Does God Call Me to Belong to a Local Church where the Word of God is not being Taught?

“Does God call me to belong to a local church where the Word of God is not being taught?” That was one of the questions I have often been asked. I hope to have an occasional series looking at these kind of questions.

To some the answer  to this particular question is so obvious that they think even the question is daft.   But life is not as simple as all that.  Imagine that you live in a small village or town where there is a local church.   It’s not heretical in the sense that its official creed is orthodox and the minister or pastor does not really preach against it.  You want to be a witness.  You want to be able to invite your search-2neighbours, your friends and your family who live in the area to the church.  You want to participate in community life, help with the parent and toddlers, be part of the churches social witness.   If you go to an out-of-town church then all that seems to be negated.  Surely it is better to hang in and try to be salt and light within the church?  As a friend once argued, the local church is a great boat to fish in.

I have enormous sympathy with that point of view and furthermore I don’t want to be a kind of sectarian or denominational Christian who is only going to go to a church where every t is crossed and every i dotted to my taste.  I once preached in a church in the US, where I met a couple who told me that had travelled over 1500 miles to come to it because it was ‘the only church in the US where the gospel was faithfully preached’!  They were wrong.     I am not here talking about denominations, liturgical styles or secondary issues.    Even though I am not a Baptist if there was a local Baptist church where the Word of God was faithfully preached then I would not particularly care if it was Baptist.   However what about the situation where that is not the case?

Let me give some concrete examples.   One woman queried whether she should continue to go to a local church which didn’t preach the gospel, or one further away which did. She was asked, ‘could you take your friends and family to the local church and be confident they would hear the Good News?”. Her answer was ‘absolutely not’. To which the response was then ‘thats a no-brainer’. If you can’t invite your friends and family to the church because you are not sure if they will hear the gospel, then what are you doing in that church?

Another friend in Edinburgh told me that he was going to go to his nearest church, a large Church of Scotland, ‘to be a witness’.  With a membership of 1,000 and an attendance of 200 it was traditionally ‘liberal’.  So he went and was given permission to have an evening service/bible study to which about 20 people came.  After three years he left Edinburgh and moved into a small town in the middle of Scotland.  I asked him which church he was going to and he responded the local small Baptist church.  I was a bit cheeky and asked him why he did not go to the much larger C of S where he could be a witness.  His response said it all – he was exhausted after three years of doing that and needed his own soul to be fed.

I have great admiration for those who stick it out in roles as Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, elders and members in congregations where they struggle with the lack of teaching and the general spiritual climate….however I think the two stories above and many others perhaps illustrate why there is time for a rethink.

Let me put it this way – what is the great need in Scotland?  What is the number one priority for the Church?  Surely it is that there is a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. People don’t know the Bible.  They don’t know the Word of Life.  They don’t know the Word that brings them Christ.  They don’t primarily need playgroups, art festivals and foodbanks.  Please note I am not decrying these things – they should spring from the preaching and believing of the Word, but they should not replace it.    Here is the search-1crucial thing – just going to church is not a witness in the eyes of the general public.  The Church is to be the witness.   The Church is not the Good News.  The Church is to believe and proclaim the Good News.   Likewise the church is not a boat to fish in but rather a boat to fish from.  If the boat is sinking then why would we bring people on board?

Furthermore it’s not just that we need to bring the good news as a church, we also need to be fed ourselves.  One of the reasons our witness is so weak is that we ourselves have become so spiritually anemic.   If are not fed we will starve.  And how does the Lord feed us.  Yes – we can get internet sermons, podcasts, books and we can read the Word of God for ourselves.     But we normally need more.   And I don’t believe that ‘more’ is provided by a couple of special conferences in the year.  We dont’ get filled up at that event no matter how special it is.  We need the regular manna of the Word of God being proclaimed on the Lords Day as we gather together with his people and collectively listen, confess, pray and respond.    To me one of the greatest tricks of the devil has been to convince the Lords people that we don’t need the Lord’s Day and the preaching, praise and prayers of the Church.  A consumerist individualistic mindset coupled with a shallow theology and to be frank, a lack of passion and love for Christ, means that, whilst we are happy to seek for and claim extraordinary miracles, we despise and neglect the ordinary means of grace.

When I was a child I remembering travelling 45 minutes each way (twice!) to go to church. What I loved was getting fish and chips on the way home, but one thing that taught me was that my parents really thought that church was important.  Not just church in general but the kind of church we went to.  Of course that can be because of tradition, or a narrow-minded legalism , or just because we can’t get on with anyone in any of the local churches – and I am not defending or advocating that.

This is not about denigrating other churches or some kind of inter-church competition – God forbid! Its far more serious than that. It’s not about denominations or styles. It’s about the Gospel. Its about Jesus Christ. Its about hearing the Word of God.  If the local Church of Scotland preached the Word of God and were free to do so without the interference of Presbytery or Assembly I would go to them as well.  And if the local Free Church was though on paper orthodox, but in reality asleep/dead, I would not go to that. We need  to be very careful before we claim that a situation is dead, or indeed that we don’t ignore the reality if it is!

Let me put it another way.  We can travel many miles to get to our favourite football team, to hear our favourite band, or eat at our favourite restaurant.  Why then do we insist that the only church we can go to is the one within five minutes of our house?     Yes I would go to the local restaurant if it served good food – but if it served poison or rubbish I wouldn’t support it out of some misplaced loyalty, I would go where I could get decent food.  Do I love my stomach more than my soul?    If a restaurant announced that it search-3believed in serving the best food and then when I went in found that the advert was not met by the reality, I wouldn’t go there either.   Far too often I find that churches use the term ‘evangelical’ and yet they feed their people a minimalist diet which does not spiritually connect or satisfy.  It’s not the label, its what’s inside that counts.

It is necessary to offer one more caveat.   I am not talking here about people who church hop according to personal taste or who are so spiritually immature that they are looking for the perfect church (Spurgeon’s rejoinder to one woman who was living the Met to look for the perfect church, still stands “when you find it, madam, don’t join it you will only spoil it!).  I’m not talking about those who want to go to the latest ‘in’ church or the one that is aimed for their particular demographic/age/style.  That is the curse of the modern church – we have created an apartheid church culture where churches aim for particular demographic/social/ethnic groups rather than seeking to be the Church of Christ proclaiming the Word of Christ to all.   I am just simply answering the question whether we should stay in a church where the Word of God is not proclaimed.   To me it is clear that we should not.

