Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Post GAFCON at All Souls 3: ABp Greg Venables

Summary notes by John Richardson

Orthodoxy and Wider Connections

Greg is here with Sylvia his wife. 3 weeks ago she was taken in an ambulance for emergency treatment, in an ambulance with the number plate beginning GOD.

It is a great privilege to be here. It is not really a joy as the situation facing the Anglican Communion is so difficult. Like Sylvia’s hip, the Anglican Communion is out of joint, not right, hobbling along, saying ‘Just a little more and it will be alright.’

The time has come to say ‘No’, we cannot move forward until the joint is back in place.

This is not about structures, politics or even relationships. It is about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation and the eternal security of many, many, many people. We cannot give it another few months. People are going into eternity without hearing about Jesus. That would be wrong, and we cannot keep silent.

GAFCON did not have a pre-arranged agenda or statement. We met in Jerusalem as in Egypt, in an atmosphere of prayer, Bible study and worship to listen to God and to one another. The Jerusalem Statement came out of that — it seemed right to us and to the Holy Spirit.

We must remember Paul’s words about love — if we do not do this in love, it is not worth doing. Read Francis Schaeffer’s writings about what happened in the Presbyterian Church and the lack of love that occurred in that crisis.

Also, GAFCON is not a breaking away from the Communion — we are the Anglican Communion. Nor is it a seizing of power within the Communion. It is the exercise of legitimate authority within and for the sake of the Anglican Communion, to do what needs to be done, to be a rallying point where people can come together on the essentials and on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What has been happening already must be brought together into a structure so that there can be working in unity.

Why now? Why not take longer? An enormous amount of time has already been taken, going back to before Lambeth 1998. Primates’ and other meetings followed. Time and again things were said, to no avail. People either cannot hear or do not want to hear, but something had to be done now, in the name of the gospel and in the name of people haemorrhaging away from the Anglican church, especially in North America.

The doubt being cast on the gospel and the person of Jesus is not the result of modern knowledge, it is the result of what the serpent said to Eve in Eden: ‘Did God say?’ Eve took a ‘modern’ approach: ‘I am modern, I know better than my husband.’ Thank God for those who have taught us to stay faithful to the word of God.

The modern doubt did not begin with modernism and the search for the historical Jesus. It began when the same tempter came to Jesus in the wilderness saying, ‘If you are the Son of God.’ Either Jesus is the Son of God or he is not. If not, Christianity is a sham. CS Lewis: Jesus is mad, bad or God.

In recent times it is about a shift from a biblical paradigm to rationalism, not under the authority of God and his word. The shift was from an open universe, where God can intervene, to a closed universe, where we are subject to determinism and religion is a subjective event for you.

Also a shift from universe where truth and non-truth are opposed to one where truth and non-truth can be brought together to find a new truth. Synthesis is not the way God works.

When the Global South came together they read the word of God together from Galatians 1, ‘I am astonished you are deserting him ...’ This is not about inclusion but about walking away from the gospel. If you want to understand this, go to Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God written fifty years ago: the uninhibited character of American liberalism ... God’s character is one of pure benevolence, sin separates no-one from God, Christ is man’s saviour only as a perfect teacher and example, not divine, God only in the sense of God-conscious, no miracles, Christianity differs from other religions only as the ‘best and highest’, the Bible is not a divine record of revelation, doctrine is not the God-given word.

It was clear fifty years ago. We have been waiting a long time.

In the Communion process, Lambeth 1998 clear statement was rejected, ignored and ridiculed. No one said, ‘Let’s talk about this.’ There was no dialogue! The Primates met around the subject (including Maurice Sinclair here today). Sinclair and Gomez wrote Mending the Net — it was not discussed at Kanuga. There have been numerous Primates’ meeting, saying ‘Don’t do it.’ Griswold signed it because it contained the words ‘as a body’. Within hours New Westminster had moved to same-sex blessings and shortly after Gene Robinson was elected.

There has been constant stonewalling. The Windsor Report, Dromantine meeting, Tanzania meeting followed. Deadlines were drawn up, then we were told they were not deadlines. Lambeth Conference was set up and Primates were told there would not be another Primates meeting.

In the UK there seems to be either unawareness or denial: ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ Business is ‘as usual’. But it isn’t business as usual. Truth has been turned around, non-truth is presented, but redemption is not. You will not find redemption, even though the words are Christian.

So, steps have been taken. GV could not sit with brothers and sisters who wept and said they could not continue their ministry under these circumstances. Imagine allowing to happen to Jim Packer what was happening to him — how could you allow this?

We cannot ignore the disintegration of Anglicanism any longer.

But you [in England] are going to have to make decisions and think about how you are going to handle all this. You are not on your own. We will walk with you. Secondly, do not let whatever has to happen move you away from the major task of the Church which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do understand this. You personally have to live in a close place with God. Preach and teach from the Word of God.

Your circumstances in the UK are very difficult. You have to watch your language. I don’t know how you organize your services and preaching, but as Martin Lloyd Jones said, ‘You cannot preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in twenty minutes.’ You have to grapple with this. People have been taken over by another way of thinking. Their whole mind has been turned round. There has to be a return to solid Bible study and solid preaching of the Word of God.

As John Sentamu said, ‘In England you have forgotten where you came from.’ This country’s world role was because you sat under the Word of God. Prayer is also essential.

There will be more to say later.

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