Woe Betidde Confessing Anglicans if GAFCON Becomes Respectable
By Julian Mann
Special to virtueonline.org
October 21, 2013
As GAFCON 2 gets underway in Nairobi, it is to be hoped that the movement can put the Archbishop of Canterbury's speeches yesterday at All Saints' Cathedral behind it.
Why is that necessary? Because to be an effective movement for Anglican spiritual and moral renewal, particularly in the liberal-dominated Western provinces of the Communion, GAFCON must work hard to avoid becoming socially respectable.
The spectre of social respectability was the intrinsic danger in Dr Welby's appearance in Nairobi the day before the conference. Without participating in the event itself and thus committing himself to the full GAFCON agenda, he was able to cast himself as a supportive institutional figurehead above the fray of the arguments but sagaciously nodding his head at the concerns expressed.
The fact that the British High commissioner was present at the service added to the aura of respectability.
The syndrome works like this: the Headmaster/Master of the College went to the same educational institutions as we went to. He and we move on the same southern English social landscape. Whilst we don't agree with the head man on everything, he is after all the head man and at least he is better than the last chap...
But is he better than the last chap? It was perceptively noted by George Conger on Anglicanink that Dr Welby was silent on the current high-level pressure for authorised services of same-sex blessing in the Church of England. Because of recent equality legislation in the UK, those would present huge problems for confessing Anglican ministers serving local parish churches.
They're the foot soldiers serving the local church. If GAFCON forgets that it is there to serve the Body of Christ meeting locally, it is in danger of becoming a self-serving, elitist, para-church club meeting in exotic locations.
It is also significant to remember that Dr Welby is not going into bat for proper legal provision for opponents of women bishops during the current negotiations before November's General Synod. Just the opposite. The institution he leads is desperate to incarnate 1960s', campus-style feminism as soon as possible by consecrating women bishops and Dr Welby is well stuck in amongst the Gadarene rush.
Holy Trinity Brompton, the London evangelical charismatic church which referred Dr Welby for ordination back in the 1980s, at that time upheld the New Testament doctrine of male headship in the church and in the family. The evangelical charismatic leader David Watson, who died in 1984, upheld that biblical doctrine.
So why has Dr Welby shifted on that?
The reality that has to be faced is that the Church of England is now dominated by people whose message focusses on social transformation in the here and now. That is a socially respectable emphasis in the politically correct West.
Banging on about that is a pretty surefire way for an ambitious 'clergyperson' to get promotion. You're a safe bet, you won't be cut socially by a politician at a Washington or Westminster bunfight. If you bang on about it for long enough in England, you might even get a medal pinned to your lapel at Buckingham Palace.
But the biblical gospel of divine love faithfully proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer, the 39 Articles and the Ordinal is not socially respectable. It stresses the urgent need of all humanity to be saved from sin and death and hell only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man.
Behind the polite veneer, how well is that spiritual emphasis likely to go down over cocktails at the British High Commission?
Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, UK and press officer of Reform Sheffield.
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