FCA2009: Global Anglican Leaders Affirm Faith, Deny Schism
By David W. Virtue in London
July 6, 2009
In forceful, often strident language, three evangelical archbishops, two from the Global South, told 1,600 Anglicans attending the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) meeting that the conference is not schismatic, church dividing or a power play, and suggestions that they are, at best, misunderstandings and, at worst, political posturing.
"The FCA exists to keep Anglicanism united, enabling those whose spiritual existence as Anglicans is threatened to remain Anglicans with integrity. It exists to keep orthodox, biblical Anglicanism inside the fold at the highest level possible; to gather up the fragments, to unite them. It exists so that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and mere Anglicans can continue to be Anglicans without compromising Biblical truth," said Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen.
"The launch of the UK FCA is a great moment, a gospel moment. It appeals to all that is best in the Anglican tradition. It summons people from all over Britain and Ireland to join together in a spiritual movement for the sake of Christ and his gospel. It is a moment in which ordinary people can take responsibility for what happens in their church. It is a moment when you can say, enough is enough, we wish our church to express the Anglican faith because it is the biblical and gospel faith. It is a moment when you can say, what has happened in the USA and Canada will not happen here."
Jensen did concede that in this country, the Christian foundations have been shaken. "In this and the next generation there will be fought to what may amount to the last battle for the soul of the nation. It will be an ideological war, a war of ideas. But great issues will hang upon the outcome: the fate of a culture and the eternal fate of souls. Many look to you for guidance and resource and inspiration. Can we do so any longer? When we can seriously ask that question, something is deeply wrong. We are at a watershed, at a parting of the ways. Decisions have to be made." "With persuasive power, the culture of the West has adopted and promulgated anti-Christian belief and practice. It confronts every Christian with the choice of submission or harassment. It pretends to be the true heir of the Christian faith, that it now possesses all that was worthwhile of Christianity, and that the entire structure of Christian thought can disappear into the receding past.
"It tells you that its tolerance is the choicest part of your love, that its non-discrimination is the choicest part of your justice, that its individualism is the choicest part of your freedom and that its sexual athleticism is the choicest part of your marriage.
"In the British Isles, there is a laudable tendency not to panic, not to respond to overstatement, to seek balance and nuance, to see the other point of view, above all not to take decisive and irretrievable action. I know I am a foreigner, but I care deeply what happens here. Let me say this: It is not a day in which to practice the politics of drift. There is little time left. The younger generations are largely lost. Your great inheritance is about to pass into other, heedless hands. You can no longer treat the institutional church as though it is as unassailable as the temple of the Lord; you can no longer say 'peace, peace' where there is no peace. You need to unite with each other in a fellowship which will sustain and protect and do mission."
Jensen said the conflict is over the authority of Jesus Christ. "The fact that sexual ethics is where the contest is sharpest should not divert us from this basic truth. There are two areas in which special vigilance is called for if we wish to honour the authority of Christ in his church. The first is theological education by means of which the intellectual and spiritual lives of future leaders are shaped. The second is the area of hermeneutics. Those who hold that the Bible is the inspired word of God will see in it a unity which holds all things together. The gospel of the Jerusalem Declaration is the gospel of the Bible, the Prayer Book."
Echoing that theme, Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables said the majority of Anglicans believe that the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God and Savior.
"We view the situation locally and throughout the world as extremely serious and it is need of a clear response. Many in our denomination say you can't be sure of anything anymore. The Bible says that is just not true. There are many things of which we can and must be sure because God has spoken. God has the first word and God will have the last word.
"What FCA has specifically done is not to set up an alternative denomination or communion, nor setting up an alternative leadership. "It is not about another cockpit with another pilot. We have not divided the church that happened in 2003 within ECUSA who ignored the Anglican Communion."
Venables said we affirm the central truth of the Christian Faith as received. "We have raised the standard in Lambeth '98 and at successive primates meetings and again at Jerusalem. We are standing and have stood on the historic Biblical Christian Faith delivered to the saints received once for all. It is not a question of interpretation. It is revealed plain truth and you cannot change the foundation of our faith by following correct institutional procedures.
"We are called to preach, teach, affirm, defend and stand on this unchanging truth. The gospel of salvation is about life and death. It is salvation from sin, death and hell."
Venables said that at one primates' meeting he attended recently an archbishop got up and said that there is a hole in the Anglican boat and it is sinking. "A North American primate said, 'let them fall into the river it won't make any difference'.
"True orthodoxy is being outlawed. This is spiritual warfare, it is about the principalities and powers. Orthodoxy proclaims one unchanging truth at a time when that is unacceptable in western culture. Sadly truth has become relative and so to be orthodox is to be intolerant, bigoted and dangerous."
Venables excoriated what he called a false view of institutional loyalty. "There is a great fear of being marginalized and blackballed. The reaction to the gospel is rebellion and unbelief especially in the North American Churches. The track record after Lambeth '98 is that the structures of the Communion are seeking to accommodate antithetical positions. At Jerusalem we learned that we do not believe the same things. At Jerusalem we said we must do something. If the church is given its head it will push the liberal agenda forward. We must stand united that the world might believe."
The newly consecrated Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, The Most Rev. Robert Duncan said, "We didn't leave we were deposed by the American Episcopal Church. TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are radical, revolutionary churches. We (orthodox) were forced out. We did not separate, we were forced apart. FOCA is a force within the Church of England."
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