Look Not to The Episcopal Church
By Canon Phil Ashey
The following is from the August 28 edition of the AAC's International Update
August 28, 2012
I recently read an article by Dr. Michael Poon in The Living Church (August 26, 2012), "Look Beyond England." Dr. Poon, director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia (Singapore), has been a frequent critic of "post-Western colonialism"-especially those quarrels and disputes "exported and internationalized" by British and American (read "Western") Anglicans upon "institutionally weak" Anglican churches particularly in the Global South.
I was therefore astonished by his conclusion: "For me, as those in the Oxford Movement once saw, the disestablished American Episcopal Church, holding out the vision of a catholic and missionary church, offers a more promising future of spiritual renewal for the Anglican world.
The Episcopal Church, a spiritual forebear of Anglicans in Asia, will continue to occupy a central place in God's unfinished plans for Anglicans." Surely Dr. Poon must know that The Episcopal Church of today bears little resemblance to the spiritual forebears of Anglicans in Asia-the missionaries and others who came believing in an Anglicanism rooted in the Bible, the Creeds and the Thirty Nine Articles.
Surely he knows that those Anglican forebears believed in the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all people-quite unlike the leadership of The Episcopal Church USA and other western, post-modern Anglicans. Surely he must know that it is not the Bible but Post-Modernism that shapes the thinking and governance of post-Western colonial Anglicans in The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church of Canada, the mother Church of England and elsewhere among Anglicans in the West.
Post-Modernism is the current Western cultural ideology that has been shaping revisions to the Christian faith among Anglicans dominating the governing structures of the Anglican Communion-especially those from The Episcopal Church to whom he invites us to look for hope and a future. How could he have missed the death spiral in average Sunday attendance, baptisms, and confirmations in the Episcopal Church simultaneous with its violations of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) in the consecration of partnered homosexuals as bishops, the provision of rites for same sex blessings, and now the access of transgendered persons to holy orders?
All of this is the result of (mostly) western Anglican leaders in the grip of Post-Modernism rather than in being in the grip of the Holy Spirit. Post-Modernism emerged in the 20th century especially among French philosophers like Jacques Derrida who emphasized the "deconstruction" of language so that no text-including the Bible-can be understood as having anything but multiple and conflicting interpretations.
The result is a rejection of any kind of "objective and absolute truth," (except for the absolute dogma that "there is no absolute truth".). What this means for Anglicans like you and me is that among western leaders who have embraced post-modernism, there is a lack of confidence in God's word, the Bible, as being the final authority in matters of faith, order and discipline.
It means that words like "grace," "salvation," "sin," "catholic," "missionary" and even "Lord and Savior," can mean quite different things to those who use them divorced and deconstructed from any sense of divine revelation. This is one reason why genuine dialogue and listening have been so elusive in all of the discussions around The Episcopal Church's violations of Biblical, catholic and Anglican communion teaching.
Because there is no Biblical standard for what is right or wrong when language is "deconstructed" and divorced from objective truth, truth itself becomes a moving target based on what is culturally acceptable in a particular context. And, according to post-modernism, no context is better than another.
This week I read a compelling article on "Why Post-Modernism won't win." In it, the author, Philip Rosenthal, lists several reasons why post-modernism is just another "ism" that will follow its predecessors of Marxism, National Socialism and Soviet Communism into the dustbin of history. Those reasons include: -
Western ideological empires are falling faster: "Just as the Western world is changing its clothing fashions and technology faster and faster, so ideologies are rising and falling faster and faster." -
Western Racial dominance is in question and decline: "Recently, for example, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans called for a restructuring of the global Anglican communion away from 'British empire' dominance to an elected chairman. Reality is most of the world's Anglicans will vote for a more biblical leader than will the British." -
Post-Modern Churches are shrinking: "Even at home in the West, postmodern denominations face a crisis: the more postmodern they are, generally the more their numbers are shrinking - the opposite of what they are telling pastors." -
Demographic shrink: "The more post-modern the country, the fewer are getting married. Children are delayed. Confused gender roles discourage parenting. Postmodernists are murdering millions of their children by abortion... The result is that in a few generations, unless they can win over the immigrants to Postmodernism (which they are not), these Postmodern nations will become minorities within their own countries."
- Logical Inconsistency: First, at the core of post-modernism, "They call for 'tolerance' of their views, but are intolerant of others views. . . Secondly, they argue that nothing is absolute. But having stated this, they have just stated a belief which in their minds is absolute." The problem is that there is no logical way to argue from a post-modern perspective that anything is wrong-from pedophilia to terrorism.
The Damage of Post-Modernism is already being exposed: the fruit Postmodernism is producing in Europe and America [includes]: Dysfunctional families; divorce;abortion of babies; teen sexuality; degradation of women by pornography; spreading homosexuality; elitist arbitrary government by courts displacing democracy; population shrink - and probably it will soon slide into more problems such as legalizing sex with children and infanticide."
You can read the whole article here. http://emergingthreat.blogspot.com/2012/06/why-postmodernism-wont-win.html Surely Dr. Poon knows from the history of western ideologies that they eventually run out of steam as the intellectual elites, including church leaders,-even Anglicans-move on to the next new "ism" that will tickle their ears (quote from 2 Timothy 4:3)
Surely the future and hope of Anglicanism lies not in looking to a dying Episcopal Church and other post-modern, post-western colonial leaders in the grips of an ideology divorced not only from the Bible, but from anything meaningful and hopeful to humanity. No: the hope and future of Anglicanism lies in a return to the same values and convictions that led the spiritual forebears of Anglican believers in Asia, Africa, South America and elsewhere in the Global South to the evangelistic growth they are enjoying today.
The hope and future of Anglicanism lies in a return to the conviction that there is an objective truth which God has revealed ultimately in his word, the Holy Scriptures... in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is uniquely Lord and savior of all people... and in his supernatural transforming love through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is COO of the American Anglican Council. He is based in Atlanta
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