Disconnecting Gene Robinson

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

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