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CHARLESTON, SC: Orthodox Theologian Says Anglican Communion Faces Judgement


By David W. Virtue

CHARLESTON, SC: (1/20/2006)--If the Archbishop of Canterbury and his 2008 Lambeth Design Team continues a "business-as-usual" Lambeth conference, with North American churches present, the Anglican Communion will incur the judgment of God and effectively put an end to the Communion as a serious, respected Christian body.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll, Episcopal theologian and Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Christian University, told more than 300 delegates to a "Mere Anglican" conference here, that changing the subject and "moving along," is no longer acceptable, and that what happened at Lambeth '98, which wrestled with central issues of human sexuality, cannot be glossed over.

"Lambeth 1998 wrestled with a central issue of Christian identity - human sexuality - and produced a clear Resolution, several provinces defied it, enacting contrary legislation and confirming a gay bishop, other provinces broke communion with the flouters, emergency meetings were called, a year-long study resulted in a 100-page report, warnings were issued, conventions held, statements of "regret" were parsed, clergy were defrocked and congregations walked away from cherished property and affiliates with overseas Provinces…and what did we get? An all expenses paid trip to Canterbury and a tea party with the Queen! And what did we get? "This is the way the communion ends, not with a bang but a cuppa."

"Anglican leaders, led by the Global South, spoke clearly and forcefully at Lambeth in resolution 1:10 on Human Sexuality, but they have not yet followed up by exercising discipline of those Provinces that have flouted the substance of the Resolution," said Noll.

"The Windsor Process, however compromised, did give time for the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada to ponder the consequences of their position and to repent; however they will not repent, the ECUSA is too deeply immersed in the gay-rights ethos to turn back corporately at this time."

"The Primates should carry out their threat and cut those these churches free to walk apart."

"The Anglican Communion is in crisis, possibly a terminal crisis. The exodus and exile are already underway. But along with exodus and exile may come a new Covenant and with it "hope and a future" for a new or renewed Communion. The initiative for such a Covenant and Communion must come from the younger churches of the Global South, who constitute the vital center of the Communion."

Noll said a new Anglican Covenant is greatly needed at the present moment. Such a Covenant can be traced back to the infancy of the Communion in 1886, with the so-called Lambeth Quadrilateral. The Quadrilateral is fundamentally theological: Scripture, Creeds, sacraments and episcopacy. The Articles of Religion were part of an Anglican Covenant before there was a Communion. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer intended the Articles to distinguish the English reformation over against the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and the radical Protestant sects on the other.

"Since the impending break-up of the Communion has to do with the rejection of Scripture by some of its members, any Anglican Covenant will need to provide a thorough affirmation of the primacy, unity, clarity and sufficiency of the Bible as the Word of God written."

Noll said the Church was at another historic moment when the Church must articulate its faith in the light of modern and postmodern developments both outside itself and within. "Because the rot of modernity has eaten its way into the infrastructure of Anglicanism, especially in the West, we cannot reconstruct authentic Anglican doctrine unless we go back to the sources, namely to the Thirty-None Articles and the Book of Common Prayer."

Noll believes the impetus for reform will come this time from the Global South. He said the recent South to South Encounter in Egypt saw Global South leaders identifying their churches with the creedal "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." He also cited the Anglican Church of Nigeria which amended its constitution to state that it would "be in communion with those who uphold the historic faith, as expressed in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Ordinal."

Noll said the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper should be understood within a theology of mission. "The English church evangelized the colonies and the Empire more by default than by plan, as Anglican mission societies operated on the fringes of the official church, and often with active interference from the Establishment. By the grace of God, Anglicanism has flourished, though at times the daughter churches have replicated the staid hierarchies of the Mother Church."

Noll urged Covenant drafters to expound on the missionary character of the Church.

"If the Anglican Communion can orient itself to our Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, perhaps it can also reorient its sacramental heritage to convey the eschatological presence of Christ with his Church."

Noll excoriated bishops who failed to see that Jesus Christ will return, suddenly and imminently, to judge the living and the dead, as a result they failed to see the consequences of disobedience. "What would be the attitude of bishops who fail to break fellowship with false "brother bishops" just to get along?"

Noll said he rode into the Episcopal Church on the wave of the charismatic renewal and he learned from those experiences that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of witness (martyria) and that we were compelled to follow Christ whatever the cost. "This same Spirit can be found among the global churches in China, Nigerian and the Sudan." A Global Anglican Covenant that wishes to recover its apostolic fullness will need to look not only for faithful administration of Gospel sacraments but for signs of the Spirit and power that accompany it, he said.

Noll said the work of the Lambeth Conference should be primarily theological and missiological.

"Sadly renewal from within the Episcopal Church is no longer possible, total reformation is the only way forward."


For the complete text of Dr. Noll's lecture to the Mere Anglican Conference in Charleston, SC click on the following link: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3514

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