IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
The Anglican Communion throughout the world is facing grave difficulties as result of the actions of The Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). These actions are centring around the symptom of establishing homosexual actions as normal and acceptable within the Church membership (lay and clerical) despite the clear and irrefutable teachings of Holy Scripture and the clear and irrefutable direction of Lambeth 1998 and the Worldwide Primates in their meetings in 2003, including a special Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth in October 2003 brought about by this divisive issue.
The specific actions of Consecrating an openly active homosexual as Bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire and the institution of liturgies for the blessings of homosexual unions and performance of the same in the Diocese of New Westminster have caused divisions within ECUSA, ACC, and throughout the whole of the Anglican Communion. The actions are in contravention of the decisions of Lambeth and the Primates Meetings as well as in violation of Holy Scripture. Yet, it is seen that each side is branding the other side as being schismatic in its actions.
The revisionist liberal church sees those who continue to oppose the issues despite the receipt of favourable popular votes in conventions and synods as being divisive and schismatic. Such objection is decried as “destroying the unity of the Church” and such “unity” is held to be more important than the pure belief in, and acceptance of, the Divine Word of God.
On the other hand, the Orthodox Conservative Church sees the actions of these bodies and those implementing the decisions of these bodies as being divisive and schismatic because such was done despite the wishes of the Anglican Communion as a whole as shown in the Lambeth 1998 decisions and the Worldwide Primates together with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and the practice of the Church over the past 2000 years.
And it is evident that there will not be a meeting of the minds of the people in ECUSA and ACC as each side has stubbornly and unbendingly dug in defence of its position.
Further, the revisionist liberal church justifies its position as being one that is driven by their “right to sovereignty” within the Anglican Communion. And, of course, in the minds of these post-modernists, rights are more important than responsibilities to God and the body of Christ.
It is this position that allowed Archbishop Griswold to sign the Primates’ Statement opposing the homosexual issues and then return home and officiate at the Consecration of Vicki Gene Robinson. It is this attitude that allowed Archbishop Michael Peers, then Primate of the ACC, to be at the meetings in Lambeth where the Anglican Communion as a whole overruled his position on homosexuality and then return home and write an open apology to the homosexual community in Canada. He also signed the Primates’ Accords and then returned to Canada to “spin” them to his own ends and intentionally deceive the Canadian people as to their total contents. It is this understanding of provincial and diocesan right to “do as it pleases” that allowed Bishop Ingham to agree to the decision of the New Westminster Synod to go its own way on the homosexual issue despite the stance of the worldwide communion of the Anglican Church.
The argument often heard is that the Anglican Communion is more of a federation than a communion. The vision of the North American Church seems to be that, as a federation, each province within the Anglican Communion has its own autonomy and is therefore, able to make any alterations to its vision of faith and morals while still remaining a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
Those opposed to these actions will say that a communion implies agreement on the bases and detail of faith and morals. And, as such, no individual provincial member of the Communion has a right to change these bases without the concurrence of the full communion.
In order to properly analyze these attitudes, it is necessary to look into the definitions of the terms “communion” and “federation.”
According to Webster’s Dictionary:
In the case of the Anglican Communion it would seem that an appropriate understanding would be a body of Churches in communion concerning faith and morals but allowing the institution of localised liturgical, administrative, and government styles that would accommodate the local cultural situations.
The major act of oneness is based upon the faith relationship in Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures defined at the Anglican Reformation as being the Holy Inspired Word of God containing all things necessary to salvation and there being no teaching allowed that would contravene such Scriptures. The 39 Articles as they were received and understood at the Reformation together with the traditional Creeds of the Church further define this. Community of faith and trust. To alter any of these would be to define a new Church that could not remain as part of the Anglican Communion.
And the concept of “federation” does not do anything to help those who would like to retain the benefits of the Anglican Communion while “doing their own thing” outside of any responsibility to the rest of the Communion. While federation does allow a “limited residuary power” to remain within the units of the federation, it certainly does not provide such autonomy that would allow for changing the matters upon which the very federation is formed. Further, changes within a “federation” would only be based upon the “political” unities that brought the members together. In the case of the Anglican “Communion” the binding matters are those of faith and morals lived in Jesus Christ rather than political criteria.
Thus, neither the concept of “communion” nor the concept of “federation” provides any autonomous authority for unilaterally modifying the founding bases of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Faith is firmly established in the Holy Scriptures, the 39 Articles of Faith, and the Traditional Creeds (Nicene, Apostles, Athanasian). Thus, any independent modifications of this faith or its practice from theological or pastoral perspectives would be, in itself, a schismatic act. Only upon the agreement of the whole communion gathered in council could such modifications be conceivably acceptable. And even that would, in all probability, constitute the founding of a completely new body.
