November 23, 2016
Proclaiming Truth To A Post-truth Culture Would Be A Better Way Forward For the Anglican Church
Following the traumatic emotional experiences of all the delegates at the last Anglican Synod, Archbishop Kerr-Wilson suggested the Anglican Church of Canada needs to "find a better way forward". Let me propose that since the bishops are consecrated and charged with the unique responsibility to "...guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church." (BAS p. 637) a better way forward would be to take back this responsibility which they unwisely shared with Synod delegates. We are living in a very confused post-truth time when our House of Bishops badly needs to change direction from meekly pandering to special interest groups to avoid conflict; to boldly proclaiming God's grace, love, forgiveness and healing to all God's children. This will mean directly and publicly challenging the false teachers who many believe have been de-constructing the Christian Faith, clearly correcting the false teachings that have destroyed our unity and enforcing serious discipline on the clergy and bishops who are causing this disunity.
1. Challenging the false teachers who have been de-constructing Christian Faith
Same-sex marriage and blessing in the Church is dependent on accepting a completely different understanding of Christianity from that of the Bible. Historic Anglicanism believed in the authority of the Bible over tradition and reason. The Bible clearly and repeatedly condemns sexual activity between people of the same sex as an unholy abomination and rebellion against God's holiness and created order potentially leading to eternal separation from God. The Good News is that there is both spiritual healing and forgiveness through repentance, Confession and Absolution. Sadly a new vague alternative liberal theology of love is being taught in many Anglican churches which in effect challenges the authenticity of the Bible - questioning its divine inspiration, supernatural healing miracles, the sacrificial death of Jesus for the sins of the world and our human need for a saviour. This new alternative theology sees Jesus more as a good man and teacher of moral living rather than divine Saviour. The Biblical sin - redemption model of Christianity is considered out of date by many clergy who instead preach vague sermons about inclusiveness and love. These are in effect very unloving as they deny the hope and urgency of people seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The House of Bishops needs to re-affirm the authority of the Bible text in determining doctrine and issue clear guidelines on which parts of this new liberal / revisionist theology are acceptable and which are not.
2. Re-establish unity by challenging the post-truth culture instead of accommodating it
Pierre Burton wrote "The Comfortable Pew" in 1965 (I was there). It was a stinging rebuke of the leadership in Canadian churches for neglecting the radical, challenging and uncomfortable message of Biblical Christianity and instead proclaiming a vague comfortable form of Christianity that allowed the Bishops great social and political status - without the conflict of challenging the culture. Unfortunately the Anglican Church did not heed this warning and has continued down the road of political accommodation. Instead of proclaiming the un-politically correct truth of repentance, forgiveness and healing for the sexually confused; they affirm their behaviour to avoid criticism. They seem blind to the serious healing ministry of Jesus which is going on all around them in Canada and actually helping people confront their sexual challenges and receive real forgiveness and sometimes even physical and spiritual healing. The indecision and failure of our Bishops to actually lead has led to destructive conflict in parishes, disunity, loss of faith by thousands and a 40% decline in numbers. It is time to change direction and challenge the post-truth culture with the authentic truth of Christianity. A 2016 Canadian research study of 13 declining and 9 growing churches revealed that the Theological conservatism of both attendees and clergy "...emerged as important factors in church growth." ( "Theology Matters" / David Haskell et. all. Review of Religious Research Vol. 68 #4 December 2016)
3. Re-establish Episcopal discipline and unity
The Canadian bishops have a long and unfortunate history of disunity and indiscipline. I remember Primate Peers and Bishop Ingham returning from Lambeth in 1998 and denouncing the agreement of the worldwide communion of bishops to not move forward on same-sex blessing until there was unanimity. When Bishop Ingham then went ahead with same-sex blessings there were no consequences. The Anglican Primates in their Windsor Report had very delicately suggested that clergy and bishops who proceeded on same-sex blessings without approval should be invited to step out of leadership in the Anglican Church. Nothing happened until a few synods ago when some Canadian and U.S. bishops received a letter inviting them to withdraw from international Anglican bodies. There was a sudden new interest in serious dialogue. It is time for a little more truth and tough love in the House of Bishops.