Archive for September, 2016

Gay marriage: Bishops can’t be bullied with demands for “greater clarity and consistency”

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

As the College of Bishops gathers in Oxford today, the world might be forgiven for thinking there was just one item on the agenda: the liturgical blessing of same-sex unions (sometimes called ‘gay marriage’), which is considered by many to be necessary for “full inclusion” of LGBT (LGBTI/LGBTIQ) people. Letters have been flying around urging the Bishops to make “unequivocal” statements one way or the other, often couched in the manipulative language of urgency and injustice, harm and hurt – either to individuals or to the church’s apostolic heritage. If the Bishops move toward revisionist demands, the Church of England faces schism. If the status quo is sustained, harm and hurt are perpetuated through disapproval and exclusion. Equality is a theology of rocks and hard places.

Whatever the media distortions and obsessions, it’s important to note than no shouty lobbying group speaks for the Church of England (or, indeed, for the Worldwide Anglican Communion). There’s a perception of a ‘hard right’ conservative-traditionalist lobby, represented by GAFCON and the views of people like the former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, for whom “marriage between a man and a woman is one of God’s blessings”. This is unequivocal. And then there’s the liberal-progressive lobby (rarely portrayed as ‘hard left’), represented by Changing Attitude and the views of people like the Rev’d Colin Coward, for whom the “homophobic” Church of England perpetuates “systematic prejudice” against LGBT Christians by resisting same-sex marriage. This, too, is unequivocal. Both sides want to hear some kind of great gay Chalcedonian definition coming out of Oxford this week. They will be disappointed.

The College of Bishops consists of all bishops of the Church of England – diocesan and suffragan – and a number of views will be represented. Some favour a bold shift toward full acceptance of gay marriage, as society has changed and they believe the church must adapt to the new relational reality. Others seek to sustain the church’s essential catholicity and traditional understanding of marriage. As the Archbishop of Canterbury explained, same-sex marriage involves a number of category errors and fundamental contradictions: “The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society.. is weakened.” Doubtless such views are considered homophobic by the Bishop of Buckingham.

Nothing will change this week, except that a hundred-or-so bishops will pray, explore, ponder and reflect on two years of ‘Shared Conversations’ around a myriad of complex issues of human sexuality. Some demands for greater clarity and consistency can certainly be met: there will be no change in the church’s marriage liturgy, and there is no problem at all in saying, unequivocally, that LGBT Christians are “essential to the health and future of our Church and mission to the wider world”. But the College of Bishops is not gathering to reach unanimity, or to be bullied into consensus, or to draft some kind of great ‘progressive’ Anglican same-sex declaration. Sorry to disappoint.

Perhaps, however, the Bishops might be nudged to repudiate the truthiness and hyperbole on both sides of this debate, which is the real cause of much harm and hurt. The Church of England is not a threat to the “basic wellbeing” of LGBT people. To seek to preserve the sanctity of holy matrimony is not to ‘hate’. To hunger for sexual orthodoxy is not ‘bigotry’. To argue for Christian tradition is not ‘homophobic’. To resist moral relativism and oppose cultural uniformity is not unloving. And to be orientated to the nurture of same-sex intimacy is not sin.

Welby and GAFCON Archbishops Clash over Appointment of Homosexual C of E Bishop

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

CofE Theologian Shreds Arguments Defending appointment

AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, two GAFCON archbishops and a theologian clashed this week over the appointment of a homosexual bishop in the Church of England who claims to live celibately with his partner. Justin Welby approved of Nicholas Chamberlain’s appointment to be the next Bishop of Grantham knowing he was a homosexual while “shared conversations” were bring pushed as “good disagreement” to move the Church of England forward towards what CofE Evangelicals believe is a push ultimately for the full acceptance of homosexuality, inviting a backlash that could spell schism.

What is taking place in the CofE is right out of the play book of The Episcopal Church which used similar language, with words like “generous orthodoxy”, “inclusivity” and “diversity” to push the revisionist pansexual agenda. The Church of England is heading down the same path with a conflicted Archbishop of Canterbury who refuses to enforce biblical declarations on sexuality and an equally clear ontology that forbids any kind of sexual expression outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

It should come as no surprise then that the appointment of a self-acknowledged homosexual in Chamberlain (albeit celibate) should get pushback by the GAFCON archbishops and by a British theologian.

“We believe that this appointment is a major error,” the GAFCON leaders protested.

“In 2003, Jeffrey John’s candidacy for the post of Bishop of Reading caused deep divisions within the Diocese of Oxford and beyond, and this news about Nicholas Chamberlain will exacerbate the same divisions within the Church of England and throughout the wider Anglican Communion.

