A Hard Future For Traditional Christianity

Irish abortion rights protesters says whores are more important than unborn children. Her side won (abd/Shutterstock)

Exit polling shows that Ireland has voted in a landslide — 68 percent to 32 percent— to change the constitution to legalize abortion. Among 18 to 24 year olds, the pro-abortion vote was 87 percent. Even rural Ireland, which was expected to be a bastion of anti-repeal sentiment, came in at 60 percent for repealing the abortion ban.

So much for Catholic Ireland. The Rubicon has been crossed. The young Dublin protester in the photo above, whose sign says that the desires of whores (“hoes”) are more important than the right to life of the unborn, has prevailed. Thus, from the Catholic commenter Sohrab Ahmari:

Sohrab Ahmari

@SohrabAhmari

Exit polls suggest a strong pro-abortion vote in Ireland. As I said last night, we need to think of the West as the repaganized periphery.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.

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Today, The Benedict Option seems radical and alarmist to a lot of Christians. By 2020, it’s going to seem like plain common sense.

Don’t misread me here. There will still be Catholics in Ireland after abortion is legal. The point is that the shift in public consciousness that made it possible for the Irish to accept legal abortion is part of a massive de-Christianization (or re-paganization) of the West.

The main focus of my work in the last few years has been to shake traditional Christians out of our collective torpor in the face of this challenge. Part of that torpor involves believing that politics are sufficient to deal with the problem. This is going to sound strange to non-Christians, or to those who identify as Christians, but who are not involved in church, but it’s true: there are more than a few conservative Christians who still believe that most Americans are pretty much on their side. To them, it can’t be true that America is post-Christian, therefore it isn’t true.

So they don’t see the tsunamis coming.

For example, a reader tips me off to a new set of numbers from Pew: a study comparing and contrasting the way urban, suburban, and rural people think about a variety of issues.  Here’s one result that struck the reader (and me):

Notice that even a comfortable majority (58 percent) of rural residents think same-sex marriage is good for society. These numbers shouldn’t surprise anybody who has been paying attention. I bring them up, though, in another of my routine attempts to convince my fellow conservative Christians that we are going to face a much more difficult future on the religious liberty front than our leaders are telling us, and that many of us want to hear.

“Religious liberty” is not just freedom to believe and freedom to worship. Nobody who understands the issues believes that there will be a serious threat to freedom to worship, or freedom to affirm one’s religious beliefs. The threat to religious liberty comes in the exercise of religious beliefs outside of one’s house of worship. I wrote here recently about how the City of Philadelphia is attempting to prevent Catholic Social Services from placing foster children because, in accordance with Catholic teaching, the agency refuses to place foster kids with same-sex couples. Even if you think CSS is in the wrong here, you have to recognize that the state is exacting a cost to Christians for adhering to their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality.

This is going to be increasingly common. Everybody knows that. The clash between gay rights and traditional Christianity (as well as Orthodox Judaism and Islam) is going to grow fiercer. It is the main event in religious liberty challenges now and into the foreseeable future. In an extremely prescient 2006 article on gay marriage and religious liberty, Maggie Gallagher interviewed Anthony Picarello, at the time the president and general counsel of the Becket Fund, a public interest legal organization advocating for clients in religious liberty cases. He said:

Just how serious are the coming conflicts over religious liberty stemming from gay marriage?

“The impact will be severe and pervasive,” Picarello says flatly. “This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.” Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don’t even notice that “the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it’s easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.”

We’ve been living through that. It’s going to get harsher.

Traditional Christians had better understand that the vise is going to be squeezing us much tighter. Look at the numbers in the Pew study above. The Silent Generation will be gone in the next two decades. Assuming that nobody changes his mind, that will leave rural Boomers and Xers as the only generational and geographical demographic groups who believe that same-sex marriage is not good for society.

The numbers sympathetic to trads will be even smaller if Boomers and Xers who are negative on gay marriage today change their mind, as has been the trend over the past decade. How many people do you think are going from having been pro-SSM to anti-SSM? If any, the number has not been meaningful. The trend towards accepting gay marriage is overwhelming and irreversible for the foreseeable future.

One might have thought that having won the right to marry, and the culture war in general, that gay rights supporters would be magnanimous in victory, and leave religious people alone to live out our sad, limited beliefs, until we all just fade away. That was never a possibility. Activist groups depend on keeping fervor against enemies stoked. As long as there is any resistance anywhere, gay activists and liberal fellow travelers will be attacking in court and in other forums. This is obvious.

