Archive for November, 2016

Re-imaging Humanity – Part 2 Sexuality, Marriage and the Fall

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

public-news-tmp-85019-smirnoff-default-300

For part 1 click Re-imaging Humanity – Sex, Sexuality, Gender and the Inhumanity of 21st Century Humanism – Part 1

We now begin to look at some of the ways the Fall has impacted Humanity and Sexuality 

Sexuality –

“heterosexual? Sexual? Who gives a sexuality”” Smirnoff advert 2015.

In answer to the age old question – Who am I? our children today are being taught that sexuality is a key part, if not the key part of our identity. Media, schools and the big corporations (see the Diageo £4.5 million campaign Here) are pushing this as a given. And yet the notion of sexuality as identity is a relatively new one stemming from the late 19th century and especially from the work of Freud.

In the arguments in the church about sexuality one has stood out as the most powerful. Its what I call the Lady Gaga theory – Born This Way

The initial reason for accepting the idea of an innate sexuality as normative came about because people argued – what could be wrong if God made me this way? But such a question betrays a shallowness in understanding, both of what humanity is, who God is and how the fall has affected us. In more recent years the notion of a fixed sexuality is now being challenged by those who once argued that it was the very basis for accepting gay rights. Rather than God made me this way we are now coming to a position where people get to choose their own sexuality. It becomes a question of self-identity. Fixed sexuality is becoming fluid sexuality. That’s why in Britain today although only around 1% of young people will claim to be homosexual, 2% will claim to be bisexual. By the way I was speaking at a school this week and asked the young people what percentage they thought of people in society were homosexual the estimates varied from 10% to 30%! Recent studies have demonstrated: (This is from New Atlantis)

  • The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings—the idea that people are “born that way”—is not supported by scientific evidence.

  • While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation. While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.

  • Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults (although the extent to which this figure reflects actual changes in same-sex attractions and not just artifacts of the survey process has been contested by some researchers).

In this highly significant quote Peter Tatchell argues for the end of homosexuality and heterosexuality altogether.

“Overcoming homophobia will result in more people having gay sex but fewer people claiming gay identity.

The medieval Catholic Church, despite all its obscurantism and intolerance, got one thing right. Homosexuality is not, it suggested, the special sin of a unique class people but a temptation to which any mortal might succumb.

It now seems fairly certain, in the light of modern research, that most people are born with a sexual desire that is, to varying degrees, capable of both heterosexual and homosexual attraction. Once homophobia declines, we are bound to witness the emergence of a homosexuality that is quite different from the homosexuality we know today. With the strictures on queerness removed, and same-sex relationships normalised and accepted, more people will have gay sex but, paradoxically, less of them will identify as gay. This is because, in the absence of homophobia, the need to assert gayness becomes redundant. Gay identity is the product of anti-gay repression. When homosexuality is disparaged and victimised, gay people understandably feel they have to affirm their desires and lifestyle. However, if prejudice is vanquished, and if one sexuality is not privileged over another, defining oneself as gay (or straight) will cease to be necessary and have no social significance. The need to maintain sexual differences and boundaries disappears with the demise of straight supremacism. Homosexuality as a separate, exclusive clearly demarcated orientation and identity will then begin to fade (as will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality). Instead, the vast majority of people will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex relations They won’t feel the need to label themselves (or others) as gay or straight because, in a non-homophobic culture, no one will give a damn about who loves and lusts after who.”

Tatchell is winning the argument.  In a recent survey more than half of young people in Britain said they saw sexuality as fluid. The Daily Telegraph carried an article which stated that there were NO women in Britain who were exclusively hetrosexual. Yes – this is the mad world that we create when we seek to remake humanity in our own image rather than God’s!

One positive thing about this is the recognition that sexuality can actually change. Although our liberal elites are a little confused on this one. On the one hand they want to ban reparative therapy claiming that it is harmful because it goes against a person’s innate sexuality, on the other hand they are now teaching that we can choose our sexuality.   I think that from a Christian perspective we can recognise that our sexualities can be confused and messed up and that in a fallen world, genetic, environmental and historical factors can each play their own role. I remember discussing this with a gay activist who was furious at the idea of a ‘gay gene’. He argued that his sexuality was something he chose and he resented those who sought to portray it as some kind of genetic disfunction.

I am greatly impressed with those Christians who have come to terms with the fact that they are attracted to people of the same sex and yet refuse to self-define as homosexual. They prefer the more accurate term ‘same sex attracted’. The Living Out website is a superb resource. http://www.livingout.org/

What harm does it do?  The question is often asked – if its not doing any harm then whats the harm? The presupposition is that there is no harm but is that correct. I remember thinking that when listening to Patrick Harvie arguing for the special health needs of LGB. Why I wondered, if there are no health implications, do we need special health care? In reading Thomas Schmidt’s Straight and Narrow I was stunned by the health problems and harm portrayed in that book. Having read several other things since then – both pro and anti I think there is little doubt that, at the very least, homosexuality is more harmful than heterosexuality.

