Skip to comments.What we should do (Anglicanism)
Posted on 03/06/2006 6:17:03 PM PST by sionnsar
What unites us is plain. We are members of the Anglican Church who are increasingly disturbed by its current plight. An appreciable number of its leaders are guilty of multiple unfaithfulness. Doctrinal truth and ethical standards which are plainly taught by scripture, and which the Church has accepted from the beginning, are now being challenged and even summarily rejected.
So what should we do? Broadly speaking, we have three options. The first is to get out (the way of secession). The second is to give in (the way of compromise). The third option is to stay in, while refusing to give in (the way of witness). Let's consider these separately.
The first option is to get out. There are faithful men and women in the Anglican Church who say: "To stay in an unfaithful church like ours would be an intolerable compromise. In order to retain our Christian integrity, we have no alternative but to drop out." Now we should not altogether dismiss this as a possible option. If the Church were to deny one of the central truths of the creed, like the incarnation, the atonement or the resurrection, it would cease to be a church. It would be apostate. Then we would be obliged to leave it. But thank God that lamentable situation has not arrived. The time to leave has not come.
What secessionists tend to forget is that the New Testament lays more emphasis on fellowship than on separation; and that separation, or secession, is demanded only in extreme situations. Thus the apostle Paul pronounces an "anathema" on any teacher who denies the gospel of free grace (Galatians 1:6), and the apostle John calls "antichrist" anyone who denies the divine-human person of Jesus (I John 2:18). The 16th century reformers were themselves very reluctant schismatics. They dreamed of a catholicism reformed according to the word of God. They regarded schism as a sin, and did not leave of their own accord or with relish. It is the false teachers who should secede (I John 2:19), not the true teachers.
Besides, to develop a pragmatic argument, the large secessions of Methodists in the 18th century, and of the Reformed Episcopalians in the 19th century, left the church weaker, not stronger. If they had stayed, would not our evangelical testimony in the Anglican Church be much more effective today? So then, as long as we can do so with a good and a clear conscience, I think we should stay, not leave.
If the first option is to get out, the second is not only to stay in but to give in. I am now thinking of Anglicans who are determined to stay in the Church at all costs, even at the cost of betraying the gospel. They prefer to swim with the stream or "go with the flow". They are exhibiting the spirit of the age, and not least, the spirit of post-modernism. For according to post-modernism, there is no such thing as an objective and universal truth: there is only a multiplicity of time and culture-conditioned truths.
But our Lord Jesus and His apostles were of a different mind. They call us to defend and proclaim the truth, and to recognize and oppose false teachers. We are to have the courage to "fight the good fight of the faith". We are not to be like reeds shaken by the wind, but like rocks in a mountain torrent.
The third option is to stay in, while refusing to give in. Frankly, it is the most painful of the three options, and it causes us considerable misery. The other two options are psychologically easier because they break the tension. If we either get out or give in the tension ceases. But if we stay in while refusing to give in, we find ourselves walking a tightrope, and living in a permanent and painful state of tension. But we are called to this.
Here then are the three options. Secession is to pursue truth at the expense of unity. Compromise is to pursue unity at the expense of truth. Witness is to pursue truth and unity simultaneously. This seems to be the biblical way. We are to "maintain the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
Supposing we agree with this, that we are called to stay in without giving in, what would this involve? I would like to make six suggestions. Firstly, we must be patient. Church history has been defined as the story of the patience of God. Certainly He is the God of history; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses and the prophets; the God of Jesus, the apostles, and the post-apostolic Church.
Moreover, God has been extraordinarily patient with his wayward Church. He is also at work, and sovereign. He will not allow error to triumph. As Paul wrote, "We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth" (II Corinthians 13:18).
Secondly, we must judge the Church by its official formularies and not by the wild utterances of a few idiosyncratic leaders. The Anglican Communion continues to look to the Prayer Book and Articles as its foundation documents, even where subscription to them has been relaxed. We refuse to contradict our inheritance. History declares the Anglican Church to be biblical, reformed, and evangelical, so that we may rightly claim to be its authentic proponents.
Thirdly, we must adopt the strategy of the apostle Paul. False teachers were invading, disturbing and corrupting the churches in his day. What did he do in this situation? His solution to the problem was neither secession nor compromise. Instead, when false teachers increase, Paul took steps to multiply the number of true teachers who would be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it. This was his teaching to Titus (Titus 1:9).
Fourthly, we must distinguish between primary and secondary issues, between what is central and what is circumferential. We can then determine what the vital issues are on which we have to protest and fight, while at the same time giving one another liberty in some areas in which scripture is not altogether clear. This could be called a "principled" comprehensiveness. Dr Alec Vidler stated the matter well: "In these latter days the conception of Anglican comprehensiveness has been taken to mean that it is the glory of the Church of England [i.e. Anglicanism] to hold together in juxtaposition as many varieties of Christian faith and practice as are willing to agree to differ, so that the church is regarded as a sort of league of religions... The true principle of comprehension is that a church ought to hold the fundamentals of the faith, and at the same time allow for differences of opinion and interpretation in secondary matters, especially rites and ceremonies" (Essays in Liberality).
Fifthly, we must encourage more faithful scholarship. In the early centuries the church fathers not only outlived and out-loved but out-thought their opponents. By contrast, in our own day, many evangelical people despise and reject scholarship. It is an extremely serious situation. I do not hesitate to say that anti-intellectualism and the fullness of the Holy Spirit are mutually incompatible. Since the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of truth" as Jesus called Him, wherever he is in control truth matters.
