Saturday, 14 March 2009

Too late for Anglicanism?

Well, if there is one thing that Liberals and Traditionalists agree on in the Anglican Church, it is that we should ‘expel the immoral brother’. The trouble is, they disagree totally as to what qualifies as ‘immorality’.

Is it immoral for the Church of Nigeria to support the criminalizing of same-sex relationships (as used to be the case in all Western societies until very recently)? Or is it immoral for the Church in North America to sanctify those relationships (and at the same time to shift the boundaries of what may be believed doctrinally so as to threaten any connections with the church’s received faith)?

The truth is, it hardly matters any more as far as the Communion is concerned. St Paul’s warning has finally come true: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

The sad truth is that, even if the Church of Nigeria might need to hear a word of correction, Western Anglicanism is hardly in a position to deliver it. Why should anyone listen to a Church which scarcely has any theological coherence whatsoever? And similarly, how can the Western Church expect to be listened to by the Church in Nigerian, given that it is unwilling to listen itself to a rebuke from that quarter?

In any case, a brief flick through the usual suspects in the blogosphere suggests to me that the last thing anyone wants is for the ‘enemy’ to act out of character. How terrible it would be for us if the opposition failed to live down to the expectations we have of them!

One of the striking things that has been said about the possibility of a resurgence of violence in Northern Ireland is that there are some people who miss the bloodshed and the hatred. The same is surely now true of Anglicanism. There are too many people now who relish the fight.

Love your enemies? Do good to them that hate you? Bless them that curse you? Of course we will. Provided they are not Christian enemies, provided they are not brothers and sisters that hate us or whom we hate, provided they are not fellow Anglicans that curse us or that we still haven't got round to cursing. For them, there can be no mercy, nor forgiveness, only judgement and condemnation - and don’t we love to judge and condemn?

For of course, they deserve it!

Well, I truly believe Jesus has a word for us:

Remember the height from which you have fallen!
Repent and do the things you did at first.
If you do not repent,
I will come to you
and remove your lampstand from its place.

Revd John P Richardson

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  1. The funny thing is this John: it is very hard at the moment to find much in the conservative Anglican blogosphere which raises one iota of criticism of ++Peter Akinola's extraordinary burst of condemnation of gay and lesbian people.

    Even your own post finds a clever way not to dwell on criticism of him and the Nigerian Anglican church, but rather to criticise those calling for the expulsion of that church from the Communion.

    Conservative unwillingness to challenge ++Peter and the Nigerian church (which is, of course, quite different from calling for its expulsion) is being noticed ...

  2. Peter

    I wrote this late last night (early this morning) having only just had time to get the vaguest idea of what is going on re Nigeria.

    It struck me, however, that "Conservative unwillingness" is not merely being "noticed" but eagerly seized on in some quarters as another stick with which to beat the Christian opponent - and that by those who, it may be considered, have brought this very crisis on the Communion by dividing it in the first place.

    The mess we are in, however, does not consist of the 'good' (my side) and the 'bad' (theirs). What is called for is a healthy dose of repentance - by TEC, by us, yes probably by the Anglican Church in Nigeria. But still we rush to "tear and devour". It is destroying us.

    If there is anyone in the right, it will be the 'side' which is most aware of the God of judgement and wrath, and most aware of being under his wrath and judgement.

  3. PS to Peter

    If Nigerian brothers and sisters need rebuking - and I really am in no position to judge that at present - then I hope they are rebuked. I do not doubt that the situation is not being helped by finger pointing and taunts of "I see you're not rebuking them, then," which is precisely what has been happening.

    The difficulty is so deep - there is so much that needs rebuking (how much could be said about the sinfulness of suing brothers and sisters) - however, that I suspect it is simply too late and that this sorry episode in Church history is Anglicanism combined credit crunch and death knell.

  4. John,

    Putting your prophetic hat on, how do you think Anglicanism in the UK will look like in say~30 years time?

    Chris Bishop

  5. Hi John
    Yes, finger pointing does not help any Anglican at the moment.
    However that is not the only concern: people guilty of immorality may go to jail in Nigeria, guilty of no crime worthy of such punishment, and WITH the support of the Anglican church there.
    My 'word' to Nigeria is not 'you are rebuked' but 'please desist from this crusade against people made in the image of God'.
    It is difficult to find conservative Anglicans joining this plea. Why is that?

  6. Peter

    No doubt part of the answer is, "Because the Nigerians are their (our) friends, who have stood with us shoulder to shoulder in face of the dismantling of true doctrine and godliness in the West."

    Sorry to be so blunt about it. But where have the non-Conservatives been whilst this has been happening? You see, the root of bitterness has been allowed to run very deep. It will not be taken out easily.

  7. Hmmm, Jesus criticised people who judged their brothers, but it seems that some of his followers judge their brothers for not being judgemental enough.

    Where will it all end?