1858

Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

There’s numerous research that indicates that active homosexuals have a significantly shorter lifespan. People who engage in homosexual activity lose 25 to 40% of their lifespan. Factors include various sexually transmitted diseases, infectious hepatitis, anal cancer, amoebic and other infectious bowel diseases, herpes and other viral infections, and HIV/AIDS, among others. (Satinover, J. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Baker, 1998. Pp. 51, 68-69.  Also that domestic violence is higher in same-sex relationships

Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide. Now of course life is more complex than the simple citation of figures – and the question of why these figures are so bad need answering first. But they certainly raise a red flag.

Marriage – for decades queer theory activists like Peter Tatchell have sought to destroy a marriage. Just over a decade ago he even wrote an article attacking homosexuals who wanted same-sex marriage, because he wanted to destroy marriage not embrace it. I debated Peter Tatchell on Revelation TV .

(Peter Tatchell v. David Robertson – Part 1)

(Peter Tatchell v. David Robertson – Part 2)

I pointed out that I don’t think his opinion has really changed. All that changed was the tactics. He knows that in order to destroy marriage all that had to happen was people like David Cameron, Obama and others agreeing to “redefine” marriage. I suspect that many of the politicians who voted for the redefinition of marriage did so because of the political pressure, because they had not thought about it too much and because they expected it to be the end. But the reality is that the redefinition of marriage is just part of a wider philosophy which seeks to redefine humanity and create a world in which we can choose our own sexuality and our own gender, because ultimately they do not matter. In the beginning God created them male and female, in the end ‘man’ created them trans- human.
(In part three next week we will look at the next stage in the re-imaging of humanity).

Part three Here

Re-imaging Humanity – Sex, Sexuality, Gender and the Inhumanity of 21st Century Humanism – Part 1

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

edinburgh-poster-a4-e1468245691159

 

This is an adapted and expanded series based on my talk at the  Solas Conference Edinburgh – 29th October 2016.   It is a subject of massive importance for the Church and society.  I have split my paper up into several sections and will be putting one out every Monday.

Part One – Two Big Pictures

As we talk about this subject we need to realise that we are dealing with individual stories. This is not theory.  This is not political ideology.  We are talking about real people.  Last week I watched a BBC Scotland programme about individuals who were transgender.  It was one of the saddest and most depressing things I had seen for a long time.  Human  beings made in the image of God, confused, hurting and being offered a solution based on falsehood and a fantasy.

These issues are very much part of society today – as they have been in different forms throughout human history.  I think of Jane (note – the names used are are of course general) who thinks she is a boy trapped in a girls body; John who was bullied at school and who now wants to marry his boyfriend; Susan who finds that she is attracted to other women but for some reason feels guilty about it.  Everyone’s story is different and yet everyone’s story fits into a bigger picture.

The Freedom of Love and the Repression of Humanity

For many people in our culture the bigger picture the narrative that 21st century liberal humanism teaches.  This is the narrative that is predominant in education at all levels, in the secular media and amongst most politicians.  It is taught as fact, although in reality it is a big picture story that does not really fit the facts.

search

 

Let me give one example.   Diarmid MacCulloch recently had a three-part series on BBC2 entitled On Sex and the Church.    “I think religion has got everything appallingly wrong and it has been terrible for us in sexual terms,”. The basic resume of his position is that before Christianity came on the scene sex was a pleasure which people enjoyed in the Greco-Roman pagan paradise. But then along came Christianity, and especially St Paul and then Augustine, and lo and behold sexual repression entered into Western society. It has taken many hundreds of years, but now finally after the Enlightenment we are returning to those wonderful golden days. The only barrier remaining in the way is repressive religion, especially that of the Calvinists and the Catholics. In our brave new world people should be free to sleep with whoever they want, whenever they want. After all sex is just an appetite like eating. What’s wrong with having a smorgasbord of love? As long as we don’t harm anyone what’s the problem?

The Freedom of God (who is Love) and the Dignity of Humanity (made in his image)

But there is another big picture. One which, for the moment, we are still allowed to teach. One upon which the whole of our society has been based. We are currently in the process of rejecting that picture, but maybe we should stop and consider. Maybe we are not heading to a secular sexual nirvana? Maybe we are heading into the pit of hell?

Let’s consider this  alternative big picture.

What is Humanity?   Psalm 8

Psa. 8:1    LORD, our Lord,  how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens.

2               Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

3               When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

4               what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

 What is man?   That is the title of an essay by Martin Luther King published in 1959 in which he argues that humanity is more than an animal and less than God. It is the basic understanding of humanity which has prevailed in Europe and the West for most of the past 2,000 years.  It is an understanding of humanity which is, ironically, being destroyed by our secular humanists.

search-1

When we cease to believe in God, it is not just that we lose the sense of the divine – we also lose the sense of the human. That is why the ultimate in humanitarianism, or humanism is to enable people to know God. In fact without the divine, we are missing an essential part of what it is to be human.

The Shorter Catechism sums up the biblical teaching nicely.

10. How did God create man?

  1. A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge,righteousness, and holiness,with dominion over the creatures.

 This involves

a) Gender – we are created male and female

b) Identity – our identity is found in God.

c) Marriage – we are created for one another.

d)  Society – we serve God, and one another by following the maker’s instructions.

But then things go wrong.  The Fall of humanity described in Genesis has an enormous impact.  The fallout is considerable affecting the environment, society and our relationship with one another and with God.  It disturbs, disrupts and destroys our most basic relationships.

The basic difference between humanity before the fall and humanity after, is that before the fall we lived to do the will of God, after the fall we are autonomous and seek to be as God. We do it our way. We go our own way. We are as gods – determining our own right and wrong. At least that was the promise of the devil. Autonomy is at the root of all our troubles.  And autonomy is what our society demands and celebrates:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way (Sinatra).

Sin is rebellion against God and an assertion of our own sovereignty and authority. No Christian with any biblical understanding would ever say – its my body and I’ll do with it what I want!

The secular humanist world view takes what humanists would like to be true today and interpret the past through that limited and fanciful view.  The Christian worldview interprets the present through the eyes of the past.   Next week in part two we will see the practical consequences of these world views….

New Assistant Bishop of Brisbane is “happy to abandon the Creed”

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

David Ould reports on the appointment of a post-Christian bishop, Jeremy Greaves, for the Anglican Church of Australia

Greaves’ appointment will be viewed by many as controversial and even provocative. He gained notoriety for himself when Dean of Darwin Cathedral as a proponent of “progressive Christianity”, most recently being lead organiser of the 2016 “Common Dreams” conference in Brisbane. He is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage but perhaps even more troubling he rejects key understandings of Christianity that he will be required to reaffirm at his consecration (having already promised at his ordination to teach them). One particular example will suffice.

In a 2010 ABC Radio National interview with Rachael Kohn he took part in a discussion of Progressive Christianity. The interview includes this exchange:

Rachael Kohn: Do you specifically then have difficulties with the Apostles’ Creed that you might like to rewrite it or ditch it?

Jeremy Greaves: I’d be happy to abandon the Creed.

As a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia Greaves may struggle to represent the church with integrity. The Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia [pdf] opens with these words:

Chapter I. – FUNDAMENTAL DECLARATIONS

  1. The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.

It will be his role to uphold and teach that faith which is in particular set forth in statements that he has publicly stated he would “be happy to abandon”.

As the interview concludes we hear this as he discusses the tension being speaking clearly about what he actually believes and the need to continue to draw a salary from his position:

Rachael Kohn: When you said the gut, it reminded me of what Gretta Vosper said, she was quoting Carter Haywood, who named the lurch in her stomach as God. What was your response to Gretta’s charge to the conference here to leave behind a lot of what has been traditional about Christianity, and even abandon some of the terminology?

Jeremy Greaves:I feel very conflicted about some of those things because – and she talked about that chasm between what so many of us believe and what we feel we have permission to say in our churches. And for so many of us in ministry, we’re locked into a model where the people who sit in the pews pay our salaries, pay our way. I have a wife and three small children to support and so the challenge of being too prophetic and changing too many things too quickly is that there won’t be enough people left in the short term to help me survive financially, and that’s a brutal and very difficult challenge.

And for so many of my colleagues in their 60s, which the majority, certainly in the Anglican church clergy are, they can probably get away with doing the same thing for another three or four years, and I have probably 30 years of ministry ahead, and that won’t work. And so the real challenge, from what Gretta has said, is knowing that we need to be somewhere else, but for me it’s the fear that comes with that and perhaps lacking the courage sometimes to go quite as far as we perhaps need to go.

It does seem now that fear of loss of income or worry about permission to speak is no longer a problem when the Archbishop is happy to appoint as bishop a man who publicly stated he would abandon the Apostles’ Creed.

Reprinted with the author’s permission from DavidOuld.net

Crossing the Rubicon: Lambeth Resolution I.10, the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Stephen Noll

Earlier this year I was speaking with an English friend concerned about the direction of the Church of England. “Where do we draw the line?” he asked. “That’s easy,” I replied: “It’s called Lambeth Resolution I.10.”

The 1998 Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality has been and remains the Rubicon for the Anglican Communion. Those who step over that line will have divorced themselves from biblical Christianity, from historic Anglicanism, and from the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide. Several provinces of the Communion have already taken that step. It appears that the Mother Church is about to follow.