I don’t say this because I want people to come to St Peters from other churches or from all around Dundee and beyond.  It gives me great sorrow that people have to come to us on an occasional Sunday because their local church does not feed them the Word of God. I have no desire to see St Peters being built up at the expense of other biblical churches. We want to see the whole Church of Christ grow. But where the Word of God is not being proclaimed can it really be said that there is a church of Christ?  My aim is to plant biblical churches all over the place…in every community.

Maybe its time for believers to just leave the liberal, traditional, legalistic or eccentric churches and get on with being the Church of Jesus Christ, the pillar and foundation of the truth, wherever we are.  If a local Church does not proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness then not only will it die, it deserves to die.  Let the dead bury their dead.  Let us get on with proclaiming the Word of Life to all without fear nor favour.Lets forget the traditional models that we are clinging on to, or the modernist unbiblical concepts of church.  Lets not give in and become ‘churchless Christians’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one!).    Lets avoid spiritual prostitution, even if we call it ‘witness’.  Lets be bold, follow Christ and be his beautiful bride!

Isaiah 8:20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

By Ted Schroder,
www.tedschroder.com

The birth narrative in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt.1:18-25) is a combination of facts adding up to a momentous truth. Jesus was born in unusual circumstances. His mother was a virgin. She was planning to be married to Joseph, and was found to be pregnant — not an unusual circumstance these days but a scandal in that society. Joseph, naturally enough, wondered who was the father. He must have been upset to say the least. He planned to divorce her, but did not want to embarrass her further. She must have tried to tell him what she knew: that an angel had told her that she would conceive a child through the action of the Holy Spirit. But he did not buy that story. What man would? Then he had a dream. In it an angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid, and that what Mary had said was true: what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew saw this unique pregnancy as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Joseph took Mary home to be his wife. These are the facts as they are presented.

The uniqueness of Mary’s pregnancy contributes to the uniqueness of the baby born. He is presented as both truly God and truly Man. Such a thing is naturally impossible and cannot be proven. Therefore it requires faith in God who can do impossible things, like creating the world out of nothing. Siegfried Sassoon has a poem entitled, The Unproven.

Looking at Life, some unbelieved-in angels
Asked one another when
Science would overhear them and encourage
Their ministries to men.

Listening outside Eternity for Knowledge
And divination of Death
Stood Science. Hushed was Heaven; and all those angels,
Still hopeful, held their breath.

Some people find the miraculous element of the birth narratives: angels, and virgins, stars and wise men, too much to believe. I have never had a problem with the miraculous. I find life on Earth to be a miracle. I find conception, gestation and birth to be a miracle. As far as I am concerned God can do anything he chooses to do. Who am I to limit him? Tom Wright writes,

“There are indeed many more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in post-enlightenment metaphysics. The ‘closed continuum’ of cause and effect is a modernist myth. The God who does not ‘intervene’ from the outside but is always present and active within the world, sometimes shocking, may well have been thus active on this occasion. We very well could get on one’s high metaphysical horse and insist that God cannot behave like this, though we do not know that ahead of time. Along with a high moral horse insisting that God ought not to do things like this, because we send the wrong message about sexuality, because divine parentage gave Jesus an unfair start over the rest of us. Such positions produce a cartoon picture: the mouse draws itself up to its full height, puts its paws on its hips and gives the elephant a good dressing down.” (“God’s Way of Acting,” The Christian Century, December 16, 1998, p.1215)

God did something unique in the birth of Jesus. Max Lucado put it this way:

“in reality, that particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became piercable. He was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.
God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched himself against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluid of his mother.”
God had come near. (“God Came Near,” p.25)

If all that is presented in the birth narratives of the Gospels really happened, what are the implications for us?

It would cause us to bow in worship — in wonder and humility at God in action, coming to be with us, to save us from our sins. If God is with us in the human life of Jesus, then we must listen and learn from him. It would puncture our conceptions of a world that is empty of God, of angels, or miracles, and confined only to the mundane, the rational and the abstract. Life is expanded, it is holy, it is filled with wonder, with love, with joy that God is at work to save us.

A Prayer.

Loving Father, now at the climax of this time of waiting I offer you all my longing and hoping in it. May the wonder of it all be renewed in me. Let the mystery and holiness of your great gift to us, which we celebrate afresh, come upon me as strangely and gloriously as to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.
Father let me glimpse the joy of the angels at the goodness of God; let me know myself freed by this infant Savior from all that I am ashamed of and would leave behind: the guilt of a life selfishly lived, the burden of spoilt relationships, and the misery of failed effort.
Lord God, I bring all these to the poor stable, and ask that in this place my past may no more be seen, but my present and future be lit by that shining and generous love which shone around the angels as they sang of glory, and which shines for all of us where Christ is born.
Bless those for whom amidst other’s joy this is a hard and bitter time of suffering or remembering, those for whom your gift seems to offer so little comfort. Deepen true care in my heart for them; and for those for whom this time has no holiness or glimpse of the wonder of your love. Thank you that your gift is to us all, and that you patiently await our acceptance. Bring us all, dear Father, at the last to know it and receive it. Amen. Ruth Etchells, Just As I Am, p.136

END

Experienced nurse fired from job after offering to pray for patients waiting for surgery

Sister Sarah Kuteh is now suing Darent Valley hospital in Dartford, Kent for unfair dismissal
Sister Sarah Kuteh is now suing Darent Valley hospital in Dartford, Kent for unfair dismissal Credit: David McHugh/Brighton Pictures

A nurse with 15 years’ experience who offered to pray for patients waiting for surgery has been sacked from her job for gross misconduct.

Sister Sarah Kuteh was accused of holding “unwanted discussions” which allegedly upset patients and ignoring conduct guidelines on discussing personal beliefs.

She is now suing Darent Valley hospital in Dartford, Kent for unfair dismissal, reports the Daily Mail.

