Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Post-GAFCON at All Souls, 6: ABp Peter Jensen

GAFCON and England, summary notes by John Richardson

What would you do? What we have spoken about is not theory for some people. What would I do?

Take the example of David Short in Canada when it became clear what the Bishop would do. What would you do? Would you stand or comply? It is not as easy as it may sound.

You may say to yourself, ‘Perhaps I have not read the Bible properly on human sexuality.’ Or, ‘Perhaps this is not a first order issue of the gospel, we can still preach Christ as Lord.’ Or you could say, ‘The evangelical tactic is parish ministry. Why drag my parish into a fight we cannot win which will sap our money and energy instead of winning people for the Lord?’

They are all powerful reasons not to march out with David Short and Jim Packer. Better perhaps to keep our heads down and get on with work in our parishes. As Packer, Short and others left, you knew they would be attacked, they would have the culture against them and they would have the church against them.

They moved out. They have been in contention for five years — you will have stayed in your parish and got on with ministry, wondering if the Bible is clear.

First, brothers and sisters, the Bible is clear and the Liberals know it is clear.

Secondly, this is crucial. Sexual immorality leads you outside the kingdom of God, just as does greed. It is not a second-order issue.

Thirdly, if you continue in fellowship you are endorsing the lie and are complicit in it.

Fourthly, persecution and vilification is part of the gospel.

Why has this become the trigger? Is it because we are obsessed with sex?

Yes. We are and our community is. We have worshipped sex as an idol and we take our identity from our sexual natures.

It has become the touchstone because this is the nature of the world we live in, and this is, in itself, a tremendous symbol which enacts revisionist theology.

Things may chug along for a number of years, but in the end you yourself have to make a statement. You become involved. The blessing of same-sex unions is the enactment of a whole theological system.

In Nairobi 16 men sat in a room planning GAFCON. We agreed it would happen, but asked what it would be about. The answer was that we must be clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a transforming gospel, which does not leave you where you are — which is what Liberalism does in simply affirming you. The testimony matters. We want to hear you are committed to the path of light and repentance.

The Africans look at us and say, ‘You say you have the gospel, but what is the evidence that you have the gospel?’

If we go this way, the Times, Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail will be against us. We could choose a different issue. But the choice is not ours. This is the choice that has been landed on your plate. If you will not stand on this issue you will never stand. You may have preferred to do it on the Trinity, but this is what incarnates the theology that lies behind the action.

We would not have chosen to fight on this ground, but that is often the way.

This may not be where you are up to yet in England, but you do not live in a time of peace.

Discerning the times: a revisionist trajectory has been clear for some time, including on sexuality. In 1998 there was a terrific battle at the Lambeth Conference. The crucial year, though, is 2003 when the revisionists put a new fact on the table. The Americans took a risk, but it was a tremendous strategic blunder which has woken the sleeping giant of evangelicalism and orthodoxy.

What is the revisionist strategy? It is to buy time. Thirty years ago we were all clear about chastity before and outside marriage. If you now declare that teaching, you are treated as a complete idiot. The revisionists think the Africans are just twenty or thirty years behind us, thanks to the communications revolution. The people in Africa will catch up and that is why it is vital to keep delaying.

The revisionists will concentrate on theological education and hermeneutics. If they can be influenced here, they will catch up with the rest of us. The revisionist strategy is to wait for people to catch up.

That strategy will work. Who would have thought we would get to where we are on divorce and remarriage or on fornication? The strategy will work unless we act.

So, we must be patient. It has been right to listen, to negotiate, not to react too suddenly. Love is right also, but five years is a long time when you are a parish or rector under pressure.

Secondly, pastoring: we have to take care of those Christians who are caught in dioceses, parishes and churches who are faithful but find themselves caught in revisionist situations. If we do not care for them, who will? What is David Short to do? What are we to do for him?