“In this case the element of secrecy in the appointment to the episcopacy of a man in a same sex relationship gives the impression that it has been arranged with the aim of presenting the church with a ‘fait accompli’, rather than engaging with possible opposition in the spirit of the ‘shared conversations’.

“We remain opposed to the guidelines for clergy and Bishops, permitting them to be in same sex relationships as long as they publicly declare that the relationship is not sexual. This creates confusion in terms of the church’s teaching on the nature of sex and marriage, and it is not modelling a helpful way to live, given the reality of our humanity, and temptation to sexual sin.”

The letter was signed by The Most Rev. Peter Jensen, General Secretary of GAFCON Global and the Rev Canon Andy Lines, Chairman of the GAFCON UK Task Force.

Of course we only have the word of Chamberlain that he is celibate and why should we believe him?

My brother-in-law died of AIDS at the age of 42 (his partner died three weeks later) and they had been together for over 12 years. He said it was impossible for homosexuals to be celibate. Even after bath houses were closed down in New York City men met in bars and had sex, most of it unprotected, he said. I also had a dear friend, a Baptist minister who died of AIDS in the 80s (he had been married with two daughters) and he likewise confirmed that celibacy was not on anyone’s mind in the homosexual community.

So if he is celibate why raise the issue of his being gay then? If sex is not part of the relationship why not say he is simply sharing a house with another man, why make an issue of his (sexual) identity?

The Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden takes it even further and says that in coming out as gay, he is to some extent repudiating his faith in Christ. Why so? Because he is choosing a new identity that is nothing to do with Christianity or the Gospels or the lived tradition, but is a social and political construct designed to dilute the Judaeo Christian ethics that underlie Christianized culture.

“To come out as gay is to adopt and promote an anthropology that is pagan and not Christian. It is to repudiate the paradigms of Scripture and overlay them with a model of human self-expression that the Bible tells us heads off in a different one than the one God intends for us. The Bible and the Christian tradition is very clear. We are made men or woman, and we come together in marriage where the gift of sexual attraction and expression is located with the intention of becoming co-creators with God and having children. The Bible knows nothing about sex as recreation, sex as self-fulfillment or sex outside marriage. It understands that these are options (known as temptations) and forbids them.

“This heading off in a different direction is something we all do (we call it ‘sin’), and the remedy is simple. Jesus has paid the price, so turn round, come back, stop and start again (we call it repentance.).

“By repudiating his identity in Christ and putting on a secular identity which is defined by erotic attraction outside the boundaries of marriage, a Christian would be repudiating his Christian identity and adopting a romanticized-erotic one instead.

“Why would a Christian repudiate their identity in Christ and adopt a secular erotic identity instead? Well, it might be to justify pursuing sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex.”

The bishop of Grantham has told the world three things.

The first is that he is adopting an erotic sub Christian anthropology as a way of describing his core identity as a human being. No longer primarily ‘in Christ’, but rather primarily ‘gay’.

The second is that he is not pursuing sexual intimacy with another man. That’s a good thing, because the House of bishops have passed ‘guidelines’ saying that is a requirement of bishops. (They could have referred to the Holy Scriptures, but House of Bishops guidelines seem to have more authority in the C of E.)

The third thing he has told the world is that he is ‘in a relationship’ that has no sexual or erotic expression. I find this very confusing. Many men are in a relationship with another man (though married to a woman) to whom they are deeply committed in an affectionate, and non-erotic way. We call it friendship. We could even call it ‘best friends.’ But what is its relevance to anyone else?

Unless of course the bishop means to tell the world that he is sexually aroused by this (and other men), but claims special virtue for not acting on it.

You can read Dr. Ashenden’s full take here: Gay in Grantham? The eroticizing of the Church of England http://www.virtueonline.org/gay-grantham-eroticising-church-england

Dr. Ashenden’s views contrast sharply with those of Dr. Idowu-Fearon, general secretary of the London-based Anglican Communion Office who said: “It is clear that Bishop Nicholas has abided by the guidelines set down by the Church. In fact, his lifestyle would make him acceptable to serve the church at any time in its history. I reject the suggestion that his appointment is an ‘error’.

“I do recognize that this is a sensitive area for many people whatever their convictions. It is also a difficult time for Bishop Nicholas with revelations about his private life being made public in such a dramatic way, against his will, by anonymous sources that seem to be out to make trouble.”

Out to make to make trouble? The Anglican Consultative Council has been making trouble for as long as I can remember, appeasing its main paymaster, the American Episcopal Church by doing everything in its power to keep the communion together while isolating the orthodox Global South at the expense of the liberal West. Witness the recent Task Force set up by Welby to keep the communion together. There is only one seriously orthodox archbishop — Ian Ernest — on the panel.

One can sense a coming battle between Fearon and Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh is not far hence. If there isn’t one it is because Okoh has already left the ACC far behind and is busy pulling together the AMiE and other evangelical Anglican groups in England to start another ACNA type church in the British Isles.

One need only witness the recent 72 members of General Synod writing an Open Letter to the College and House of Bishops saying please don’t change church teaching on sexuality, it could lead to fracture of CofE and Anglican Communion. A few days later fourteen homosexual clergy who had married their partners in defiance of Church of England rules called for “full inclusion” of LGBT clergy.

In a letter the clergy wrote: “It is time to respect that a diversity of theology within the Church now exists and that there is more than one understanding of what a faithful Christian may believe on these issues.”

Then it emerged that a group of parishes led by the Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon, an evangelical is preparing what could be the first step towards a formal split in the Church of England with the creation of a new “shadow synod” vowing to uphold traditional teaching.

Representatives of almost a dozen congregations in the Home Counties met in a church hall in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, for the first session of what they say could eventually develop into an alternative Anglican Church in England.

While organizers, drawn from the conservative evangelical wing of Anglicanism, say they have no immediate plans to break away – but are setting up the “embryonic” structures that could be used to do so if the established church moves further in what they see as a liberal direction.

The new alliance will be viewed as a “church within a church”, but founders have not ruled out full separation if, for example, the Church of England offers blessing-style services for same-sex unions – a move expected to be considered by bishops in the next few months.

I have no doubt whatsoever, that the Church of England will follow the lead of TEC and the ACoC. Western Anglicanism is in the grip of the dominant principalities and powers of our age and its submission to the rulers of the darkness of this world has been willing, defiant and full of pride.

When I asked where was the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), I was told that the AMiE didn’t plan or direct this group, but they may come in to offer oversight if some of the folk decide to leave the C of E. There are many people who feel the same way but have not done anything about it yet, I was told.

“Archbishop Justin knows that the ‘Rubicon’ is the blessings of same sex relationships, so he is, I think, trying to find a way to enable that without all the conservatives leaving, and GAFCON/Global South treating the C of E like TEC.”

Welby thinks that he can keep using a carrot and stick on conservatives – if you don’t make trouble, we might promote you, but if you do make trouble, no-one will speak to you

We are already there, said one blogger. The diocese of Rochester appeared unperturbed, but so was Frank Griswold for a while but he finally smelled the roses and dashed across to London to confront Archbishop George Carey and told him not to recognize the AMiA. He was successful then but it didn’t last. The ACNA was formed and the rest is history.

The deeper truth is that the Church of England is no longer the center of Anglican unity. Those colonial days are over. Archbishop Okoh moves freely across ecclesiastical borders as rivers cross countries. He can go in and out of England and the US (as he did recently) and promote a new orthodox Anglicanism and Welby can do nothing about it. Nothing.

Sooner or later schism is coming to the Church of England. The AMiE (like the ACNA) is coming to England and the jig will be up.

Welby will learn that ancient Biblical truth that you cannot serve two masters. One hopes he learns it before it is too late.

END

GAFCON UK website launched

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

fca-logo.jpg

GAFCON UK exists as a broad-based fellowship for all faithful Anglicans in Britain who agree with the Jerusalem Declaration, who are committed to living for Christ, standing humbly and compassionately for historic biblical truth in church, community and nation, and who share a vision for a global Anglican future.

Christians in the West are rightly concerned about the lack of freedom and of basic necessities in many parts of the world. But do we realize that followers of Jesus overseas are praying for us as well? In particular, many Anglicans across the world look with compassion on our spiritual poverty.

They see Europe, America and other Western cultures as abandoning their Christian heritage, and UK churches, including Anglicans, under pressure to compromise clear Christian teaching in the face of secular humanist philosophy. In some cases, the gospel appears to have been watered down or even denied. Even some faithful clergy do not feel free to give clear teaching on key topics such as sexual ethics or the uniqueness of Christ. Meanwhile, Christians are often afraid to share their faith in the workplace.

 

GAFCON unites confessing Anglicans worldwide.

Existing church-planting and renewal movements are responding to our new cultural context, but these networks will be much stronger if they are linked to a global movement. GAFCON is such a movement: born out of the courageous stand for truth by a number of Archbishops in the mid 2000’s, GAFCON is now growing as a visible reminder of unity in Christ despite different cultures, different churchmanships and worship styles. It is a partnership for evangelism, discipleship and societal transformation throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond.

 

GAFCON and local Anglican churches

Through affiliation to GAFCON UK, Christians in the British Isles will be connected with this global movement for renewal and mission with its spiritual vitality and evangelistic zeal, doctrinal clarity, wisdom and faithfulness under pressure.

 

From the newly launched GAFCON UK website – read here

[Editor’s note: we hope to have more on this next week].

Anglican Communion Task Group holds first meeting to “maintain conversation

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Sep 2016

Author:

Adrian Butcher

Photo: Back Row, Left to Right: Archbishop Richard Clarke of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Church of the Indian Ocean, Bishop Paul Sarkar of The Church of Bangladesh

Front Row: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church of the USA, Elizabeth Paver of the Church of England, Canon Rosemary Mbogo of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Bishop Linda Nicholls of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon ACC General Secretary

Absent: Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam of the Church of South India, Archbishop Philip Freier of the Anglican Church of Australia, and Archbishop Ng Moon Hing from the Church of the Province of South East Asia

The Task Group set up after the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting in January to “maintain conversation” has met for the first time and stressed its determination to work together. But it acknowledged the process would take time and could not be rushed.

The Primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint the group to restore relationships, rebuild mutual trust, heal the legacy of hurt and explore deep differences. Archbishop Welby presented the group’s mandate to ACC16 in Lusaka in April where it was received and affirmed. This week seven members of the group have been meeting in London. An eighth joined in via video conferencing.

“What we are trying to do here is mirror what we desire for the whole Communion,” said the Coadjutor Bishop of Huron in Canada, the Rt Revd Linda Nicholls. “We are trying to practise in our engagement with each other here what we long for in the wider Communion.”

Archbishop Ian Ernest, from the Province of the Indian Ocean, said exchanges within the group had been frank and open.

“What has come out very clearly is the level of transparency that we have in the group. We have been able to be open and speak openly about our differences,” he said. “We also recognise the richness of the Communion. And we all love our Communion – that is what binds us together.”

The Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, Bishop Sarker, echoed the same theme. “Our cultures and backgrounds are very different, and we express our spirituality differently but we are moving forwards together,” he said.

Reflecting on the diversity, Canon Rosemary Mbogo, the Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya, said there was no grouping within the Communion whose views would not be listened to.

“That is really needed if we are talking about healing and walking and working together in a unified Communion,” she said. Canon Rosemary added that she had been pleased at the progress made.

“It’s gone well. We have covered a lot of ground on understanding each other and the people we represent. We have been coming to know each other by spending time together. There is definitely hope – I am convinced of that.”

Archbishop Ian agreed: “It has gone beyond my expectations,” he said.

Anglican Communion secretary general, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said he was grateful to the participants for the sacrifices they had made to attend the meeting. He welcomed the progress made in the talks.

“I am really encouraged by the depth of trust that is beginning to be seen and also the hope expressed by the participants,” he said.

The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, acknowledged that finding solutions would take time.

“Quick fixes aren’t long-term solutions,” he said. “Long-term solutions require long-term work. We are talking about relationships. You don’t build or renew or heal relationships overnight. So, we are going to take whatever time it takes – but we are going to do it.

“I was coming to London anticipating and hoping we would find ways to genuinely go deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe the closer we draw to God in Christ, the closer we are going to draw to each other.”

Asked if he felt there had been progress, Bishop Curry said, “Well, we are here and we are doing it!”

He recalled a slave spiritual song from the US. “We’ll just keep inching along, like an inchworm. The wisdom [of the song] is that the worm keeps moving forwards, slowly and steadily. Don’t expect things to happen overnight. . . We are committed to the Anglican Church. We believe in the importance of the Communion for the sake of the gospel and the world.”

The group stressed the importance of prayer in the work they were doing.

“We have committed to pray for each other,” said Archbishop Philip Freier from Australia. “There may be a sense that this is just a ‘talk-fest’. But this [prayer] is a profound action consistent with the theme.”

Canon Rosemary Mbogo agreed prayer was the foundation of the group’s work and it was vital to know the will of God for its direction.

Bishop Curry added, “Our time here has been immersed in prayer. That is always going to be a formula for a better outcome.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury formally welcomed the group and prayed for them before talks began on Tuesday. He also attended the first session during which he stressed there was no pre-set agenda and that the group was to appoint its own chair.

Dr Idowu-Fearon, hosted the group and acted as secretary. The group agreed the post of chair would rotate around the membership. The ninth member of the group, Archbishop Ng Moon Hing from the Province of South East Asia was unable to attend. The Moderator of the Church of South India, Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam, will not be taking part because of allegations he is facing in India.

