Silent Anglicans

One year before WWI broke out, Winston Churchill wrote a memo: ‘Timetable of a Nightmare.’

It predicted details of the coming war. Churchill frequently warned of the danger his country faced – the majority of his fellow leaders merely complained about him. Sir Henry Jackson spoke for many when he wrote that he ‘did not like the style’ of Churchill’s writing. Churchill’s warnings of danger were ignored and instead his manner, style and motivations were impugned. Trying to prepare the military and nation to defend itself felt like wading through treacle with chains of iron around his neck – because free and open debate about the actual issues was precluded by those in a position to act.

A similar problem weighs upon evangelicals in the CofE today. Crisis looms on the horizon, but leaders, organisations and churches are frightened even to debate the issues impartially.

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One thought on “Silent Anglicans

  1. In my view fundamental disagreement in doctrine and practice among ordained ministers of the Church of England is whether or not we are all faced from birth onwards with the wrath and condemnation of God and born with nature inclined to evil. I believe that the Bible says that we are and that Article 9, supported by the homiles, truly summarises that terrible doctrine (although I think the wording of Article 9 needs revision). Amidst multiple desperate human needs the need to be delivered from the wrath and condemnation of God must be the supreme eternal need, relatively infinitely more important than all other needs, harrowing and important though those other needs are.
    As Warfield commented on Elijah’s experience in the cave,
    ‘….it is not the Law but the Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of love, which saves the world. Wrath may prepare for love; but wrath never did and never will save a soul.’
    But wrath may prepare for love. And a honest, faithful preaching of the gospel has to include that warning.
    I surmise (I know I can’t prove it) that this doctrine is preached, and possibly even believed, only by a minority of ordained Anglican ministers. As a result the doctrine of Original Sin (the overarching perspective which gives us a true and realistic understanding of the human condition in the sight of God and in the sight of one another) and the warning to flee to Christ from the wrath to come are taught and proclaimed and preached by only a minority of Anglican ministers, including the Archbishops and Bishops. If I am right the Church of England as a whole cannot say with Paul (he might have had in mind God’s appointment of Ezekiel as a watchman), ‘Wherefore I witness to you on this day that clean I am from the blood of all men; for I kept not back not to declare all the counsel of God to you’.
    The time has surely come when those who do believe and preach that doctrine should publicly challenge all ordained ministers, including Archbishops and Bishops, to declare whether they too believe it and are prepared to preach it. Such a challenge would emphasise the fact, given the unavoidable meaning (on any reasonable view of the meaning of the words used) of the Declaration of Assent and the Preface, that a person can only make that Declaration if they believe that doctrine and are committed to preach it. The view held by some that making the Declaration commits to the view that the Articles are just what the Church believed 400 years ago cannot be reasonably defended. Of course that challenge should be humble, courteous, done with repentance for the beams in our own eyes ( e.g. our failure to be content with food, clothing and shelter and give the money saved to those in desperate material need). Of course I realise it is easy for me to suggest this challenge – I am not dependent on the Church for my livelihood and I have not promised to be obedient to any Bishop in all things lawful and honest. But in Paul’s letter to the Galatians we have openly recorded for all to read the occasion when one Apostle who had met the risen and ascended Christ on the Damascus Road openly rebuked another Apostle on whom Jesus said he would build his Church. And of course such a challenge is high risk – it might prompt a move to revise the Articles or the Declaration of Assent away from Reformed convictions. I do think, however, that such a risk should be taken and such a challenge made before there is any move for ‘institutional differentiation’ as mooted by CEEC. The disagreement I have described is more fundamental and important than the Human Sexuality disagreement, important though that is.
    Obviously we are utterly dependent on the mercy, grace and love of God to send his breath from heaven to rebuke, reform and revive us all, for which we earnestly pray.

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