The mother-of-three claims her job involved asking people preparing for surgery about their religion and that she believed patients were comfortable talking about their beliefs with her.

The dismissal comes after the Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised politically correct organisations that restrict freedom of expression
The dismissal comes after the Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised politically correct organisations that restrict freedom of expression Credit:  David McHugh/Brighton Pictures

She said she was suspended and then escorted from the hospital in what she describes was a “disproportionate and punitive” reaction.

“I was walked out of that hospital after all I had done over all my years as a nurse and I was told I couldn’t even speak to any of my colleagues.

“All I had done was to nurse from the very bottom of my heart. How could it ever be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?”

The dismissal comes after the Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised politically correct organisations that restrict freedom of expression.

And a few weeks ago Theresa May told MPs that Christians should feel able to talk about their faith in the workplace.

A committed Christian, Mrs Kuteh moved to Dartford in 2007 and became a sister in 2012. In November 2015, she took on a new role, assessing patients’ health before they went for surgery.

Theresa May recently told MPs that Christians should feel able to talk about their faith in the workplace
Theresa May recently told MPs that Christians should feel able to talk about their faith in the workplace Credit: Jonathan Brady

On average, Mrs Kuteh would assess for operation around 50 patients a week, speaking to over 1000 patients in six months.

As part of her job she was asked to help patients complete a questionnaire which included a question about religion.

Mrs Kuteh admitted she spoke to a few patients about religion without their permission when she first began the new role. But after a warning in April this year she said she was more careful.

She said the question of religion did sometimes arise if a patient did not select the box on the form marked ‘Religion’. But said it was often the patient who spoke about faith first and that she did not impose her beliefs on anyone.

Mrs Kuteh was sacked in August after an investigation followed three further complaints in June.

This is the latest in the growing list of cases where an expression of Christian beliefs at workplace punishes disproportionately those who live and speak out their faith in public lifeAndrea Williams

The nurse was told one patient complained she had given her a Bible she did not want and had said she would pray for her. And another accused the nurse of “preaching” at her.

The trust told the Daily Mail: “We have a duty to our patients that when they are at their most vulnerable they are not exposed to unsolicited beliefs and/ or views, religious or otherwise. We feel we have acted appropriately in this case.”

Mrs Kuteh is arguing the disciplinary process was flawed as she was not initially shown the complaints.

She said she was only presented with very brief handwritten notes from colleagues who had recorded the patients’ comments, a few lines each, which suggest several patients casually voiced some discontent.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, who is supporting Mrs Kuteh, said: “Sarah is an experienced, hard-working senior nurse facing a grossly disproportionate punishment for no more than expressing her Christian faith in the workplace. But for the question on the pre-op assessment form, these conversations would not have taken place.

“This is the latest in the growing list of cases where an expression of Christian beliefs at workplace punishes disproportionately those who live and speak out their faith in public life.

“Just one week ago, the Prime Minister in Parliament confirmed that Christians should feel free to talk about their faith in the workplace. Sarah’s case demonstrated that the reality can be quite different.”

Advent pastoral letter from GAFCON chairman Nicholas Okoh

Nicholas Okoh

To the Faithful of the GAFCON movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council.

My dear people of God,

As the season of Advent begins, I am calling on all of us who belong to the GAFCON movement to make this a time when we focus our prayer and our giving on the great work God has called us to do.

At the heart of our mission is the task of restoring the Bible to its rightful place at the centre of the Anglican Communion and if we really believe its message, then everything we do will be shaped by the promise of Christ’s glorious, personal and universal return as Saviour, Judge and Lord. In an uncertain world, this is certain. The election of an outsider as the next President in the United States and the upheaval of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union earlier this year remind us of the uncertainty of human rule and the urgency of proclaiming God’s rule and kingdom.

So we must be ready and prepared, understanding the times, just as the Apostle Paul urges the Christians in Rome when he writes: ‘the hour has come for you to wake out of sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed’ (Romans 13:11).

At this critical point in the life of the Communion, we need your full support. Will it return to the ancient paths or sleepwalk into fatal compromise? By the grace of God, GAFCON is a movement of spiritual awakening in a Communion standing at the crossroads.

I am greatly encouraged by what has already been achieved. GAFCON pioneers new structures where old ones have failed, we are recognised as the leading voice for orthodoxy in the Communion, we are equipping key leaders, in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration we have given the Communion a contemporary standard of historic Anglican confession and every five years the Anglican Communion has a taste of what it can become as faithful Anglicans gather in growing numbers from around the world in worship and fellowship around God’s Word.

But what especially encourages me about GAFCON is the recovery of gospel courage and enterprise. Much of the Anglican Communion owes its existence to missionary pioneers who were ready to lay down their lives because they were confident in the promises of God, however difficult their circumstances. Now, the same courage is needed to guard that legacy and re-evangelise the increasingly secular West. Let me share just two examples.

Firstly, I thank God that Archbishop Greg Venables will be re-joining the GAFCON Primates Council now that he has been elected to serve again as the Primate of the Anglican Province of South America in succession to our greatly esteemed colleague Presiding Bishop Tito Zavala.  His ministry demonstrates that courage which is so central to the GAFCON story. In his previous term as Primate, despite much opposition, Archbishop Venables bravely supported orthodox Anglicans in North America and stood with the Diocese of Recife in Brazil after it had to withdraw from the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil.

We are now seeing similar courage in England as GAFCON UK, led by Canon Andy Lines, endures hostility simply for speaking the truth about the increasing breakdown of church discipline in the Church of England.  There are now clergy and bishops who openly take pride in their rejection of biblical preaching and have even launched a website to encourage the violation of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10 on human sexuality.

But more disturbing is the response of the Church of England at its highest level. The Secretary of the Archbishops’ Council has written an open letter to Canon Lines in which he describes the Lambeth resolution as merely ‘an important document in the history of the Anglican Communion’. But this is no ordinary resolution. It has been the standard appealed to again and again in Communion affairs and most recently in the Communiqué from the Sixth Global South Conference in Cairo which describes it as representing the ‘clear teaching of Scripture’.