The group is scheduled to meet annually with additional meetings electronically. The date of the next meeting is yet to be confirmed.

First printed by the Anglican Communion News Service

Categories: 

The church and its mission: visible and invisible

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Symes

Sep  2016

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

What is the church for?

In chapter three of his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul reveals his understanding of the purpose of the Church. He doesn’t look at this in sociological terms, from a human perspective, but from a supernatural, spiritual viewpoint. The primary purpose of the church is to be like a ‘broadcasting tower’, a means of making known to invisible spiritual powers the wisdom of God – wisdom which is described in most familiar translations as ‘manifold’ but which literally means something like ‘multi-faceted’ or ‘variegated’ (Ephesians 3:10).

[If you don’t have a Bible to hand as you read this, you might like to open the text of Ephesians here is a separate window:]

Ephesians is a contextual theology, explaining the Gospel to people living in a culture very aware of, even fearful of and obsessed by, spiritual powers. Paul, following the rest of the teaching of the Bible and the life of Jesus himself, recognizes the existence of these invisible forces, which include angels and demonic spirits, but does not go into detail about their nature, their hierarchies and so on. Rather there is an emphasis on the much greater power and supreme authority of Christ over these powers (Eph 1:20-21). Nevertheless the continued limited but death-dealing influence of evil over human individuals and societies remains (2:1-2), and the response of Christian believers should be to “be strong in the Lord”, and taking up a military posture against demonic forces through prayer and the application of the Word of God (Eph 6:10-18).

So it’s not just the church’s traditional position on sexuality which looks totally “weird and odd” (to use Archbishop Justin’s language). The whole project of the Christian faith and the Church is defined in the Bible in ways that are unintelligible to those on the outside, especially with a secular worldview. This is why evangelism is difficult from a human perspective – not just because traditional sexual ethics are out of touch with where ordinary people are.

The church’s purpose is to communicate to the heavenly, ie spiritual realm, that God remains in charge, and he will bring about his ultimate plan, to bring all things under Christ as head (1:10). If this is God’s plan, then what needs to happen for it to be effective? Following on from his declaration of the church’s purpose, Paul prays for its members (v14f) to be strengthened by God’s power, to experience the indwelling of Christ, and to grasp how amazing his love really is.

Instructions for correct set-up of the church

But then Paul moves to more practical matters. Yes the church needs prayer, and it also needs to take responsibility for its common life and the behaviour of its members. Chapter 4:1-6: the unity of the church is a given: members must “make every effort to keep” that unity. There is one body and one baptism, and also one hope, one Lord, one faith. In other words, it’s not possible to have unity in the body without agreement on basic beliefs. Only yesterday I heard of a vicar, new member of a team in a multi-parish benefice, who questioned the credentials of a lay reader whom he heard doubting Jesus’ resurrection, only to be accused by a fellow vicar of causing division. The idea that somehow the ‘body’ (seen as the institution, or visible community), based on common baptism, is the basis of the church, and that the Gospel message is optional or open to different interpretations, is completely foreign to the New Testament. Getting the basic message right as the main foundation of unity is emphasized as Paul goes on to talk about the teaching roles of various gifted people given to the church by God, so that people grow into unity, maturity and service (4:11-13). The passage goes on to warn specifically about “deceitful” teaching which does not conform to the truth-in-love (4:14-16).

The passage goes on to be more practical still. Even good teaching on its own is not sufficient for the health of the church. The “mystery” of the church’s missional purpose in the material and spiritual realms needs to be incarnate, lived out visibly, in the world. Paul emphasizes, in fact he insists (4:17) that believers must make a clean break from the pagan practices which they repented of at conversion, and which continue to be practiced by the people around them in the communities in which they live. It is not just what “the Gentiles” do, it is their thinking, their worldview and ideologies, their attitudes which perhaps have been imbibed unconsciously from the culture. Because they are “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God” their lives are characterized by “sensuality…impurity …greed”. This is described as the “old self” of all Christians, who have been given a “new self” by God and who should consciously put on that renewed identity.

Paul gives some examples of behaviour which belongs to the old life: lying, rage, stealing, coarse speaking and malice. As Christians put off this behaviour and the wrong thinking which underlies bad habits, they are to replace it with the new Gospel-centred thinking of the forgiven and loved child of God, and the behaviours which follow: kindness and compassion.