Sixthly and lastly, we must embody our message. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (1:27). It is not enough for us to defend and proclaim the faith; we have to live and express it. We lack all credibility when people perceive a dichotomy between what we say and what we are. John Poulton, at one time adviser on evangelism to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his book called A Today Sort of Evangelism (Lutterworth 1972) wrote, "The most effective evangelism comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message... Christians need to look like what they are talking about... What communicates now is basically personal authenticity." So, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must develop both Christian lives and Christian churches in which Christ is made visible again.
Two of the options we have considered (to get out or give in) are ultimately defeatist, whereas to stay in while refusing to give in seems to me to be the way of courage. We need again to hear God's Word to his people: Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
--John Stott is a priest in the Church of England, and is one of the most popular and prolific Anglican writers of his generation. He is also a popular speaker, well known throughout the Anglican Communion, and the ecumenical community.
Hasn't John Stott gone astray over the his support of soul annihilation? (Those who die with trusting in Jesus Christ will suffer soul destruction after the Great White Throne i.e. no eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire)
Besides, his suggestions of not separating for the time being contradict the Bible teaches on the balance. This page refutes such ideas:
NUTS! To stay in IS to give in - there is NO third option. To claim that anyone can stay in the ECUSA without giving in to the heresy is engaging in doublespeak. What this is really all about is a desperate attempt to keep the orthodox in the pews & the parishes in the Diocese in hopes that that passage of time & the constant exposure to wickedness & sin will desensitize these people to the violence that is being done to the faith, the church, & their own souls. It's very much like the kids that are exposed to increasingly graphic & savage violence through TV, movies & video games. Or, the person who exposes themselves to increasingly perverse pornography. Eventually, nothing is too violent - nothing is too perverse - nothing shocks - it all becomes too familiar & is eventually regarded as "normal."
No one should be fooled by such preposterous proposals as "staying in, but not giving in." It's is a concept born of mischief & lies.
God help us all, I think he's right. It's just like raising teenagers-- you just hang in there and suffer through it. Sheesh. This IS the hard way, the narrow path.
One of his more interesting statements was that G_D was letting the church disintegrate only to be reborn - as a remnant- since as a whole - the church had failed to provide as intended.
I've quoted him before.
"Even if one should give away all his possessions in the world, and yet be in communion with heresy, he cannot be a friend of God, but is rather an enemy." +Theodore the Studite
I went and read a little on him-- sounds like the big issue in his day was between people who thought icons were ok and people who thought they violated the commandment on graven images. Hmmmm. Yup, that's worth breaking communion over. NOT. (Although I know it's been done, over and over again.)
You don't think iconoclasm was a great and soul destroying heresy? OK. Here's what +Maximos the Confessor said about the heretical Patriarch of Constantinople when the latter espoused, along with the Emperor, the Monothelite heresy:
"Even if the whole universe holds communion with the patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching."
or this from the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople canon 15:
"But as for those who...severe themselves from communion with their president, that is, because he publicly preaches heresy and with bared head teaches it in the Church, such persons are not only not subject to canonical penalty..., but are worthy of due honor among the Orthodox. For not bishops, but false bishops and false teachers have they condemned, and they have not fragmented the Church's unity with schism, but from schisms and divisions have they earnestly sought to deliver the Church."
In order to be pleasing to God, the only solution is to do as he has commanded in His Word. A good first step would be to break any affiliation with any church that was founded by men.
I generally like Stott a lot but think he is wrong on this. The problem is that Stott views the revisionists as people who eventually can be re-converted to Christianity by "witness." The fact is that they are non-Christian parasites living off the Body of Christ. Not only do they compromise the Gospel, but they suck the energy and money out of Christians. How can you witness for Christ if you spend all your time having to defend against heresy in your "own" church?
You have two options with a parasite: you kill it or starve it to death. At this point you cannot get them out so you have to starve them to death. Which means cutting off all support to the structures that feed them, whether financial, moral or membership.
If people remain inside, they can preach all they want but no one will pay attention, they will simply be tolerated so long as they continue to support the structure.
All the orthodox Christians pulling out of ECUSA and the other corrupted denominations will cause the structure to collapse, wither and die.
" The problem is that Stott views the revisionists as people who eventually can be re-converted to Christianity by "witness."
You know, there's really very little "new" when it comes to heresy and heretics...or in how to deal with them.
"By "Contentions", he means, with heretics, in which he would not have us labor to no purpose, where nothing is to be gained, for they end in nothing. For when a man is perverted and predetermined not to change his mind, whatever may happen, why shouldest thou labor in vain, sowing upon a rock, when thou shouldest spend thy honorable toil upon thy own people, in discoursing with them upon almsgiving and every other virtue?
How then does he elsewhere say, "If God peradventure will give them repentance" (2 Tim. ii.25); but here, "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself"? In the former passage he speaks of the correction of those of whom he had hope, and who had simply made opposition. But when he is known and manifest to all, why dost thou contend in vain? why dost thou beat the air? What means, "being condemned of himself"? Because he cannot say that no one has told him, no one admonished him; since therefore after admonition he continues the same, he is self-condemned. +John Chrysostomos, Homily 6 on Titus
You're both absolutely "spot on" in your comments - unfortunately it is nearly impossible to reason with people who are so spiritually & theologically bereft. I've come to the conclusion that the folks who remain in the ECUSA can be likened to the alcoholic or drug addict...you can offer them all the help & sound advice that will free them from their bondage, but it's to no avail unless & until they hit rock bottom & decide to help themselves.
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