I would rather not be involved in GAFCON. I have a big job to do at home. But I cannot sit still and watch faithful Anglican Christians suffer and remain silent [applause].

The second fact on the table, following 2003, is crossing boundaries. People will do this. It is not always welcome. It should only be done in emergencies. But we now have to regard the gospel as more sacred than human boundaries. That is irreversible, and nothing that happens at Lambeth is going to stop it.

The third element of our strategy is principled action. We need principled care.

So far, the crossing of the boundaries has been disorganised, depending on people prepared to do it. It has taken courage from Greg Venables, who has suffered abuse and rejection. He has acted for the gospel. What GAFCON represents is that there will be principled care. None of the instruments of the communion has been able to help David Short and Jim Packer. GAFCON is a very Anglican answer — a new set of instruments of unity! They were not ‘self-appointed’, they were God-appointed, from looking at the Word of God and seeing what they needed to do.

They are Primates — very senior leaders of our denomination, with huge responsibilities in their own churches. They don’t need to do it, but they are prepared to do it for Western Christians who have lost the plot. Thank you to the Primates [applause].

GAFCON will help in emergency cases, not trivial cases.

This is also about the preservation of the gospel — and the Africans and Asians will come under this same pressure through Western theological education. GAFCON is going to say no to this educational agenda for the promotion and protection of the gospel globally.

Order will be created out of the confusion that now exists.

The last two weeks have been two of the most extraordinary in my life. What we are dealing with here is not a split, but a movement possibly as significant as the Evangelical Revival, or even the Anglo-Catholic movement if you prefer, and it may bring Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics together [applause].

What about England? You are bounded by Ireland, Scotland and Wales — what about them?

You have to find English solutions to English problems. This is not a ‘Cargo Cult’ where the Americans are going to bring the solution.

First, England gave us the Bible and the gospel — thank you. We look to you, still! We look to you for leadership in obedience to the Bible and sacrifice for the gospel. If England can be what England was, what a power would be released in the world for the gospel.

Secondly, incumbents are the most important people in the church. Incumbents teach the church, you are crucial to the good health of the churches. Only more recently have we moved from this. Your theological education has to be first class — top class. I say this to you as an Archbishop. My job is to preach Christ in every situation in which he finds himself and to oversee recruitment, training and deployment of clergy. Being a bishop is an important and difficult job, but the local church is where the action is. Support your orthodox bishops, but the incumbent is doing the work of the gospel.

Thirdly, we will not get anywhere without laypeople, and we have not done enough to teach the about these issues. You are frightened to teach things that will bring about disunity. If you teach these things there will be a reaction. Your people are constantly being told the Christian view of sexual morality is wrong. If you don’t teach them, you will not succeed. Nothing terrifies more than an educated Protestant lay woman.

Fourthly, we must be theologically well-equipped. Evangelicals are spread around and can be very lonely. Get the Evangelical fellowships going. Become aware of the importance of the strength of the network.

Fifthly, evangelism must be the sharp point in fellowship with one another. English Evangelicalism is terribly divided. We cannot continue our tribal warfare [applause]. We need to advance, and it is the gospel and evangelism which will bring us together under godly focussed leadership.

You will find Evangelical brothers and sisters doing things you wish they wouldn’t before the coming pressure. But before you rush to judge — and to the website — put yourselves in their shoes. Remember, they are doing it to serve Christ. Rebuke them if necessary, but stand with them.

Remember, there is a global fellowship. GAFCON exists and is on your side. This giant doesn’t have to go to England and will support you, and is a means by which you can support others. We need mutual support within the Anglican communion and across it. This is the moment. England, don’t fail us.

Henry Orombi, Greg Venables, Jim Packer have all spoken about the situation. It is not for me to tell you what you must do here, apart from saying you must stand for the gospel and the Bible. We are looking to you. We need you to be strong and brave and true. We will help you. And together we will resist the forces of evil and secularism which seek to extinguish the gospel and are using the Church to do that. Stand firm.

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment