among four diocesan bishops who have taken their dioceses out of TEC. Those four dioceses are in San Joaquin, California; Quincy, Illinois; Fort Worth, Texas; and Pittsburgh.

read it all here