Here’s the thing: they will have the public on their side. They already do — see the Pew numbers above, especially the overwhelming numbers in the youngest generational cohort. Among the Millennials, an average of 68 percent think same-sex marriage is a good thing for society. Those numbers are not going to shrink. If they move at all, it will be to expand. And there is no reason at all to believe the numbers for the generation following the Millennials will be anything but bigger.

So, you tell me: how do you protect the right of traditional Christians to live by a conviction that a strong majority of Americans believe is bad for society? 

You don’t. The Supreme Court’s Bob Jones ruling gives the IRS the right to take away a religious institution’s tax-exempt status if the government has a compelling public interest to do so, e.g., fighting racial discrimination. If you don’t think that’s going to happen to Christian educational institutions in the next few years, you’re dreaming.

Will it be applied to churches too? That seems far less likely, but by no means unthinkable as America secularizes. We are moving very quickly into a country where people don’t understand what it means to be traditionally religious. Consider:

The Nones are rising as a percentage of the population. Most of them consider themselves to be spiritual, but not religious — and aren’t looking to affiliate themselves with any particular church or tradition. And Millennials who still identify with particular religious traditions are much more pro-gay (read: anti-traditional) than older Christians. Catholic Millennials overwhelmingly accept homosexuality and favor gay marriage. Among Evangelicals polled last year by Pew, a slight majority said that homosexuality should be accepted by society, and 45 percent favored same-sex marriage.

Why is this important? Because the American public is becoming less religious, and those who adhere to religion are becoming less conservative, especially on the issue — homosexuality — where the religious liberties of traditionalist Christians will be most tested. What conservative Catholics, Evangelicals, and other Christians believe will not only not be shared by most Americans (even most American Christians!), it will also seem to them like nothing more than mindless hatred.

Do you really think that America is going to protect the rights of bigots to practice their hatred, either under law or in custom? Especially when those so-called bigots oppose the holiest things in the religion of secular liberalism: sexual autonomy, diversity, egalitarianism?

Many of you cannot figure out why homosexuality (and sexuality in general) is such a big deal to us traditionalists. There is the fact that it is clearly condemned in Biblical teaching. Plus, that condemnation is not arbitrary at all, but emerges out of the Judeo-Christian conception of what it means to be a human being, and of the right ordering of the cosmos. As I tried to explain in The Benedict Option, we are not now seeing the embrace of sexual autonomy — including abortion rights and gay rights — and their affirmation as good things because of the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP. These things are no aberration, but rather the logical fulfillment of a philosophical and theological turn made centuries ago. A remnant of the Christian faith held these things in check, but not that restraint has almost entirely evaporated.

We have severed the Christian faith from our body politic — in the sense that Western people no longer believe that traditional Christianity should have anything to do with the way we order public life — and nearly severed the Christian faith from the body, period. By that I mean that people who call themselves Christians increasingly disbelieve that their faith obliges them to live by a certain corporal disciplines, sexual and otherwise.

This is something radically new in the history of Christianity, this disincarnationalism. Christians don’t see that, though. They don’t see how difficult it will be to hold on to the liberating teachings of the Bible regarding sexuality, in this repaganized West. And they see no better than anybody else what this repaganization is likely to mean for the body and those who live in them.

What kind of world did Christian sexual ethics challenge? Here’s a passage from aNew York Review of Books review essay by Peter Brown, one of the greatest living historians of late antiquity. He talks about how Christianity opposed Roman mores most powerfully in its rejection of the widespread sexual exploitation of slaves and women:

From Saint Paul onward, the great issues of sex and freedom were brought together in Christian circles like the enriched ore of an atomic device. For Paul, porneia—fornication—meant a lot more than premarital fooling around. It was a brooding metonym, “enriched” by an entire spectrum of associations. It stood for mankind’s rebellion against God. And this primal rebellion was shown most clearly in the topsy-turvy sexual freedom ascribed first by Jews and then by Christians to the non-Christian world.

But then, what was true freedom? Freedom also was a mighty metonym, of which the freedom to decide one’s sexual fate was only one, highly “enriched” part. Above all, it meant “freedom” from “the world.” And by “the world” Christians meant, bluntly, the Roman society of their own times, where unfreedom was shown in its darkest light by the trading and sexual abuse of unfree bodies. It no longer mattered, to Christians, with whose bodies, from which social categories, and in what manner sex might happen. From Paul onward, for Christians, there was right sex—sex between spouses for the production of children; wrong sex—sex outside marriage; and abhorrent sex—sex between same-sex partners. Wrong sex of any kind was a sin. And a sin was a sin. It was not a social faux pas, deemed an outrage in one situation and accepted in another.