Sexual purity not optional

How do we reconcile the author’s encouragement to be kind and loving with his next instruction: “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality”? In much of the ancient world, like much of the contemporary Western church, adherence to Judaeo-Christian sexual ethics was not seen as important or relevant to one’s religious devotion, or goodness in the community. In fact to insist on faithful, monogamous, heterosexual marriage as the only option for intimate exclusive human relationships, and both Paul and Jesus did, (and which is the meaning of Ephesians 5:3), would have been seen as perhaps a bit harsh, even “unloving” in much of Gentile society then just as it is now. Paul links sexual immorality, impurity and greed; he says they are “improper” but then goes further to say that to get into the habit of these behaviours, so that one becomes an “immoral person”, actually disqualifies someone from the Kingdom of God. The passage immediately goes on to say “let no-one deceive you with empty words” – as if the writer is anticipating an objection and a counter argument. Not surprising since Paul is putting the issue of sexual purity centre stage in his portrayal of the authentic church.

Like John in his Gospel (eg 9:3-5), Paul goes on to contrast living in the light and producing fruit accordingly, with the sterile “deeds of darkness (5:8-13). This is not a picture of a church embedded in the local culture, no different in terms of values and behaviours but with a distinctive religious practice and some charitable activity. It is a light in the darkness, and a witness of the life and grace of Christ to the spiritually dead. The passage continues with a solemn warning to believers: “be very careful how you live…because the days are evil”. And yet there are “opportunities” for witnessing to Christ, and the wonderful shared life in the Spirit in the worshipping community (5:18-20).

Counter-cultural holiness in relationships

The advice becomes more practical still as Paul continues to outline God’s guiding principles for his church. The “household codes” – the instructions about the relationships of marriage, family and employment which are foundational to any community (Eph 5:21-6:9) have often been criticized by liberal scholars. They are seen as conservative, validating the oppressive hierarchies of the day, supporting patriarchy and slavery. But of course in the context of the time, the command to husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church” (5:25) in the context of a marriage based on mutual submission (5:21), and masters to “treat your slaves in the same way” (ie “with respect, fear and gentleness of heart” 6:5) would have been seen as radical and egalitarian. Today they have continued relevance, as today’s radio carries features about a mass-market clothing company promising to improve working conditions and pay for its workers, and the police addressing cases of sexual assault and ‘misogynistic hate crime’.

These passages are often taken in isolation and out of context. While a sermon on marriage from Ephesians 5 is always useful, it is appreciated with its full force when it is seen as part of God’s design for his ‘broadcasting tower’, the church (Eph 3:10). Christian marriage is Paul’s primary, practical, visible, lived example of God’s people living in a way different from pagan thinking and behaviour (4:17), controlling one’s anger and bitterness (4:31), being kind and compassionate (4:32), not indulging in sexual immorality (5:3), living in the light (5:8). And those who are not married are children or perhaps have responsibility for them; they are employer or employed – the same standards apply to all. Again, the well known passage on spiritual warfare is the conclusion of this way of thinking. Transformed attitudes and behaviours of those who have been saved by grace and included in God’s family and workforce are the basis of the army which takes its stand against evil in spiritual warfare (6:10ff).

The church members: saved by grace, representing the nations

If Ephesians 4-6 describes what the church as a whole should actually look like and Ephesians 3:10 gives its purpose, then the first part of the letter explains how the church has actually come into being and what its constituent parts, it members, consist of. Individual men and women, according to 1:1-10, blessed, chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven by God. The passage continues: included in Christ, marked with the Holy Spirit, with full access to the resurrection power of Christ, and the guarantee of a glorious and permanent inheritance. Chapter 2 goes back a bit to the post-fall human condition of sin, enslavement by Satan, death, from which believers are rescued, given new life and seated spiritually in God’s presence in union with the Messiah. The message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is vital, otherwise chapters 4-6 can be interpreted as rules that Christians have to follow in order to achieve holiness, rather than a practical outworking of it.

So the church is made up of individuals who were ‘over there’, lost and dead, who are now ‘here’, rescued and alive. Paul then distinguishes between those who relatively speaking have not had so far to travel – those with a background of the Scriptures and knowledge of the one true God – and those who have had much further to move, from polytheistic cultures with worldviews far removed from that of the Bible (2:11ff). And God has done an amazing thing: through the death of Christ on the cross, all are reduced to the same level of sinners needing forgiveness and transformation.