I was present at the 1998 Lambeth Conference where the Resolution was passed, and I published an analysis of its text and significance. It was approved overwhelmingly by the bishops of the Communion, including the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, but was rejected immediately thereafter by the majority of bishops in the Episcopal Church USA. The rejection led to nearly two decades of strife within the Communion which continues to this day. Throughout his tenure Archbishop Rowan Williams upheld Lambeth I.10, however tentatively. It was also affirmed in the Windsor Report. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, to my knowledge, has not done so, which may explain the most recent statement from the Archbishops’ Council.

The letter of Mr. William Nye published on 22 November seems to be preparing the ground for retreat by attacking the recent GAFCON UK briefing paper and arguing that Lambeth Resolution I.10 is not authoritative or legally binding on the Church of England. Mr. Nye is Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and so must be taken as articulating the view of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Mr. Nye begins the attack by stating:

Resolution 1:10 is one of over 90 Resolutions approved by the Lambeth Conference in 1998. It expressed the will of that Conference. Like all Lambeth Conference resolutions, it is not legally binding on all provinces of the Communion, including the Church of England, though it commends an essential and persuasive view of the attitude of the Communion.

Let’s break this paragraph down into a number of points (in italics) and respond to each:

Resolution I.10 was one of many resolutions in 1998. This is true but misleading. Everyone at the Conference in 1998 knew this Resolution was centrally important and hotly contested, and many were surprised at its clarity, so much so that The Times of London called it a “surprisingly trenchant verdict.”

It expressed the will of that Conference. This verbal sleight of hand turns the Resolution into an historical relic. Indeed, all Lambeth Resolutions are now relics. There is a 130-year history of Lambeth Resolutions, speaking to matters of doctrine, of church order, and of relevant social issues, including those pertaining to marriage and family life. These Resolutions, read together, form a fairly harmonious tradition. Resolution I.10 fits clearly within this tradition. The tradition came to an end after 1998 as the 2008 Lambeth Conference replaced resolutions, which they said had become too controversial, with Indaba (table talk).

Resolution I.10 is not legally binding but commends an essential and persuasive view of an attitude of the Communion. Mr. Nye is factually correct: Lambeth Resolutions have no legal or canonical force but only the force of persuasion. This arrangement was baked into the Anglican cake from the first Conference in 1867, as noted by Professor Owen Chadwick, who states in his introduction to the collected Resolutions:

If the [Lambeth] meeting was to be acceptable to some of its more moderate opponents, it seemed to be necessary to say that the meeting was only of a discussion group, and none of its decisions would have any authority. Archbishop Longley of Canterbury would only summon the meeting, and several bishops would only attend it, if its resolutions were declared beforehand to have no binding force. Some of the American bishops who were determined to take no orders out of England were equally strong that this meeting was ‘only’ for consultation.

And indeed 130 years later, the American bishops took home the same attitude and renounced Resolution I.10 and proceeded to ordain a practicing homosexual as bishop in 2003.

Is there a difference between an authoritative teaching and a “persuasive view of an attitude”? Put another way: is there anything that Anglicans hold so dear that some of its members might break fellowship with others over it? Mr. Nye turns to this question in the next two paragraphs:

Resolution 1:10 sets out teaching on marriage, as being between a man and a woman, and teaching on abstinence outside marriage. It sets out teaching on homosexual practice. It commits the Conference to listening to the experience of homosexual persons, assures them they are loved by God, and condemns irrational fear of homosexuals. It says nothing about discipline within provinces of the Anglican Communion; the Lambeth Conference has no jurisdiction to do so.

The Resolution is an important document in the history of the Anglican Communion.  It is not the only important resolution, from that Conference or others. It does not have the force of Scripture, nor is it part of the deposit of faith. The key elements for the Communion are those within the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Once again, we’ll take his argument (in italics) point by point.

Lambeth I.10 sets out “teaching” about heterosexual, monogamous marriage, abstinence, and about homosexual practice. Curiously, he does not let on that this teaching affirms the alternatives of marriage and abstinence but cannot advise homosexual practice.

Lambeth I.10 also speaks of pastoral care and moral guidance for “those who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation [“homosexual persons” – Mr. Nye].” This portion of the Resolution has a normative pastoral force, but it is set in a theological framework that “homosexual practice [i]s incompatible with Scripture.” Taken as a whole, the Resolution calls the church, both in England and throughout the Communion, to minister to all those who experience sexual and marital brokenness and violence. It does not, however, provide a foundation for approving same-sex civil partnerships or same-sex marriage.

Lambeth I.10 does not have the force of Scripture… This statement contradicts the bishops’ claim to speak “in view of the teaching of Scripture” and to teach that homosexual practice is “incompatible with Scripture.” Bishops at the time were so adamant on this point that they insisted on referencing other resolutions (IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35) on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality.

…nor is it part of the deposit of faith. By the “deposit of faith,” I presume Mr. Nye means the Creeds. The Creeds themselves appealed to Scripture and were never intended to cover every area of Christian orthodoxy, especially what Article VII calls the “Commandments which are called Moral.” Neither the church Fathers nor the Reformers were challenged by the modern issues of human sexuality, which is why the Lambeth bishops felt called to address it.

