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Rome Rescues Anglo-Catholics. Who will Rescue Anglican's Evangelicals?

Rome Rescues Anglo-Catholics. Who will Rescue Anglican's Evangelicals?

Commentary

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
November 11, 2009

By all accounts it was a brilliant move. The Vatican suddenly announced that a personal ordinariate would be made available to traditionalist Anglicans in the Anglican Communion, offering them a place of refuge and catching off guard the Archbishop of Canterbury. For the first time there is a sense in which Rome is recognizing that you can be Anglican and Roman Catholic.

It was a shrewd move that angered liberal Catholics like Hans Kung and threw into doubt the long standing history of Roman Catholic Anglican unity talks known as ARCIC. The ball game has changed forever. ARCIC may well be dead. At least that's the view of Rochester Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. He may well be right.

The Church of England's toleration of gay clerics, ordained women and the future prospect of women bishops and The Episcopal Church's further and further drift from the historic Christian Faith while preferring to engage the culture by merging with it brought a sharp response from the Pontiff. Pope Benedict XVI moved quickly to stem the hemorrhaging of both Anglican churches. Rather than tolerating the excesses of the culture, he engaged it by condemning those things he saw as fatally flawed from a faith-based perspective.

Even as The Episcopal Church applauded pansexuality, the Pope condemned it. Even as the Pope condemned abortion, Episcopal leaders applauded it. Even as women moved into ecclesiastical places of power, the Pope disapproved of it. The rift was a mile wide and growing deeper by the day. A wall of ice had descended between the two church super powers.

As Rowan Williams continued to dither, the Pope heard the cry of Anglo-Catholics around the world and finally acted. Reflecting on this, Bishop John Broadhurst, leader of Forward in Faith UK, said he was increasingly "horrified" that the Church of England was prepared to accommodate those who believed in the ordination of women bishops, but rejected any notion that traditionalists cannot have a Third Province - a jurisdiction of their own and an interdependent life within the Church of England.

Instead the Church of England has offered and honored the requests to consecrate women dashing its own ecumenical hopes as well as those of traditionalists
in her bosom.

"This situation must not be used to damage the Church of England but I do believe we have a valid claim on our own heritage in history. The doctrinal standard demanded by Rome is the New Catechism which most of us use any way," concluded Broadhurst.

Will hoards of disenchanted Anglo-Catholics now rush to accept Rome's offer? The answer seems to be no. Few in England will become Roman Catholic, said the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens, to a BBC presenter. Is it significant or over-hyped? It has been said that as many as half a million Anglicans and 50 of their bishops world-wide could take advantage of this invitation. But the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams is playing the situation down. Whatever the outcome of this unprecedented move it will only become apparent in the fullness of time.

The bigger and unasked question is this: What lays hence for Evangelicals within the Church of England and those abroad?

Church of England commentator Peter Ould, an evangelical, noted the fine print in the Pope's offer and found this.

1.5 The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.

"There you have it. This little line means not only that there is no place for Evangelicals in the Ordinariate (but then I wasn't expecting any), but that also it might cause many members of Forward in Faith a few problems," he wrote.

Reform issued a press release which says, "It is illusory to pretend that this development is an outcome of ecumenical dialogue." Rather, it suggests that this "illustrates the difficulties the C of E faces. Anglicans concerned about protecting the basic Christian faith need not go to Rome, because we now have the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA-UK) which holds together those who want to stop the orthodox faith being eroded."

In North America, a new province, the Anglican Church of North America (AC-NA), has formed offering a place of refuge from the apostasies and heresies of TEC. To date they are 100, 000 strong and growing. According to Archbishop Robert Duncan they now have 755 parishes up from 705 just a few months ago. The majority ownership of AC-NA is clearly evangelical with a sizeable sprinkling of Anglo-Catholics. These Anglo-Catholics have shown no interest in leaving AC-NA to accept the Pope's offer.

One wonders what would have happened if the Pope's offer had come several months before the formation of AC-NA. Would dioceses like Ft. Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy have gone for the siren call of Rome? Apparently not, if you read their statements now. Theirs is a polite "thank you, but no thank you". None of these dioceses apparently have any desire to embrace Rome. The four former Episcopal bishops who have gone over to Rome have not, to date, been joined by bishops Jack Iker, John-David Schofield, Keith Ackerman or William Wantland. These men all want to remain faithful and loyal Anglicans.

So apparently does Forward in Faith U.S. who now has their own bishop firmly ensconced in AC-NA. The Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) under its leader, Archbishop Mark Haverland has also declined the offer to go to Rome as has the Anglican Province in America (APA) who through Presiding Bishop Walter Grundorff has weighed in that they will not accept Rome's offer. Otherwise, forgetting all the one accord jurisdictions (as in "they were all in one accord" because they fit into one Accord), others who have rejected the offer include: in the U.S. The Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), The United Episcopal Church and internationally the Anglican Catholic Church. The Episcopal Missionary Church has given no indication that they are Romeward bound either.