The result is something new and extraordinary – a new religious building made of people (2:20-21); a new nation with a diversity of ethnicities (3:6). It is a mystery, says Paul – Jews and Gentiles together. This doesn’t mean many faiths united in one world, but the opposite: many worlds united in one faith. The diversity of the church is seen in many ethnic and cultural expressions of worship, mission and other aspects of church life. We must beware the limitations of a monocultural church, and if we find ourselves in such a local expression of church, we need to consciously find ways of participating in the global networks. But the unity of the church remains based on a single shared understanding of salvation in Christ, his expectations in terms of attitude and behaviour, and his transformative power of the Holy Spirit which makes this possible.

 

“In response to Christ’s Great Commission, the scope of Anglican orthodoxy is worldwide, embracing “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9). By God’s providence, the Anglican Communion is represented in every region of the world, by Christians from different races…who now belong to indigenous and autonomous churches…It is this very desire to maintain the true unity of the Body, that has led many orthodox Anglicans to unite together in the face of false Christianity that has sprung up within the Communion.”

Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today (A commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration of GAFCON). Latimer, 2009, p10.]

 

Editor’s note: Readers who have not yet seen Anglican Mainstream’s digest of news and comment on recent events in the Church of England can find them here:

Church of England parishes consider first step to break away

Bishop of Grantham: Reports and responses

GAFCON statement on the Bishop of Grantham

Monday, September 5th, 2016

BY: Peter Jensen and Andy Lines
Sep 2016

 We note with prayerful concern the revelation that Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham, is in a same sex relationship.

Our understanding is that the nature of his relationship conforms to the guidelines set out by the Bishops, and that he has not been campaigning publicly for a change in the church’s teaching on sex and marriage. We do not doubt that he has many gifts as a leader and pastor.

However there are aspects of this appointment which are a serious cause for concern for biblically orthodox Anglicans around the world, and therefore we believe that this appointment is a major error.

In 2003, Jeffrey John’s candidacy for the post of Bishop of Reading caused deep divisions within the Diocese of Oxford and beyond, and this news about Nicholas Chamberlain will exacerbate the same divisions within the Church of England and throughout the wider Anglican Communion.

In this case the element of secrecy in the appointment to the episcopacy of a man in a same sex relationship gives the impression that it has been arranged with the aim of presenting the church with a ‘fait accompli’, rather than engaging with possible opposition in the spirit of the ‘shared conversations’.

We remain opposed to the guidelines for clergy and Bishops, permitting them to be in same sex relationships as long as they publicly declare that the relationship is not sexual. This creates confusion in terms of the church’s teaching on the nature of sex and marriage, and it is not modelling a helpful way to live, given the reality of our humanity, and temptation to sexual sin.

This news story will be seen by many orthodox Anglicans as yet more evidence that the clear biblical teaching in the Church of England on sin and salvation, human personhood, singleness, sex and marriage is being eroded and conformed to the values of secular society. While we pray for Bishop Chamberlain, our confidence in the processes by which he was appointed in are sadly, further diminished.

GAFCON UK exists to provide fellowship and if necessary, an alternative oversight for Anglicans committed to biblical orthodoxy in England, Scotland and Wales, from a range of ecclesial traditions, evangelical and catholic, with special focus on those who are losing confidence in local and national church structures to maintain faithfulness to doctrinal and ethical norms.

The Most Rev. Peter Jensen

General Secretary of Gafcon Global

The Rev Canon Andy Lines

Chairman of the Gafcon UK Task Force

SOURCE: Anglican Ink

Psychiatrist: The Vatican’s sex ed is the most dangerous threat to youth I’ve seen in 40 years

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016
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September 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — In recent years, the Catholic Church has been going through one of her most severe crises as a result of the priestly abuse of youth. The primary victims have been adolescent males.1  This worldwide scandal was enabled by the irresponsible and permissive behaviors of members of the hierarchy who made the mistake of “winking” at homosexuality in their priests, according to a Bishop on an EWTN show on the crisis in which I participated.

This scandal was also enabled by no small number of spiritual directors, who were ignorant of psychological science and told the priests suffering same-sex attractions that they were directing that they were “born that way” rather than referring them to competent mental health professionals, which could have prevented many a youth from being abused.

In order to restore the severely damaged trust and faith in the laity, it is incumbent upon the members of the Hierarchy and priests that they never again act as permissive leaders/shepherds when serious threats are posed to the moral, intellectual, psychological, and sexual well-being of youth.

As a psychiatrist, I have worked extensively with Catholic youth severely harmed psychologically by the divorce of their parents,2 frequently enabled by ‘easy’ annulments of their parents’ sacramental marriages, in disregard for justice, mercy and psychological science,3 and by the epidemics of narcissism,4 marijuana,5pornography,6 and sexual hooking up7 (using others as sexual objects), and the enormous peer pressure to be sexually active, and suffering the psychological conflicts in their parents, siblings, and peers.8

However, in my professional opinion, the most dangerous threat to Catholic youth that I have seen over the past 40 years is the Vatican’s new sexual education program, The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People.