The key elements for the Communion are those within the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral. The Lambeth Quadrilateral is an important set of four guidelines defining the church in terms of Scripture, Creeds, sacraments and the historic episcopate. However, there is no basis to elevate it over Lambeth Resolutions, as it was itself a Resolution of the 1888 Conference. Furthermore, in its first article the Quadrilateral refers to the “the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments … as the rule and ultimate standard of faith,” which is the very standard to which Lambeth I.10 appeals.

It says nothing about discipline within provinces of the Anglican Communion; the Lambeth Conference has no jurisdiction to do so. Before going further, we need to step aside and define discipline. The Reformers saw discipline as an essential mark of the church:

The true church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone. And it hath always three notes or marks: Pure and sound doctrine; The sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution; And the right use of ecclesiastical discipline. (Homily for Whitsunday)

One most often thinks of discipline in terms of Prayer Book rubrics, canon laws, and other church regulations within a particular diocese or province. In the last resort, discipline can lead to exclusion or excommunication of a person from the church.

Churches also exercise corporate discipline and excommunication, as is the case among Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches. The Reformers did not address the question of inner-Anglican discipline because in their day the Church of England had no colonies, not to mention provinces with separate constitutions and canons. Centuries later the 1930 Lambeth Committee on the Anglican Communion took up the question of a possible breach of intra-communion discipline among autonomous churches:

This freedom naturally and necessarily carries with it the risk of divergence to the point even of disruption. In case any such risk should actually arise, it is clear that the Lambeth Conference as such could not take any disciplinary action. Formal action would belong to the several Churches of the Anglican Communion individually; but the advice of the Lambeth Conference, sought before action is taken by the constituent Churches, would carry very great moral weight. And we believe in the Holy Spirit. We trust in His power working in every part of His Church to hold us together.

This precise risk of divergence arose after Lambeth 1998 when the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson in 2003 as Bishop of New Hampshire. The churches did meet in a series of Primates’ meetings and made clear the incompatibility of Robinson’s consecration with Lambeth Resolution I.10; however, the failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury to carry out the disciplinary measures of the Primates led ultimately to the formation of the GAFCON movement, which has made Lambeth I.10 a touchstone of identity.

Mr. Nye’s position about the absence of formal discipline is legally correct but spiritually dangerous in that it appears to be clearing the way for the Church of England to work around Lambeth Resolution I.10. Mr. Nye goes on to cite a number of other actions and documents of the Church of England, which I leave to my English colleagues to handle. It certainly seems as if the end-point of these actions and the so-called “Listening Process” is the approval and blessing of same-sex civil partnerships. If this indeed is where the Church of England is heading, it is, in my opinion, crossing the Rubicon, or if I may adapt a North American metaphor, barreling over Niagara Falls.

I say this for three reasons. First, blessing homosexual practice in any form is contrary to Scripture and the Christian church’s continuous moral tradition, as expressed in Lambeth Resolution I.10. Secondly, the Church of England will be unable to hold the line at same-sex civil partnerships. The Episcopal Church USA and Anglican Church of Canada are bellwethers in this regard; both having begun with same-sex partnerships have moved on to mandate same-sex marriage. The UK Government will push this process along, as is seen in the number of legal same-sex marriages of clergy in the Church of England, as pointed out in the GAFCON briefing paper.

Thirdly, approval of same-sex civil partnerships will render irreparable what the Windsor Report called the tear in the fabric of the Communion. At the recent meeting in Cairo, delegates representing twenty-five provinces and millions of Anglicans, restated the teaching of Lambeth I.10 in a Communiqué :

In this respect, the Church cannot condone same-sex unions as a form of behaviour acceptable to God. To do so would be tampering with the foundation of our faith once for all laid down by the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20-22; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Jude 3).

They go on to warn against the kind of false modus vivendi which they foresee coming in England:

Any pastoral provision by a church for a same-sex couple (such as a liturgy or a service to bless their sexual union) that obviates the need for repentance and a commitment to pursue a change of conduct enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, would contravene the orthodox and historic teaching of the Anglican Communion on marriage and sexuality.

In a separate statement, the Primates of these churches address the great loss that will be incurred if the Mother Church violates her own birthright.

The Church of England (COE) has a unique role in the life of the Communion, which means that decisions it makes on fundamental matters impact the Communion more deeply than those made elsewhere. This is because both of its historical role and the particular role of Archbishop of Canterbury as first among equals amongst the Primates. We are deeply concerned that there appears to be a potential move towards the acceptance of blessing of same-sex union by COE. This would have serious implications for us should it occur.

I do not know how the Global South churches could be clearer. They do not want to break communion with the Church of England, as they have done with the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada. But they fear she is going the same way as the North Americans.