God has greatly blessed GAFCON, but there is much yet to do. My vision is for ordinary Anglicans in every continent to be fully alert and committed to this movement of the Holy Spirit to restore our Communion. So please visit the GAFCON website where you will find much to give thanks for and much to pray for. And please help boost our finances.  You can donate online, either a one-off gift or regular donation, here.

My brothers and sisters, may we long for our Lord’s appearing and let us pray and let us give as those who will one day stand before him in the full splendour of his majesty and power.

The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh

Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council

Leaving Home: The future of the Christian faith in England

Author:

The thought of leaving Canterbury, spiritually or emotionally, breaks my heart. I grew up there. I spent five years in the school built around its cloisters. I sang from its tower on Ascension days. I sat for hours at the entrance to the cloisters where Thomas a Becket was struck down for refusing the demands of the secular over the sacred. I took the Eucharist there in the bowels of its undercroft before dawn in the mists of winter. I was confirmed there when the saintly prophetic Michael Ramsey was Archbishop.

But Canterbury has sold its birthright. She planted the orthodox Gospel around the world so that scores of millions worship our adored Risen Christ, but has slid from under the obligations of the Apostolic faith she received, to a heterodox secularized shadow of that faith.

I often wonder how I could explain our present difficulties to St Augustine who came here to evangelise in 597. I think I would say that “just as you, blessed brother in Christ, are still struggling with the Arians, who are powerful in Eastern Europe at the moment, we are struggling with the new Arians. Just as you will overcome them by the 8th Century, we will too, by the power of the Spirit.

But our Arians have assaulted the apostolic faith not by a full on assault on the Holy Trinity, but by a sideways undermining of it. Jesus has become less than the 2nd person of the Trinity because he has been reduced by claiming he suffered from cultural ignorance; he is thought to be  captive to a 1st century culture with its misogyny and restricted sexual ethics. Our heretics have decided that Jesus did not come to reveal the Father, because they have adopted a new secular and essentially Marxist idea, that gender is an oppressive cultural construct. And they join that idea to a second piece of Marxism, that ‘equality’ is the most important social value to strive after. The masculinity of the Father, and that of the Son, are for them unwelcome cultural constraints. The revelation of a hierarchy of glory inverted by love became an anathema to them, because they worship equality.

So they overthrew 2,000 years of apostolic teaching, and ordained women into the place of the Bishop and priest, the representatives of the risen Christ at the Eucharist, saying that gender was of no consequence in the narrative of salvation.

They relentlessly attacked St Paul for teaching us the mystery of the interdependence of man and women in a hierarchy of love and service.

As it happens this coincided with a secular assault on fatherhood. But being spiritually not very aware, they took some pride in joining forces with the secular gender wars, where feminists moved from defending women from abuse to attacking the role of men. Astonishingly, instead of modelling their Christian femininity on Mary, and honouring the gift of joining in the privilege of  co-creating  in Motherhood, they repudiated their own motherhood.  They joined forces with the feminists and supported the holocaust of abortion – mothers killing their own babies. 57 million in America. 7 million here.  Many of the of the new so called Christian women priests describe themselves as feminists, assaulting the masculine and defending the right of women to murder their children.

This is of course was a turning away from the natural order of creation, – in just the way that St Paul described in his letter to the Romans. And you will guess what came next. With the increase of idolatry- the worshipping of the human will and appteties, human relations began to be twisted out of shape. It won’t surprise you that one form or narcissism led to another. The egalitarians attacked the creation ordinance of marriage where men and women come together in mutual dependence under God to create children, and celebrated instead the sterile coupling of men with men and women with women. And where faithful Christians stood up in the public market place to give witness to your Word, the new women priests and their supporters, for whom this sexual narcissism was part of their allegiance to egalitarianism, celebrated the jailing and fining of the faithful as the just punishment for what they called ‘bigotry’.

Your successor as Archbishop stood in the House of Lords to praise the couplings of the homosexuals. It didn’t matter to him that they were biologically sterile and pursued romantic and sexual values that Holy Scripture warned against. He claimed rather that were emotionally fruitful. He even chose to ignore the secular evidence that these relationships consisted of greater domestic violence between women partners, greater promiscuity between male partners and greater social instability for both.

And so the place where you brought the Gospel, and the Church that inherited the Gospel has betrayed not only you, not only those who held office after you, but the Christ in whose name you came. They give him nominal acknowledgement , of course- how could they not,  but they deny His invitation to sexual purity and distort His representation of the Father, and prefer the teaching of social Marxism to obedience to the Gospels.

And I think St Augustine might then say, “but are there no orthodox bishops left you could turn to?”

And the answer would be “Yes, many. All round the world there are faithful Archbishops and bishops faithful to what Canterbury planted in their cultures and hearts. They are called the Global Anglican Fellowship.”

“So then” he would reply, “your question is not where, but when – you re-align your allegiance to my successors?”

And that is the question.

We have yet to hear if and when the Gafcon Primates are  to offer alternative episcopal oversight to orthodox Anglicans.

Our cultural circumstances are very close to those in America. We know that where TEC pursued relativism and secularism, it found only spiritual and institutional corruption.

We know that under Archbishop Foley Beach the ACNA has continued to plant Churches, convert the lost and longing to the faith, and  reconcile the catholic, evangelical  and charismatic charisms. It has kept the historic and apostolic teaching about gender and sexuality. It has resisted the spirit of the age. It flourishes.

We know too that the General Synod of the Church of England has worked assiduously hard to contain and diminish the influence and convictions of those who have kept the orthodox faith.

The spiritual health of the Church of England is a matter of discernment. But since its character as an established Church acts as a kind of chaplaincy to a determinedly secular society, how long  can it survive in that role and retain its fidelity to the Gospels? Instinctively, those who place public prestige before obedience to the faith of the saints and the martyrs, will of course adapt their ethics to make them congenial to the culture on whose pleasure they wait. And so they have:– feminism has reconfigured the Church and secularism has redefined marriage – and the leaders of the C of E welcome both.

In a recent BBC radio programme, a leading voice for Anglican feminism, complained about the repressive patriarchal structures of the Church. They inhibited her being both a mother and a parish priest. She called upon the Church to redefine its expectations of parish clergy, so they could be mothers as well. The possibility that a priest ought to be the father in God to a parish full time, over years of service, was foreign to her feminist priorities. So the Church was supposed to adapt its pastoral practice to her demands to be both a woman ‘priest’ and a mother.