The Meeting Point was released at World Youth Day in Poland by the Pontifical Council of the Family then under the direction of Archbishop Paglia and is now available online, for free, in five different languages.

The immediate response to The Meeting Point was strong and highly critical. Three international life-and-family leaders who have defended Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality, and life for decades have reviewed and described it as “thoroughly immoral,” “entirely inappropriate,” and “quite tragic.”9

The Meeting Point has also been criticized as deviating from 2,000 years of teaching of the Catholic Church on sexual morality and the moral formation of youth in this area so clearly elucidated and described by St. John Paul II in the Magna Carta for the Catholic family, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World.

Subsequently, a petition has developed requesting that Pope Francis and the new director of the Pontifical Council of the Family, Bishop Kevin Farrell, withdraw as soon as possible this ‘nightmare’ Vatican ‘sex ed’ program.10

In a culture in which youth are bombarded by pornography, I was particularly shocked by the images contained in this new sex education program, some of which are clearly pornographic. My immediate professional reaction was that this obscene or pornographic approach abuses youth psychologically and spiritually.

Youth are also harmed by the failure to warn them of the long-term dangers of promiscuous behaviors and contraceptive use.11 As a professional who has treated both priest perpetrators and the victims of the abuse crisis in the Church, what I found particularly troubling was that the pornographic images in this program are similar to those used by adult sexual predators of adolescents.

The person primarily responsible for the development and release of this harmful program, Archbishop Paglia, the former leader of the Pontifical Council of the Family, should be required in justice to go through an evaluation by a review board as described in the Dallas Charter norms for placing youth at risk. Such a review is particularly important as he is now been put in charge of further teaching regarding sexuality and marriage at the John Paul II Institute for Family Studies.

The Meeting Point program constitutes sexual abuse of Catholic adolescents worldwide and reveals an ignorance of the enormous sexual pressure upon youth today and will result in their subsequent confusion in accepting the Church’s teaching. It represents a grave future crisis in the Church and particularly for Catholic youth and families in far greater proportions than the scandalous sexual abuse crisis of youth recently so widely reported in the press.

The Vatican’s “sex education” program should be withdrawn by the new director of the Pontifical Council of the Family, Bishop Kevin Farrell, as soon as possible to protect the health of Catholic youth and be replaced with a new program following the outstanding teaching of St. John Paul II on marriage, youth, family and sexuality from the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World.  The Church has not fully assimilated the wealth of the insights contained in St. John Paul II’s teaching. This must be the mandate for the new Pontifical Council for Family, Laity and Life.

The words of St. John Paul II from his meeting with the American cardinals and bishops on April 23, 2002, on the crisis in the Church are as timely today as they were then for the members the hierarchy, and particularly true for the Vatican.  He stated: “People must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.”

Rick Fitzgibbons, MD is the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia and has worked with several thousand couples over the past 40 years. 

Footnotes

[1] Fitzgibbons, R. & O’Leary, D. (2011) Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Clergy, The Linacre Quarterly 78(3) (August 2011): 252–273.
[2] Fitzgibbons, R. (2016) Forthcoming: “Children of Divorce: Conflicts and Healing” in Margaret McCarthy (ed.), Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce and the Recovery of Origins, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 51-65.
[3] Fitzgibbons R.  (2015).  Quick and Easy Annulments Pose Grave Risks to the Family.  Retrieved from https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/dr.-rick-fitzgibbons-quick-and-easy-annulme…; Adkins, J. et al. (2015).  Remember our Children. America, November 12, 2015.
[4] Twenge, J., & Campbell, W. K. (2009). The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. New York, NY: Aria Books.
[5] Fitzgibbons, R. (2016). Retrieved from www.childhealing.com/The Addicted Spouse and Child Healing
[6] Kleponis, P. (2014) Integrity Restored: A Catholic Guide to Pornography.  Steubenville: Emmaus Road, p. 19.
[7] Grossman, M. (2007). Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. St. Cloud, MN: Sentinel.
[8] Enright, R., & Fitzgibbons, R. (2014). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books, pp. 171-202.
[9]  Retrieved from https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-surrenders-to-sexual-revolution-with-release-of-sex-ed-program-life.
[10] Petition urges Pope Francis to withdraw ‘nightmare’ Vatican sex-ed program
[11] Fitzgibbons, R. (2015).  Retrieved fromwww.thecatholicthing.org/2015/01/29/contraceptions-cascading-rampage.