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A Shameful Caricature, and a Warning - Phil Ashey

A Shameful Caricature, and a Warning

By Canon Phil Ashey
AAC's International Update
November 27, 2012

In the wake of the narrow defeat of the women bishops measure in the Church of England's General Synod by six votes in the House of Laity, a torrent of criticism has been unleashed on evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans who opposed the measure. From the Archbishop of Canterbury, members of Parliament, and down through the ranks, the consciences and reasons of those who voted against the measure have been belittled and even vilified. This vilification is most obvious in the editorial in The Guardian (London) from Friday, Nov. 23 by Canon Giles Fraser. Until recently, Canon Fraser held a senior position in one of the most important cathedrals in the UK. In his editorial, Fraser demeans the conscience and scholarship of faithful Anglicans who voted against the measure by caricaturing them as follows:

"There was this lad at school who got bullied all the time. When he wasn't being bullied he was being ignored. He was thin, quiet and spotty. It says something that I cannot even remember his name. But at some point he got picked up by the Christian Union. They made him feel like he belonged and gave him a club to be a part of. And from then on, he began to wear the slightly superior look of someone who thinks he knows something that other people don't know. Being an outsider became a badge of pride. He was now a Christian. And, in a way, the more ridiculous and unpopular the things he believed the better.

"For his beliefs became a sort of barrier against the cruelty of the world. So the more people said his views were stupid, the more he felt the need for the protection they afforded him. His six impossible things before breakfast were a Maginot line against a world of hurt. Which is why he could never give them up or subject them to any sort of critical scrutiny.

"Actually, I have made this person up. But I am trying to paint a picture of the mentality of conservative evangelicals, the people who have recently scuppered the female bishop legislation, without invoking the standard caricature of these modern-day puritans as life-denying fun-sponges obsessed with being right and with other people not having sex. Not that this latter image is all that far from the truth."

I submit that this is revealing glimpse at the loathing that many in the leadership of the Church have for people of faith who are evangelical and Anglo-catholic, and who both act and vote their conscience. It should be fairly obvious why this is a problem for Anglicans in the Church of England-and throughout the Anglican Communion wherever this kind of anti-Christian post-modern mindset has taken root among church leaders:

1. It falls pitifully short of authentic New Testament Christianity: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3) Where is the mind of Christ in this caricature? Where is the humility that characterized Christ in such comments?

2. It fails the test of authentic New Testament fellowship: "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters..."(Rom 14:1) Where is the generosity of spirit towards those obviously "weaker" evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics? "Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat." (Rom 14:10) Where is the fear of standing before the judgment seat of Christ and having to answer for such words? "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (Rom 14:13).

Where is the grace towards a minority in the Synod who faced an obstacle to their conscience-a lack of safeguards against the very kind of arrogant and totalitarian mind that Giles Fraser's comments represent in the church leadership? For heaven's sake, if women bishops are inevitable, why not give some safeguards to the minority in keeping with Romans 14:13?

3. It paints a picture rather than dealing with the real and genuine biblical arguments for and against women bishops that those who voted against the measure have asked for review. In fact, this "picture" mocks, demonizes, and marginalizes brother and sister Anglicans who are seeking to be faithful to God's word and their consciences. No matter that they have offered to meet and discuss the matter.

No matter that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have virtually conceded the inevitable, and have merely asked for a deep and thoughtful review of the biblical and catholic teaching on this matter. No matter that they have simply sought "respect"-meaningful respect with safeguards for their conscience, not the kind of "respect" through gritted teeth, vilification and loathing offered by Fraser and likeminded leaders in the Anglican Communion. And so Fraser concludes:

"So what can be done? Argument is pretty useless. Conservative religious people are generally locked in a self-referencing worldview where truth is about strict internal coherence rather than any reaching out to reality. That's why they treat the Bible like some vast jigsaw - its truth residing in a complex process of making the pieces fit together and not with the picture it creates.

"So rather than laugh at them or argue with them, the best thing is probably ignore them...." Dear friends in Christ, as an a American Anglican who has been down this road before, please pay attention to what this article represents and reveals about the mindset of many of those in the leadership of the Church of England, TEC, and elsewhere in our beloved Communion. It is a mindset that rejects the authority of Scripture or any universal truth. It is a mindset that loathes and scorns people of faith who take the Scriptures seriously. It is a mindset that will consciously ignore the voices of Anglicans who take the bible seriously.

Unless, of course, those voices challenge the post-modern, secular and utopian vision that such leaders have exchanged for reasonable discussion and debate over the bible and catholic teaching.

Because when that happens, then it is time to demonize the voices of Anglicans-- evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, GAFCON and Global south-then it is time to marginalize them through the raw exercise of power.


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