What might the leaders of the Global Anglican Fellowship do?

They might establish the parallel jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in England (or/and Europe). ACE.

They would provide bishops who held the orthodox faith of the Church to those Anglicans who had refused to bow the knee to the new Baal of egalitarianism. These bishops would care for their clergy and confirm their people – not into the Church of England, but into the orthodox Anglicanism of the majority of worldwide Anglicans.

In America, where the legal issues of who held the rights to the property of the Churches, 7 million dollars has been spend by TEC grabbing back churches where they could – ejecting their faithful congregations, and in some cases, selling them on as mosques.

In England, where the legal issues are very different, the orthodox clergy and people who give their allegiance to ACE will remain quietly in their livings, continue to pay their voluntary quotas to cover their stipends, but to withdraw anything more than that in protest against the imposition of the new heterodoxy.

The financial health of the Church of England, unlike its spiritual health is a matter of fact, not discernment. It is a matter of accounts and demographics. The average age of congregations is now 65. Many dioceses are close to cash flow failure. The Diocese of Truro, its bishop laments, has less than 5 years viability ahead of it. A diocese in the middle of England recently took out a bank loan to pay its stipends for the current month. The Diocese of Southwark is kept afloat only by evangelicals who astonishingly have not yet lost faith with a hierarchy that continually appoints gay clergy in partnerships to prominent positions of responsibility.

In the General Synod of July 2008 the progressive majority implacably refused the pleadings of the evangelical and catholic laity (mainly women as it happened) to be allowed to remain in the C of E with guaranteed orthodox episcopal oversight. The Catholics were given a fragile deal that depends on ‘trust’ and there is one bishop, just one assistant bishop appointed as a sop to the considerable numbers of Christians whose view of gender mirrors that of the Apostle Paul amongst the evangelicals; and when finally one is announced, his hands will be tied by the concept of collegial responsibility to his heterodox colleagues.

Very well then, let the Anglican Primates given the orthodox Anglican faithful the orthodox bishops the General Synod refused to give. Let the clergy remain in their parishes for the next 5-7 years at least. And when the biblically and apostolically faithful congregations and clergy give their money to support their new bishops, and promote orthodox Anglicanism instead, it will not to come as much of a surprise.

As the structures of the C of E collapse under the pressure of aging and bankruptcy, those who have kept the faith can offer to ease the crumbling diocesan finances by taking 100 year leases on their parish Churches.

Why now? When I came back to Christ in the mid 1970’s and discovered to my surprise that the Holy Spirit was calling me to be a priest, I was enthused and inspired by the slow quiet beginnings of a charismatic renewal that appeared to be able to bring together both the evangelical and the catholic streams of the Church to re-evangelise the nation and to refresh and renew the Body of Christ.

In the last 40 years, what has happened instead, is that the Church of England turned its back on the Spirit and the Scriptures and gave herself to the new secularism. It has preferred egalitarianism to evangelism;  it has chosen the struggle for gender parity to the struggle for the Gospel purity.

I had hoped that we might continue the struggle to renew and revive her, but the moment she reconfigured the apostolic structure of the episcopate to appease the demands for a Church that reflects social Marxism in preference to the patterns of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the game was up. The next domino to fall will be the acceptance and then the promotion of gay marriage.

It is time for that revivified Anglicanism the Holy Spirit sought to give birth to 40 years ago, as he constantly brings an obedient  Church to new birth. But the birth can only take place in conformity to the Scripture and faithful tradition; and it needs orthodox bishops.

Gafcon Primates – over to you.

Christianity provides a safe context for free institutions to flourish

 

Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1  Historical Perpectives edited by Timothy Samuel Shah and Allen D Hertzke, Cambridge University Press 2016  413 pp   £66

As the American Presidential election nears with forebodings christianity-and-freedom-bookcoverof threats to religious
freedom, this timely collection of fifteen essays examines the contributions of pre-Reformation Christianity to the development of freedom,  (particularly religious freedom for all since religious belief cannot be coerced), and how various protestant traditions and communities contributed to it after the Reformation.

Starting with a hard-hitting essay by Kyle Harper on “Christianity and the Roots of Human Dignity in late Antiquity”.  Mythologies purveyed by an older generation of liberal scholars paid more attention to nineteenth-century biblical skepticism and existential philosophy than the actual wrestling of the fathers with scripture in Greco-Roman society.

To answer the question “How did humans come to be seem as universally free and incomparably worthy figures?” (p.127) needs more than the usual “drive-by history” that begins with the Enlightenment . “It needs to take seriously its deep taproots in an ancient religious view of humanity”, where “Christian sexual morality collided with the systematic exploitation of men and women who lacked access to social honour by virtue of their status.”(p. 137)

Without Christianity, these essays ask, would the Enlightenment have produced the American and French Revolutions? No, it produced Nietzche. “Impartial historians will have to acknowledge that free institutions hardly ever developed in places that were not influenced by Jewish and Christian ideas.” (p 402).

Then read Robert Woodberry’s groundbreaking work on “Protestant Missions and the Centrality of Conversion Attempts for the Spread of Education, Printing, Colonial Reform and Political Democracy” who asserts that Protestants stimulated mass printing for the masses since they believed everyone had a right to read the Word of God. When other religious interests were thus threatened, they released control of texts by printing for mass distribution.  The quest for religious liberty unleashing the right to convert helped lay the foundations much that Western academics ( and others) value – freedom of speech and of association, mass education, wide availability of printed texts, NGOs, colonial reform movements including the abolition of slavery and better health.

Timothy Samuel Shah’s helpful introduction summarises the essential points from each contributor, particularly valuable given that one or two are shrouded in scholarly hat-tips and caveats and are like wading through treacle.

David Philpott challenges the secular liberal narrative which claims that liberal democracy could only emerge when politics was cast free from religion.  Rather Christian liberals between 1800 – 2000 can be shown to have directly contributed to the widening of the franchise, the freeing of slaves, the toppling of dictatorships and the legal guarantee of religious freedom.