Let me end on a personal note of warning. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church fifty years ago this month, as a university student – I guess that makes me a born-again Anglican. I have been ordained for forty-five years. I have lived in the United States, England, and Uganda and have been inspired by the witness of Thomas Cranmer, George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, John Stott, the Uganda martyrs and Janani Luwum among others. I am convinced that the loss of the Church of England would be an incalculable blow to her heirs around the world.

The Mother Church seems poised at the edge of the Rubicon, represented by Lambeth Resolution I.10. For the sake of our Lord and his church, do not cross over.

Church of England Bishop Blasts GAFCON — UK Statement

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

REFORM set to form Inter Church Trusts

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
A statement put out by GAFCON-UK upholding Lambeth resolution 1: 10 has been met with hateful rebuff by the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Roderick Holtam, who described the GAFCON statement as “outrageous”.

In a letter to the Church Times, the liberal bishop cited Luke 11: 44, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” The bishop then went on to say that when Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness,” roared the bishop. “There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”

The bishop moaned ‘love your enemies’. “GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.”

“Do as you would be done by,” lamented the bishop. “Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.

“For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.”

As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people, said Holtam.

Then the bishop launched into attack mode, “Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.”

The bishop’s enlightened outrage needs to be examined a little more closely for its theological inaccuracies.

Jesus did name some of his enemies. He called “Herod that fox” and he called the Pharisees a “generation of vipers”. While not naming them by name, most folk listening would have known who they were. The Apostle Paul also named those who taught erroneous nonsense and he included Alexander, Hymenaeus, Jannes, Jambres and Philetus whom he turned over to a reprobate mind. Of Alexander and Hymenaeus, Paul delivered them specifically over to Satan. He named them and damned them. Hardly politically correct by today’s standards.

The bishop further cited “inaccuracies” in the GAFCON statement. There are some minor errors created by the passage of time and they are now being corrected, but that that does not change the sum and substance of what GAFCON is and stands for.

Gay Pride Parade days bring out the worst in the gay community. Those who publicly flaunt their sexuality often in leather and bondage gear alongside drag queens and the like do not speak for a lot of homosexuals who hold professional jobs and would not be seen dead at these parades. (My wife and I live next door to homosexual couples and they are embarrassed by such public displays of homoerotic behavior.) The most outre pro homosexual bishops in TEC like the Bishop of San Francisco, Marc Andrus, can be seen sitting in convertible late model cars blessing all and sundry. It is an abuse of ecclesiastical authority and an offence to orthodox Episcopalians.

The bishop says we need to love our enemies. Of course we do, whoever said we didn’t. But to love someone means also to speak the truth “in love” because the consequences of not doing so can be eternal. As one blogger observed, “Both Jesus and Paul spoke out strongly against blind leaders of the blind who were leading people into a ditch – such as here.” Indeed.

The bishop argues that the church has yet to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised.

This is flat out wrong. The GAFCON bishops and archbishops came to a common mind with the birth of the Jerusalem Declaration. Here is just one very declarative paragraph:

The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement. Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life. It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship.

For the record, the vast majority of Anglicans in the world believe this. The views of bishops like Holtam are a minority of Western pansexualists and pro-homosexual bishops. Furthermore, when the Primates met in in January in Canterbury, they censured TEC and said it should not represent Anglicans ecumenically, which was promptly abandoned when three months later in Nairobi, Kenya, The Anglican Churches of Nigeria and Kenya announced it would boycott the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Zambia over the participation of the Episcopal Church. The sanctions were explicit in saying the Episcopal Church cannot represent the communion or vote on doctrine and polity.

This happened again when Archbishop Justin Welby invited PB Michael Curry to Rome to meet with the Pope earlier this year!

The bishop concludes by saying that “God made LGBT people.” Rubbish. There is not a shred of evidence He has made anything of the sort. Real science has “outed” the born-gay hoax.

In twin studies, the “concordance” answers the simple question, “Where one twin of an identical pair is homosexual, what percentage of co-twins is also homosexual?” The concordance of the twin pairs is a measure of the level of influence of biological factors (generally assumed to be the genetic influence) on whatever trait is being studied, in this case, homosexuality. If homosexuals are born gay, then whenever one twin of an identical pair is homosexual, the co-twin will also be homosexual, giving a concordance value of ~ 100%, indicating a very strong, determinant genetic influence. A concordance value of ~ 20%-30%, on the other hand, would indicate a weak, non-determinant influence of genetics, writes James Aist of Rethinking Theology blog.

Other pertinent observations from published scientific literature are:

Homosexuality is much more fluid than is heterosexuality, as 50% of homosexuals become heterosexual, but only 1.9% of heterosexuals become homosexual;

One study reported that 63% of lesbians and 50% of gay men, from age 18 to age 26, changed sexual orientation at least once;

Because of the higher levels of sexual orientation fluidity among homosexuals, at any given time there are more ex-gays than actual gays in the general population;

All of these reported changes in sexual orientation were spontaneous.

