Saturday, February 05, 2005

Largely Delusional

"My conclusion is that the report is largely delusional."

Barry Newman makes this observation in his essay "A Layman’s View of the Windsor Report" in the Anglican Church League’s The Faith Once for All Delivered. I have been working my way through this hefty 152- page document. I have reached page 62. I have finished the analysis of the Windsor Report and have started on the essays.

It is evident from the analysis of the Windsor Report in The Faith Once for All Delivered that the report has serious biblical and theological flaws. Even though the Windsor Report calls for an expression of regret by the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of New Westminster for the actions that have taken and temporary halts to the consecration of practicing homosexuals as bishops and the blessing of relationships between members of the same gender, based upon the language of the Windsor Report and the thinking expressed in the report those who support these innovations had the last say. The Windsor Report does take the view that one liberal ECUSA bishop concluded from reading the report, that the Anglican Communion is in the process of reception in regards to the radical inclusion of homosexuals in the Church as it has been the women’s ordination. Those who adhere to the faith once delivered to the apostles are viewed as the "dissenters" and not the innovators. The report completely ignores fidelity to the apostolic faith as the basis for unity in the Anglican Communion.

The Windsor Report proposes a Communion covenant to which all of the primates of the Anglican Communion will asked to subscribe. In his essay "How would the Anglican Church of Australia Commit Itself to an Anglican Covenant" in The Faith Once for All Delivered Robert Tong draws attention to several major weaknesses of this idea:

"As drafted the covenant is objectionable to evangelicals. Its language and though forms are Catholic; many of its assertions cannot be properly grounded in Scripture; laity (who mostly pay the bills) continue to be excluded from decision making; loyalty is to structure and organizational unity rather than the apostolic faith and worst of all; Canterbury becomes papal.

Tong goes on to write:

"Given the synodical arrangements in Australia, generations may pass before a covenant text is approved."

He asks:

"If committing the ACA to the covenant is nigh impossible, or, if there is a commitment, it is uneven, what of the other 30 odd provinces of the Anglican Communion?"

The idea of a Communion covenant is a non-starter. The proposed covenant ignores the fact that evangelicals are the largest group in the Anglican Communion. Liberals and Anglo-Catholics are minority groups. What was the Lambeth Commission on Communion thinking when they included the draft covenant in the appendix to the Windsor Report? Did they realize that it would be unpalatable to the largest group in the Communion, the same group whose strong negative reactions to the theological and moral innovations of the ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster prompted the appointment of the Commission in the first place?

Do we really want to give papal authority to the Archbishop of Canterbury? The Archbishop of Canterbury is not chosen by the Anglican Communion. He is appointed by the English Prime Minister, the head of the political party that is in power at the time of his appointment. English politics and not the needs of the Church of England determine the final selection. It is possible in the not too distant future for a non-Christian to make the appointment. Under the provisions of the proposed covenant the Archbishop of Canterbury would decide all questions of interpretation of the covenant; his decision would be regarded as authoritative in the Anglican Communion. The danger here is that questions of interpretation of the covenant are likely to involves questions of interpretation of Scripture. Right now we have a liberal Archbishop of Canterbury who has expressed sympathy in his writings for homosexuals living in committed relationships and whose theological and biblical views cause a large number of people to shake their heads and to question his orthodoxy. He is a leader of the Affirming Catholic movement in the United Kingdom, a movement with which ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is associated here in the United States. He approved the appointment of Jeffrey Johns as Bishop of Reading although he later asked Johns to step down. Do we want Rowan Williams to have the final say in what Scripture and therefore the covenant means? Clearly the covenant is likely to be the cause of further division in the Anglican Communion.

Tong then draws attention to what the Bible prescribes as the most appropriate response to the innovations of the ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster:

"Exclusion from fellowship is the biblical response to those who depart from the apostolic faith. Some have taken that step (see pars. 28-30). Unfortunately the Windsor Report belittles those who have acted in defense of apostolic teaching."

He goes on to voice the frustration that many of us feel with Rowan Williams:

"If only Canterbury would act. He could declare, now, that Gene Robinson and his consecrators will not be invited to Lambeth. The bishop of New Westminster would be told likewise. Invitations to Lambeth are solely in the discretion of Canterbury. There is a precedent for exclusion. Fisher, in an unprincipled decision refused to invite Morris to Lambeth 1958. Archbishop Williams can rely on New Testament principles and practices. Biblical leadership of this character would immediately lift the morale of the Anglican Communion in its most populous provinces. It would be akin to George Carey’s leadership at Lambeth 1998 when he joined the debate and made a major speech, from the floor, in favour of Lambeth resolution 1.10."

I am not going to hold my breath, waiting for Rowan Williams to act. He has shown great reluctance to do anything. He claims that he does not have the authority to withdraw recognition of the ECUSA and the Diocese of Westminster as constituent members of the Anglican Communion as he has been urged to do. The truth is that he simply does not want to take this action. The likelihood that he goes down in history as the Archbishop of Canterbury who presided over the dissolution of the Anglican Communion is very strong.

So what do we do – those who believe in the apostolic faith and who find themselves in a church that no longer does and those like myself who have left the ECUSA but have not been able to find a new church home? Whatever we do, we must trust in God. In the present crisis we may wonder where he is and what he is doing. However, he is present and he is active. I spent a couple of hours this past Wednesday in a coffeehouse with a young Baptist seminary student, the worship pastor of the Baptist church with whose praise team I sing. We had gone to the coffeehouse to meet post-Christians. We both hope to establish friendships with post-Christians and eventually share the Gospel with them. In the ECUSA parish, which I left, we made to my knowledge only one convert to Christianity in the fifteen years that I was a member – one convert! Almost all of the parish’s growth came from births and the circulation of the saints. God has a purpose for calling us out of the ECUSA. We cannot fulfill the Great Commission in a church that no longer believes in Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way to God. We do not have to abandon our Anglican heritage. We can start networks of Bible-believing Christian fellowships in our communities and plant dynamic new churches in the Anglican tradition. We can pursue the lost, evangelize them, and make new disciples. We can minister to the last and the least. We can become the Spirit-empowered witnesses to our Lord and Savior that God meant us to be.

God the Holy Spirit, come in power and bring new life to the Church; renew us in love and service, and enable us to be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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