The collection should find its way into every seminary library as a major set text on human rights and freedom to inform engagement in current debates with its nuggets of insights: “Without religion, human rights become infinitely expandable, become too captive to Western libertarian ideals and the state is given an exaggerated role to play as the guarantor of human rights” John Witte Jr (quoted on p 176).  Remind you of anybody?

 

Against the charge of Homophobia

By Peter Jensen
https://www.gafcon.org/

It’s a pretty heavy thing to be accused of homophobia. The word is not an intellectual judgement but a more damning moral one.

There have always been examples of unkind attitudes, bullying and discrimination towards people who appear to be, or who identify as, homosexual, just as there has always been racism, snobbery and other ugly traits. Sadly, Christians have sometimes been guilty of this, and in doing so we are failing to follow the way of Christ.

However, in recent years the accusation of ‘homophobia’ has been levelled not just at these unkind attitudes towards gay people, but also reasoned biblical convictions about problems associated with homosexual practice, and any expression of concern about the power and intolerance of pressure groups. We are told that no matter how compassionate a person is towards gay people, if we do not fully embrace the goodness of the gay identity and lifestyle we are homophobes. We are said to rely on irrational feelings and thoughts to reject and damage homosexual people.

You cannot argue your way out of such a moral judgement. You are not being accused of using bad arguments to support a case, but of reacting viscerally in an immoral and damaging way.

Not surprisingly, in the West in particular, those who wish to argue for a traditional sexual ethic have been intimidated by the word. It is tragic to see once orthodox churches compromise with the world at this crucial point and become activists for a worldly morality. But it is even more tragic to see otherwise orthodox people lose confidence in their convictions because their compassion is questioned, and so find themselves unable to speak up for Biblical teaching.

Many ministers fail to teach clearly on this crucial issue and hope that somehow the intimidation will pass. The result is moral confusion and spiritual inertia in the churches.

Of course there have been mistakes made and unpleasant and hurtful language used by those who are commending the traditional point of view and of course there have been, and still are, unjust and dangerous laws and discrimination.

But there is a great peril in simply dismissing those who disagree with a consensus by using a ‘shut-down’ word like ‘homophobia’. We deprive ourselves and others of hearing the whole truth and we lose our capacity to form genuine moral judgements by using abusive language rather than civil discussion. Indeed, it is incumbent on Christians not to lose heart but to speak with care, wisdom and compassion despite the shouting of others on both sides of this debate.

The recent Global South/GAFCON Primates Statement was a model of Christian speech. Read here: http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/index.php/blog/comments/statement_from_the_global_south_primates_and_gafcon_primates_council_concer

First of all, it is a model because of its courage. It was written and published despite the antagonism and abuse which its authors are likely to receive. It has the courage which has been so notably lacking in some quarters. Here is a lesson for the many of us who have ceased to speak through fear.

Second, it is a model because it speaks theologically. That is, it puts the Christian case in Christian terms. It takes us back to creation and affirms the preciousness of every single human being. It refers to universal sin and rebellion against the God who has made us. It then moves to redemption, talking about the hope we may all have through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In so doing it affirms that we all sin, that God loves, that the Bible is his word and that he summons us both to belief and repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Only when these foundations are laid does the Statement turn to our contemporary sins and failures, only one of which is the practice of homosexuality. This must be dealt with because it has become such an issue, but it is not worse than sins such as slander, greed and malice, or as the Primates acknowledged from their own context in their “Sixth Trumpet” statement, corruption, violence and the mistreatment of the vulnerable.

Third, it is a model because it is truly pastoral. What do I mean by this? Well not, as so many seem to think, entirely ‘nice’ and unwilling to offer criticism. The true pastor, the true shepherd of God’s people must care and lead from within the truth which demands that we identify sin and call for repentance where necessary. A pastor must love. But that love involves the pain of rebuke and correction as well as gentleness and encouragement.

And so the Primates, as true shepherds, tell the truth. They clearly identify all sexual intercourse outside of the marriage of a man and a woman, including same-sex relations, as sin, on the basis of the Bible. They warn their fellow shepherds of the danger of blessing what God forbids.

But these leaders speak the truth in love. They place themselves in the category of those who sin and who experience the disorder of our sexual natures through sin. They are not above those to whom they speak. They too are simply forgiven sinners. And they call on Christians everywhere to care for all of God’s precious ones, including specifically those who experience same sex attraction.

Rather than conceding the truth to the world, they are summoning all of us to chasten the world by living lives of holiness. The note of repentance shines through this statement because the statement is shaped by the biblical gospel. It is precisely that note which is abandoned by the shepherds of compromise or capitulation.

Homophobic? Let us not merit such an accusation in terms of lack of compassion. But let us not fear the use of this word to silence our biblical convictions and cultural critiques, and so be brow-beaten into inertia.

In particular, let us remember that we have among us Christian men and women who refuse to identify themselves simply through sexual experience, who are being called to live single and chaste lives. As Christians we must all love them, pray for them, honour them and support them. The world is constantly telling them that their way of life is unnecessary or even wrong. But in fact they are living a new and different life, one which honours their heavenly Father.

Among such men and women are the heroes of the faith for today. If you would like to watch a short video of one such story, follow this link. http://gafconuk.org/news/rev-sam-allberry-talks-about-homosexuality-bible-and-gafcon

Archbishop Peter Jensen is the former Archbishop of Sydney, Australia

GAFCON-UK Panel of Reference launched

Author:

George Conger

GAFCON-UK has announced the membership of its Panel of Reference. On 21 Nov 2016 the conservative fellowship published on its website the names of its advisory panel: Fr. Gavin Ashenden, Chaplain to H.M. the Queen; the Rev Canon Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, Vicar, St Mary Harmondsworth; Miss Prudence Dailey, Member of General Synod and Oxford Diocesan Synod; the Rt Rev John Fenwick, Bishop Primus of the Free Church of England; Fr. Martin Hislop, Vicar, St Luke’s, Kingston; the Rev Canon Nigel Juckes, Priest in Charge, Llandogo, Church in Wales; the Rev David McCarthy, Vicar, St Thomas’, Corstorphine, Edinburgh; the Rev Paul Perkin, Vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise; the Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector, St Ebbe’s, Oxford; and the Ven. Will Strange, Archdeacon of Cardigan, Church in Wales. Drawn from the Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, charismatic and traditionalist wings of the Church of England, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church. According to its published aims, GAFCON-UK will be connected with the global GAFCON movement and will draw on the “global movement for renewal and mission with its spiritual vitality and evangelistic zeal, doctrinal clarity, wisdom and  faithfulness under pressure.” It notes that “as GAFCON is not a new independent church or a rival to the Anglican Communion, membership of GAFCON UK is compatible with being a loyal member of Anglican churches in England, Scotland and Wales while our national churches remain orthodox in their official teachings and policies.” However, faithful churchmen “concerned about the apparent drift of their denomination can rest secure that whatever happens, there is no need to leave Anglicanism. … The GAFCON Primates Council stands ready to authenticate those who wish to remain Anglican, but if necessary outside local institutional structures.”