The Episcopal Church's Communion Partner bishops have also shown no inclination towards accepting Rome's offer. In fact they are more committed to staying in TEC and working for change from within than ever. A group of them flew to London recently to affirm their allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury while keeping a wary eye on Mother Jefferts Schori and Sister Bonnie Anderson.

Furthermore, none of the mega-evangelical Anglican provinces like Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya or Rwanda have shown any interest in leaving the Anglican Communion or accepting Rome's offer. They are all solidly evangelical. They are going nowhere.

GAFCON was born out of frustration at the direction the Anglican Communion was taking, but even they have said they are not leaving the communion.

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola Chairman of the GAFCON/FCA Primates Council issued this statement: "We are convinced that this is not the time to abandon the Anglican Communion. Our Anglican identity of reformed catholicity, that gives supreme authority to the Holy Scriptures and acknowledgement that our sole representative and advocate before God is the Lord Jesus Christ, stands as a beacon of hope for millions of people. We remain proud inheritors of the Anglican Reformation. This is a time for all Christians to persevere confident of our Lord's promise that nothing, not even the gates of hell, will prevail against His Church."

GAFCON was born just prior to the last Lambeth Conference offering a safe haven for global Anglican evangelicals. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, like branches from the main bough are springing up across the world affirming the faith, but showing no interest or inclination to leave the Anglican Communion. On the contrary, they affirm over and over again that they are staying and pushing for change - a return to the faith.

The Council of Church Society in its commentary on the plans by the Church of Rome to receive disaffected Anglicans commented, "The Church of England's true nature is that of a Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and catholic (in other words, universal) church. Orthodox Anglicanism is therefore defined by reference to these characteristics only, which are set out in the Thirty-nine Articles and the Church of England's submission to the over-arching authority of Scripture alone. Church Society seeks to defend and promote these defining characteristics, especially the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone which is at the heart of the message and mission of the Church of England."

Nothing could be more simple and stark than this. "While acknowledging the correct stand taken by Anglo-Catholics against theological liberalism (the features of which do not represent true, Biblical Anglicanism), it should also be noted that the true doctrine of the Church of England does not embrace any of the teachings or practices which characterise the Church of Rome. For instance, the Church of Rome is fundamentally flawed in its claims about its own nature and authority and in its teaching about the means of salvation.

"A proper rejection of theological liberalism should therefore not be accompanied by a turning to the Church of Rome and its unbiblical teachings and practices. Rather, both theological liberalism and the unscriptural teachings and practices of the Church of Rome are contrary to the Bible and to the historic doctrines of the Church of England as a Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and catholic church.

"We grieve that the Church of England, along with our nation, has fallen so low in its spiritual and moral condition. We pray that God would pour out His Spirit on both church and nation, leaders concluded."

The situation in the Church of England is far from lost despite the dithering by Rowan Williams.

A source in London told VOL that within five years there will be a strengthening alliance between orthodox Evangelicals and Catholics in the Church of England. It will make the C of E a very different animal.

The facts are these. Women bishops are at least 10 years away. More and more women are being ordained but confined to the house of clergy. They can only vote as clergy in the synodical structures, but the laity represents the broad mass of the C of E which is strongly conservative. The point is women priests will not swamp the church and will not ultimately make or break it. All the major seminaries and theological colleges are filled with next generation evangelicals, the product of seeds sown by faithful Anglican evangelicals like John Stott, Jim Packer, Michael Green, Alistair McGrath et al some of whom are now octogenarians.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in England is strengthening the hand of Evangelicals and Catholics in the C of E, forging links and hoping to steer the C of E in an orthodox direction.

The Pope's offer is largely irrelevant as far as the Church of England is concerned. Only about a dozen or so priests and one or two retiring or about to retire bishops will accept the Pope's offer. The papal initiative is irrelevant the source told VOL.

Evangelicals do not want to be rescued either in England or the U.S. by Rome. One way or another, they will find their way through the revisionist impasse and they will come out the other side stronger and braver. Time is on their side. It is not on the side of the liberals who have no life-changing gospel to proclaim. Revisionism is ultimately death, so is pansexuality. It is morally bankrupt and is slowly but steadily eroding and emptying churches. The churches will not be filled by women priests or women bishops either. There is simply no evidence for it. Bending to the culture will only make churches orphans in time. Confronting the culture with the Good News of Jesus, as difficult as that might be, is England's only hope.

As feminist Gloria Steinem might have humorously noted had she entered the fray, "Evangelicals need the Pope like a goldfish needs a bicycle."

END

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