Finally, the Bishop of Salisbury professes outrageous indignation at GAFCON’s actions. Perhaps his indignation is an attempt to direct attention away from his own efforts to sanctify same sex relationships in the church, relationships which Scripture universally condemns as sinful? The bishop is trying to take the moral high ground, when what he is doing is trying to overturn the Word of God and 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching. That is the height of hubris and hypocrisy.

INTER CHURCH TRUSTS

REFORM has recommended that all of their churches form local trusts to manage their finances, withdrawing from most of the customary financial exchanges which currently exist in the Church of England between a parish and its diocese. The diocese currently pays the clergy, and the parishes send money to the diocese to pay for this as part of the diocesan budget.

In an inter church trust, Evangelical parishes will support one another financially, and promote gospel ministry, rather than send money to the diocese to be spent as the diocese chooses.

The extent to which a parish commits itself to the trust can vary, but the principle is that Evangelical churches should no longer fund activities which far from promoting the gospel, actually undermine it.

Perhaps because of what REFORM has seen happen in the Episcopal Church over the Denis Canon and property ownership, they have recommended their churches form inter church trusts. Are they doing this in the light of the gathering revisionism and possible breakup of the Church of England?

Time will tell. But one thing is certain, the trajectory the Church of England is on is exactly what we have witnessed in The Episcopal Church, USA. A fool would think otherwise.

END

Semper Reformanda

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Who doesn’t love a good Latin phrase, especially when it can be bandied about in support of the spirit of the age?

Semper Reformanda. Always Reforming.

When the church changes its mind—or a professor or pastor or professional blogger demands that the church changes its mind—on, say, the definition of marriage or the nature of sexual sin, we can rest assured that, however much some traditionalists may object to the change, the church is courageously embodying the legacy of the Reformers and their insistence that the church should be always reforming. The Spirit reveals new truths for a new day. The body of Christ learns to set aside encrusted orthodoxy. The risen Jesus teaches his people what they had never seen before. That’s what semper reformanda is all about, right?

Not exactly.

While it’s true that we all see through a glass dimly and must be open to changing our minds, the Latin phrase semper reformanda was not about change for the sake of change, let alone reforming the church’s confessions to keep up with the times. In an insightful chapter entitled “Reformed and Always Reforming” (Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey, p. 116-134), Mike Horton explains the origins of the oft-repeated phrase. The saying first appeared in 1674 in a devotional book by Jodocus van Lodenstein. As a key figure in the Dutch Second Reformation (Nadere Reformatie), van Lodenstein wanted to see the members of the Dutch church, which had seen its doctrine become Reformed during the Reformation, continue to pursue reformation in their lives and practices. His concern was personal piety, not doctrinal progressivism.

It is important to see the entirety of van Lodenstein’s phrase: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbi Dei (“the church is Reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God”). Notice three things about the saying.

First, it begins by addressing the church that is Reformed. Given van Lodenstein’s context in the Netherlands, we are right to capitalize Reformed. The saying was not generally about churches of the Reformation (though it has application for those churches too). Rather, van Lodenstein was addressing the Dutch church that had identified as confessionally Reformed, specifically in subscription to the Three Forms of Unity. In other words, far from encouraging doctrinal innovation, the original phrase presumes doctrinal stability. Whatever semper reformanda means, it cannot mean figure out your theological standards on the fly.

Second, the Latin verb reformanda is passive, which, as Horton points out, means the church is not “always reforming” but is “always being reformed.” The difference is consequential. The former sounds like change for the sake of change, while the latter suggests adhering to the proper standard. The passive construction also suggests that there is an external agent operating upon the church to bring about the necessary reform.

Which leads to the third and most important point: the church is always being reformed according to the Word of God. There is nothing Reformed or Reformational about changing the church’s theology and ethics to get on “the right side of history,” or to stay current with the insights of the social sciences, or even to prove that we love the least of these. The motto of the Reformation was not “Forward!” but “Backward!”—as in, “Back to the sources!” (ad fontes). As Horton puts it, the Reformers “wanted to recover something that had been lost, not to follow the winds of a rising modernity” (p. 123). If the church can never stand still, it is because it always needs re-orientation according to the Word that is over us (p. 125).

Semper reformanda is not about constant fluctuations, but about about firm foundations. It is about radical adherence to the Holy Scriptures, no matter the cost to ourselves, our traditions, or our own fallible sense of cultural relevance. If Christians want to change the church’s sexual ethics, so be it. But don’t claim the mantle of the Reformers in so doing. The only Reformation worth promoting and praying for is the one that gets us deeper into our Bibles, not farther away.

Stand your ground, hold fast, guard the good deposit. And be open to change whenever we drift from the truth or fail to grow up in it as we should.

It Happened to George Washington’s Church

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
 
The Falls Church Anglican–A Story of Gospel Awakening

By J.B. SIMMONS
THE GOSPEL COALITION
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/
Stories about losing rarely reach the front page, but our countercultural faith is different. We believe to live is Christ and to die is gain. Daily news of victories–in sports, in politics–obscures this truth. That’s why we need more stories of gaining through loss. Such stories are bound to continue for the faithful in today’s America.