Categories: 

Secretary-General’s letter shows why GAFCON UK is needed

GAFCON UK
25th November 2016
GAFCON UK

The open letter to Canon Andy Lines of GAFCON UK from the Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council is very significant. It can be taken as the official position of the C of E leadership. Helpfully, the letter moves away from matters of tone and motive which tend to dominate discussion and gets to the real issue, namely, what is, or should be, the teaching of the worldwide Church on sexual ethics, and how do we apply this in the Church of England?

Underlying the letter is an institutional mentality which does not locate ecclesial authority with the unchanging Scriptural principles of apostolic Christianity, as affirmed by the global Church. Rather it puts confidence in legal process, with the effect that what is not ‘legally binding’ can be disregarded or relegated to the respected status of a historical curiosity. More than ever, GAFCON UK with its clear confessional grounding in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration has a vital role to play in our current context.

THE GLOBAL ANGLICAN CONFLICT OVER SEXUAL MORALITY: AIRBRUSHED OUT?

The letter does not acknowledge at all the fractious recent history of the worldwide Anglican Communion since the Lambeth Conference of 1998. (George Conger has written a reflection on his own involvement in the formation of that document here ).

In short, Lambeth I:10 represented the mind of the Communion on the interpretation of Scripture concerning a key pastoral and missiological issue, and on how Anglicans can continue to have fellowship together. The majority of Anglicans rejoiced; in USA and Canada, however, the leadership did not accept the Resolution. The ensuing process aligned TEC and ACoC with Western cultural trends in undermining Judaeo-Christian sexual morality, which is so vital to cohesion in society and individual flourishing.

In the years that followed, the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn,  because of the attitude of a few members that they had no obligation to abide by the will of the group or the clear teaching of Scripture. There were years of agony as meeting after meeting of Primates failed to resolve the crisis of broken fellowship.

But thankfully, in 2008, a courageous group of Primates gathered a group of Anglicans from all over the world (including England) to meet in Jerusalem, to have fellowship, worship and listening to God’s word together, to recommit to the joint enterprise of reaching the world for Christ and serving its people. This was GAFCON, not a breakaway Anglican Communion, but representing the majority of the Communion; not seeking to undermine or rebel against authority but to restore proper authority to the church, the word of God rather than an institution. GAFCON, now firmly in partnership with the Global South movement, is continuing its task of renewing the Anglican Communion.

The letter issued by the Church of England ignores this recent history of departure from orthodoxy, global schism and restoration which is inseparable from any discussion of Lambeth I:10 and Anglican debates on sexual ethics. At best it can be seen as an ‘England-centric’ viewpoint; others may have good cause to see evidence of disregard for the fellowship and leadership of the global Anglican Communion.

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND DOCTRINE OF SEXUALITY: ‘NO CHANGE’, BUT OPEN TO REINTERPRETATION IN PRACTICE?

Likewise, will Anglicans worldwide who hold to the historic, orthodox teaching on sexual ethics be reassured that this standard and practice will be maintained in the Church of England? To be sure, the letter sets out the legal situation regarding marriage and civil partnerships, and says there is “no formal proposal” to change the church’s teaching, which the majority and clergy and laity “have adhered to” (note past tense). But having downplayed the significance of Lambeth I:10 and rejected the possibility that its precepts can be violated because it has no legal authority, it does not say how the Church of England intends to maintain and commend the Christian doctrines of sex and marriage to the nation.

Instead, it gives bullet points (not referenced, but presumably coming from the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance document of February 2014) which are extremely ambiguous and open to a number of different interpretations.

First, because clergy in civil partnerships are not legally married, this therefore apparently has “no bearing on the doctrine of marriage”. Technically true, but if clergy in civil partnerships are part of a psychological societal and congregational process of acceptance of same sex relationships, their presence will certainly influence the popular understanding of marriage away from what the Church has historically taught. Where does that leave the Church’s “doctrine of marriage”? A museum piece, perhaps, especially if it may not be supported by Lambeth I:10 but only a reference to the much longer and less accessible “Issues in Human Sexuality”?

Secondly, “clergy and laity are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice”.  Again, of course we have freedom of speech! But this seems to open the door to the widespread promotion of any view, even an irresponsible disregard for core doctrines, which include marriage. This provision was no doubt originally intended to allow for a free exchange of views during the ‘Shared Conversation’ process. Its effect now will be again to undermine any idea of clear universally agreed teaching in which we can have confidence.

Thirdly, the letter says “prayers of support on a pastoral basis for people in same-sex relationships” are permitted in churches. This is very misleading: in its original context (The Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance of 2014) such private prayers were clearly distinguished from public ‘prayers of blessing’ which are explicitly not permitted. Without this clear distinction, public services of celebration of same sex relationships could be carried out under the guidelines of ‘pastoral prayer’ – and indeed such services are being carried out as the GAFCON document on Lambeth I:10 violations shows.

On one hand, then, the Church of England has an official doctrine of sex and marriage based on the wonderful fruitful biblical vision of godly celibate singleness, man and woman sacrificially committed to each other exclusively for life, a family of mum, dad and kids; power for living it out, forgiveness for all (ie the 100%) who fall short. But in practice the Church is extremely diffident about explaining or commending this vision, not just because it knows that many in the ranks of its own leadership don’t believe in it, but because it is more afraid of unpopularity from the secular British establishment and Twitter mobs than it is concerned about fellowship with the worldwide church or doing what is right before God.

