Archive for January, 2009

Disconnecting Gene Robinson

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Charles Raven

The dilemma any false prophet has to handle is that there comes a point where you really have to start acting like a wolf, otherwise all that dressing up as a sheep would have been rather pointless. You can do it gradually and hope people will get acclimatised to the change, but there are nonetheless some risky moments.

This is a problem which Gene Robinson, the controversial Bishop of New Hampshire, has handled with some skill. He clearly sees himself as a prophetic figure for liberal Anglicanism and its enactment in the consecration of homosexual relationships. His elevation to the episcopate in 2003 was a risk and some have claimed that this was a strategic mistake; in so far as that led to the emergence of the GAFCON movement, they may be right, but within the United States it was not. Now Barack Obama has endorsed the mainstream status of this most controversial Anglican with an invitation to open with prayer at the pre-inaugural celebration at the Lincoln memorial, albeit as a counter balance to the evangelical Rick Warren, the new ‘America’s Pastor’, invited to deliver the invocation at the inauguration itself.

…………….  But now, speaking to The New York Times about the prayer at the Lincoln Memorial, he said “I am very clear that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that.” And true to his word, there was no reference to Jesus Christ, only a vague post-modern deism with the reference to the”God of our many understandings”. This relativism is a fundamental rejection of the earliest and most fundamental Christian confession that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. It substitutes in the place of the Lordship of Jesus the worship of a god of our understanding who will ultimately be simply the god I choose to make for myself or, more likely, the god powerful and influential others chose for me – in other words, it is idolatry.

Gene Robinson is not confused. He knows where he is going. On hearing the news that Rick Warren had been invited to lead the invocation he told the New York Times that “it was like a slap in the face,” adding that “the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.” In the new religion of Gene Robinson’s church, Jesus Christ is essentially an ornament, useful as a bridge figure to ensnare the naïve, but ultimately dispensable.

While the orthodox in North America have largely come to recognize this reality and have formed what is effectively a new Province of the Anglican Church of North America, it is far less recognized how well the ground for this new religion has been prepared in England itself and the British Isles. This process has been going on for many years, but as SPREAD has consistently demonstrated, in recent times the writings of the present Archbishop of Canterbury have done much to undermine confidence in the authority and inspiration of Scripture, both in his understanding of Scripture itself and in his advocacy of ‘faithful’ same gender sexual relationships. This has practical consequences. He has not only failed to use his authority to exercise godly discipline in the Communion, but undermined the efforts of other Primates to do so, most significantly after the Dar es Salaam Primates Meeting of February 2007 which led directly to the formation of GAFCON.

The continuing media interest in the Bishop of New Hampshire owes as much to the fact that he is a Bishop in a Church still enjoying official recognition by Canterbury as it does to his personal convictions. If this connection were to be broken, the Episcopal Church of the United States would be clearly seen for what many in the Global South already know it to be – a post modern sect which merely reflects back the culture in which it is set. This is a disconnection which Gene Robinson and his church must truly fear. But the chances of the current Archbishop of Canterbury taking such action must be remote, not least because of the outcry this would provoke in his own backyard. In this crisis of authority, the defining role of Canterbury must face sustained challenge. The risks that false prophets are prepared to take need to be matched by continuing courageous action on the part of godly leaders, willing if necessary to risk institutional order rather than risk the truth.

Charles Raven

20th January 2009

If we didn’t leave, what did we accomplish at GAFCON?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

By Bishop John Rodgers, SPREAD

Introduction

It is important, when considering what was accomplished at GAFCON, to keep in mind its singular focus. That focus was to identify the Anglican grasp of the apostolic faith, to claim that identity for the whole Anglican Communion and to provide a firm oversight and standing from which to confess the apostolic faith as we Anglicans have received it. This singular focus meant that many very important matters were not directly addressed at GAFCON, in the Statement or in the Jerusalem Declaration. This by no means relegates matters such as the status of 5th, 6th and 7th Councils, the ordination of women, the form of the Anglican Communion, abortion, the nature of and conflict with militant Islam, our relation to the persecuted Church etc. to secondary issues. There are serious issues and differences among the fellowship of confessing Anglicans that must and will be faced. It will not be easy, nor will solutions be sudden, nor can we be absolutely certain that some will not, in the end, decide they must walk apart. The difference is that they will be faced in the context of the authority of Holy Scriptures and the apostolic faith as Anglicans have historically received it. The Conference said, echoing Canon A5 of the Church of England: “The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teaching of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it.”

With that in mind, let me state I believe to be the most important things that we did accomplish:

1.      We are the Communion. “We are not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.”
In essence the fellowship of confessing Anglicans took things in hand and declared that we are the true and faithful Anglicans, upholding the historic Anglican grasp of the apostolic faith, and as such we are the true representatives of the Anglican Communion. Let those who are departing from historic Anglican convictions about the authority and content of the Scriptures come back to what Anglicans have confessed all along. If they are unwilling to do so, it is they, not we, who should leave. I suspect that there are differing expectations among those who have placed themselves under the Jerusalem Declaration as to the future of the structures and membership of the Anglican Communion as it is presently constituted. I myself do not see how we can long abide together structurally, but I could be wrong, my friends do remind me of the parting of the Red Sea and God still does miracles. However, of a faithful confessing Anglican Communion, all at the Conference expressed a confidence in a fruitful and “bright future”.

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