The Falls Church Anglican has lived through such a story. In 2012, this historic church in Northern Virginia took a stand for their faith and lost everything to the Episcopal Church. After crushing defeats in the courts, the church moved out of the property George Washington had graced centuries before. They walked away from their colonial building and history. They left the soaring sanctuary they built, one that had hosted hundreds (if not thousands) of weddings and baptisms. They left the prayer books, the sound equipment, and the $2.8 million in cash that members had donated to church accounts specifically designated not to go to the Episcopal Church.

Everything exterior about the church had to change–the worship space, the offices, the website, even the name. Now there was the The Falls Church Episcopal at the historic property, and The Falls Church Anglican without a place to call its own.

But the church didn’t fade. They’d simply been pruned of material things. They were ready to grow and thrive as never before, planting new churches and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. God had long prepared The Falls Church Anglican for this journey.

Renewal and Conflict

Why is he preaching about Jesus so much?

That was the question on many long-timers’ minds in 1979. It wasn’t that those at The Falls Church didn’t care about faith, but focusing too much on Jesus could make people uncomfortable. The Episcopal Church was supposed to be comfortable. And The Falls Church, in particular, was a stately place with dignified members. It was uncouth to be fired up for Christ.

None of these concerns altered the focus of John Yates, the new rector in 1979. He had a vision for gospel renewal.

This was far from easy, but the focus on Jesus brought change. The congregation doubled in size, then doubled again. By 1984, just five years after Yates had arrived, an article in Christianity Today praised the emerging vitality of The Falls Church, while offering a fateful warning that “changes are taking place that could alter the course of the entire denomination.”

And so they did. As the Episcopal Church moved away from orthodox faith in the following decades, tensions simmered and eventually boiled over. In December 2006, 90 percent of The Falls Church voted to leave the Episcopal denomination.

Yates and an Episcopal bishop in Virginia had nearly reached agreement for a peaceable separation. The week before the vote, however, the Virginia bishop met with Yates and essentially informed him: “Everything is off. There’s a new sheriff in town.”

The newly elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had led the denomination to adopt a sudden and unprecedented rule that no breakaway groups would be allowed to purchase their church property. She refused to make settlements that might encourage religious bodies to challenge the Episcopal Church. She admitted her policy would allow the buildings to be used as saloons, or for Muslim worship–just not by fellow Anglicans. It didn’t matter how much they offered to pay.

Years of painful litigation ensued. The Falls Church ultimately lost its case when the U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal. The historic congregation had to move out of the building that America’s first president commissioned before the Episcopal Church even existed.

Loss for Christ

You can tell a lot about people by how they respond to adversity. This is as true for groups as for individuals. Consider the Israelites of Moses’s time when they left Egypt. They lost their homes. They trekked through the desert, hungry and grumbling. They fashioned a golden calf to worship instead of God. So he punished that generation by making them wander for 40 years; indeed, only two of those who’d left Egypt made it into the Promised Land. Even Moses got only a glimpse of it.

Consider also the apostles. When they lost their leader, they were confused and afraid. They hid. It wasn’t until Jesus returned, and until they received the Holy Spirit, that they were ready to spread good news.

Now consider the congregation at The Falls Church. Would they grumble and face God’s punishment like the Israelites did? Or would they shrink back and hide like those early apostles did?

They did something entirely different. The Falls Church worshiped, and they planted new churches. Pruned of typical comforts, the congregation forged into the unknown with deeper trust in the Lord.

The Anglican bishop John Guernsey explained it beautifully at a 2012 conference:

When the crisis hit the Episcopal Church in 2003, The Falls Church responded by planting a church among the poor in Washington, D.C. When The Falls Church left the Episcopal Church in 2006 and was sued, they responded by . . . planting another church. Millions of dollars were drained away in litigation before they received a first-round victory in court. Their response . . . was to plant two more churches. Then the positive ruling was reversed on appeal and they were sent back for another trial. They responded by planting another church. This time they lost at trial and they were forced out of their buildings this spring. Their response–you guessed it–has been to prepare to plant another church this summer.

After sending out clergy and parishioners to plant six churches, The Falls Church has grown by over a third in nine years, and the combined average Sunday attendance of The Falls Church and these six church plants is more than double what The Falls Church’s was in 2003.

The Falls Church Anglican has now purchased a new property on a busy highway leading into Washington, D.C. Designs are underway for a sanctuary within the next two years. Many in the congregation look forward to bringing the gospel to a new neighborhood. They’ve taken to heart that biblical faith faces persecution but promises eternal reward, as it always has.

Times of cultural drift and opposition call for renewal and awakening. They call for powerful stories of God’s sovereign work. This is one of those stories. This is the awakening of Washington’s church.*