So rather than changing the doctrine, the Church puts it on the shelf, and allows other beliefs and practices to take hold. The church officially believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but Bishops can argue for same sex marriage, and clergy can conduct a ceremony which looks to all intents and purposes like the blessing of a same sex relationship, and it’s ‘within the guidelines’. If the line is crossed into same sex marriage, with laity it doesn’t matter; clergy have a private chat with the Bishop because discipline is a matter for them – they are not accountable to the worldwide church. In a postmodern world people are increasingly unconcerned about these contradictions.

The question to ask, then, is not “what will happen if the Church of England crosses the line and accepts same sex relationships”. It has already crossed that line in practice if not in the increasingly irrelevant official doctrine. The question is, what will the faithful do?

Let’s take a step back for a moment from the sharp public exchange between the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and GAFCON UK, and ask: what kind of Church do we want as Anglicans? Do we want our spiritual and moral guidance to come from bureaucratic interpretations of church law, or from the biblical revelation about humanity in relation to one another and God? Is our vision of the church narrowly confined to what we hope will be acceptable to the metropolitan elites in modern secular England, diffidently offering uncertainties as we continue our numerical decline? Or are we more excited by the reality of being part of a global Anglican future, a worldwide fellowship of disciples from almost every nation, tribe and tongue, confidently affirming the apostolic deposit of faith despite the cost, and encouraging one another to live it out with mutual accountability?

POST-ELECTION: OUR HOPE IN CHRIST, OUR FOCUS ON THE KINGDOM

Words for all Christians dealing with governments and concerns for the Nations. Fr Gavin

“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

 

The day after Election Day I was in Northern Virginia having breakfast with two older brothers in Christ who have poured much Godly wisdom and encouragement into me over the years.  We were trying to absorb the surprise of this Presidential election, the unexpected results, the hopes and the fears expressed on all sides, and the challenges that lie ahead for our nation. But in the midst of that discussion our conversation took a turn to the topic of God’s calling. Both men shared with me a practice they observe daily: to ask in prayer “Lord, what is your Kingdom assignment for me today?”

 

They reminded me that this is the first priority that Jesus set for you and me, his disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus promises that everything else flows from this, including good government, racial reconciliation, material prosperity for all, clothing, food and other essentials of life… Seek first the Kingdom and ALL these things will be given to you as well.

 

I want to invite us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to begin at that place of seeking first the Kingdom of God, no matter how we voted in the Presidential election, no matter how we feel today about the change in leadership. IF we are followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we ask this same question of the LORD in our prayers at beginning of day: “Lord, what is your Kingdom assignment for me today?”  IF this is the first priority that Jesus set for his disciples, the church, shouldn’t we be asking the same question of our churches “LORD, what is your Kingdom assignment for our church today?”

 

What is “the Kingdom of God”?  In The Divine Conspiracy and other works, Dr. Dallas Willard gave a simple but elegant description of what Jesus means when he talks about the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven) in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout his teaching. The Kingdom of God is “The range of God’s effective will-where what God wants done IS done.”

 

We find the range of God’s effective will in the Bible, God’s divinely revealed and inspired word. You and I can find in the Bible what God wants done in our lives, our communities, our cities and in our nation – in 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, from creation to the fall of humankind to redemption through Jesus Christ to restoration at the last day.

 

Consider just one picture of the Kingdom of God, in one city (Babylon), in one of those 66 book, in one chapter, from Jeremiah 29:

 

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters…Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers you too will prosper.” (Jer. 29:4-7)

The Kingdom of God is not Republican.  It is not Democrat or Libertarian or Green.  It is not Right, Alt-Right, Neo-Con, Libertarian or Progressive. The Kingdom of God stands above and over every flawed and sinful human ideology and movement… for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).  In light of Romans 3:23, and the reality of original or birth sin (Article 9), we must categorically affirm that where any human ideology or political party departs from God’s divinely revealed and inspired word, on any issue of the day, we must say so, as followers of Jesus Christ and his priorities and values.

 

Sometimes this will mean enthusiastically supporting candidates who consciously embrace and promote Biblical values. Other times it will mean choosing the lesser of two evils as we cast our votes. At all times it will mean praying for those in authority- however we may think of them-“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim. 2:2-3) We should be praying earnestly for our leaders to seek God and listen to him! We should pray for their health and safety (see Ezra 6:10), and that they would execute justice (Romans 13:3-4; I Pet. 2:14). We should pray they would follow the Lord’s ways and repent if they don’t. Consider the example of King Manasseh in 2 Chron. 33:1-20, a deplorably evil leader who repented and whom God then used to restore what he had ruined. We should pray that they would govern with wisdom for the welfare of the city (Jer. 29:7) rather than for personal gain. We should pray that God would exercise the range of his effective will through those in authority-regardless of their willingness to be used by Him. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a river wherever he pleases.”   Are we praying that the LORD would supernaturally change the hearts of those in authority?

 

There’s much more for us to do together with other followers of Jesus Christ as we move ahead. But prayer is a good place to begin.  Here at the American Anglican Council, we are working with other Christians in The Common Ground Christian Network to develop resources that we can share among all our churches: resources that will proclaim the Biblical basis for human dignity. In so doing, we will engage our culture with a competing vision for human flourishing-one that finds its origins in God’s creative intent rather than the politics of race, class, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Why? “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) Until He comes, we reaffirm our identity in Christ (Eph. 1: 3-14) and our calling as peacemakers in Christ’s name (Eph. 2: 13-22) as we recommit our churches to seeking first the Kingdom of God.

 

What might that look like? Let me close with a quote from Russell Moore in Onward: Engaging the culture without losing the Gospel (2015):

 

“We seek the Kingdom of God before everything else. We connect that kingdom agenda to the culture around us, both by speaking it to the world and by showing it in our churches. As we do so, we remember our mission to oppose demons, not to demonize opponents. As we advocate for human dignity, for religious liberty, for family stability, let’s do so with a prophetic word that turns everything upside down.”

 

Phil-Ashey-2014The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President and CEO of the American Anglican Council.