ECUSA and ACC would like to be able to brand anyone who does not accept their principles arrived at through popular vote as binding upon the whole Church and who would like to form an association that stands in rejection of and separation from those principles as being schismatic. Those who take such a stance are condemned as destroying the unity and dialogue of the Church.
Without getting into all the devious rationale used by the revisionist groups to justify their actions in radically changing the basic principles of faith, suffice it to say within this context, that it is they who are making the changes, not those opposing them, who are being schismatic.
When the revisionist liberal groups haughtily state that their stances must be right as they are the result of a “majority” vote at a decision making body such as convention or synod, it is necessary to point out that God never asked for a vote on His Law and His offer of Salvation in Jesus Christ. In fact, it is clearly remembered that those who “took the vote” in Moses’ time were the ones building and worshipping the golden calf!
It is clearly seen that those entering into schismatic acts and into schism itself are those who are turning their backs on God’s Holy Scriptures, the 39 Articles of Faith, and the traditional Creeds. It is they who are separating from the 200 year Faith of Jesus Christ in order to follow a faith of their own conception. Those who are standing firm in the Faith are those who are carrying on in the True Church.
Our age has been characterised by much questioning of the Christian Faith. This has occurred from within and without the Church as a whole. And the problem that arises within the Church is not one of the right to question and the right of individuals to come to conclusions that reject the elements of Faith within the Church. The problem is that those within the Church, especially those holding positions of power and authority, do not really have the commitment to their own convictions.
An honourable person who comes to convictions that would negate or contravene his/her stated faith or vows providing membership in a group would have the integrity to renounce his/her membership in that organisation. In the case of the Church, a layperson would find fulfillment outside of the church if his/her convictions were such that he/she could no longer affirm the faith of the Church. A clergyperson who has taken ordination vows would honourably renounce his/her vows if he/she could no longer hold to that which he/she had vowed at such an ordination.
So it should be with those whose concept of faith had altered to embrace things outside of the Church’s statement of faith. Such an individual should recognise that the only recourse is to leave the Church that is no longer acceptable as it is and start another body whose organisational statement could embrace that which is now held by that person.
Which brings us back to the problem in today’s age – many such people are not honourable and have no intention of doing the respectable thing!
Bishops write books refuting the basic claims of the Faith of the Church. They deny the necessity of Faith in such central criteria such as the Virgin Birth, the Miracles of Jesus, the Bodily Death and Resurrection of Jesus, etc. that are central to Christianity but they do not renounce their vows and leave their office. People gather in council and vote in things that are diametrically opposed to the stated Faith of the Church but do not have the honesty to say that such schismatic actions require their departure from the faith. These persons have generally evolved into positions of power and primacy.
Like the “failed shepherds” of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, etc. that bore the brunt of the Woes of Jesus, the corrupt nature of the pre-Reformation hierarchy in the Church of the day, etc., these modern day Pharisees are so taken with own positions and their own importance they cannot be honest enough to relinquish their positions. After all, without the titles of Bishop, Father, Doctor, etc. no one would be willing to listen to their sad heretical positions.
Doing the honourable thing does not enter the mind of these individuals as they are so enamoured with the “sin of Eve,” and so drunken by their personal vision of their own importance and authority that they are unable to see the fallacy of their situation. Their heretical leadership gives them a such a sense of importance and possibly even godliness that they are unable to humble themselves to the recognition of their errors. They are driven as persons possessed with the need to be “modern in thought” and “friends of the world” even to the rejection of Almighty God while still claiming to be His servants – and projecting the image and attitude that “God is lucky to have them.”
In actuality, the whole matter comes down to one of integrity.
The concept of the Anglican Communion being a “communion” does not justify the actions of the North American hierarchy within the Anglican Churches of ECUSA or ACC. Neither does the concept of “federation,” no matter what “spin” is put on it, open the doors to the schismatic acts as already undertaken in ECUSA and New Westminster, as well as being wonderfully orchestrated for the whole of the ACC by the current hierarchy now lead by the deceitful wiles of the Acting Primate, provide any valid way out for the liberal revisionists.
These power bases are bent and determined to undertake their schismatic acts and try to let their power and monetary control force the issue for them. But the thing they are going to have to understand is that theirs is the act of schism. There is no way to determine it as otherwise.
The faithful Church will remain alive and well and in communion with the true Anglican adherents. This will probably not end up as being ECUSA or ACC as we know them today. Rather the ECUSA or ACC of the future will be those who remain faithful to the Reformation Faith that returned the Church to the purity of its faith rooted in Jesus Christ, and as it is to be Reformed again through the agony of the current eruptions of evil that it is experiencing in the current post-modern age. The agitations of today will bring upon the cataclysmic revivals of tomorrow that will bring humanity back to the true vision of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Divinely Inspired Holy Word of God.
All that is necessary is for the faithful members of the Church to stand firm in their commitment to the founding bases of Anglicanism and defiantly ask the question with Peter and John, “Whom should we obey – you or God?”