Seldom has so great a simplification been imposed on a complex society. The unexpected victory of Christian norms in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries was so thorough that any alternative ordering of moral frontiers within a society became unthinkable. The intricacies of a status-based morality still require patient reconstruction by modern historians of Rome, like the bones of some flamboyant creature of the Jurassic age. The Christian victory was one that caused a chasm to open up between ourselves and the ancient world.

Brown’s general point here — and in his own work — is that Christianity radically restructured the way Greco-Roman society thought about sex and the body. Now that we are leaving Christianity, the old ways are returning. You may think that a good thing. But Christians who don’t apostatize on these teachings for the sake of fitting into the world had better, in Sohrab Ahmari’s words, start thinking of the West as pagan territory, and had better get clear in their minds the steep, rocky, narrow road opening out in front of us, our children, and our children’s children.

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The ‘Story’ That Replaced Christianity Is Collapsing

The 'Story' That Replaced Christianity Is Collapsing

Daniel Lattier | April 26, 2018 |  7,900

 

In graduate school, one of the most helpful concepts I learned about was narrative theology. The basic premise behind it is that theologies are rooted in a narrative, or story, that forms the lens through which a religion’s adherents interpret the world.

Christianity itself is a story, one that captured the West’s attention for almost two-thousand years. According to this narrative—as contained in Scripture and expressed by Church Fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons, the Cappadocians (Basil and the two Gregories), and Maximus the Confessor—God created all men to participate in His divine life, i.e., for deification. He created them in His “image,” and they had to freely choose to grow in His “likeness.” The “Fall” was an attempt to achieve deification apart from God. After the Fall, man retained the image of God (though marred by sin), but no longer had the divine life dwelling in him. God’s redemption of man, over the course of many years, culminated in Christ’s death and Resurrection, which “conquered death,” redeemed human nature, and enabled man to once again fulfill his original call to participate in the divine life.

In saying that “Christianity is a story,” there are many who will immediately smirk and say, “Why yes, it is.” What the smirks usually reveal about their owners, however, is a total lack of awareness of the narrative-based character of their own lives. They have rejected the Christian story—at least, the parts they’re conscious of—and merely replaced it with another story.

As theologian Robert Jenson pointed out in the title of his 1993 essay, the Western world has “lost its story,” the Christian story. For the past two-hundred or more years, its replacement in the West has been “modernity.”

In a remarkably insightful article published yesterday, popular blogger Fr. Stephen Freeman reminds us of the story-based character of modernity:

“We live in a story that calls itself the ‘modern world.’ It is about the ‘time’ we live in. It invented terms such as the ‘Classical Period,’ the ‘Dark Ages,’ and the ‘Middle Ages,’ naming history in such a way that it inevitably yielded modernity. It is the story of progress and evolution, not the unfolding of a divine plan, but the successive work of increasing understanding, science and compassion.”

But stories are to be tested by their fruits, and as Freeman and others have argued, modernity has not delivered on its promises of making of the world a better place, and of making people happier. In other words, it’s a bad story. That’s precisely why it has needed to be propped up by various forms of entertainment and distraction for people. That’s precisely why people have gravitated toward the fantasy genre (represented by Tolkien in the quote below), which hearkens back to a past way of life and being in the world:

“Of course, the narrative that is the story of modernity is fictional. It’s power and strength come from repetition. Modernity did not end war; human suffering has changed but not disappeared; prosperity has come to some but very unevenly; democracy has created universal suffrage to little or no effect; human dignity is a popular slogan, but largely without content. Has the world truly left behind superstition and ignorance in an ageless march towards a consumer paradise?

 

Modernity is only a story: it is a narrative disguised as history. The emptiness and pointlessness of the modern narrative begs for questions. I suspect it’s why our hearts ache from time to time and dream of Hobbits. The narrative of Middle Earth, though fictional, has a transcendent meaning and purpose, something that calls for the deepest courage and makes every sacrifice to be significant. That Mordor and Isengard both embody elements of the industrial revolution, endangering even the Shire, are not accidental. They intentionally represent the flaws of modernity. Tolkien’s mythology imagines that such forces can be defeated.”

Twenty-five years ago, Jenson saw that “the modern world, the world that instrumental and critical reason built, is falling about us.” Its successor is postmodernism, which has not only revealed the shaky intellectual foundations of the story of modernity, but has also sought to do away with all universal narratives that seek to make sense of reality. The postmodern world is one in which each of us is free to make up our own story, using whatever narrative helps us get by.

To reiterate what I mentioned above, the story of modernity was able to come to power because the Christian story in the West had first been lost. Christianity itself had started to tell a bad story, one that did not capture the glory of the original revelation, and one that was not bearing sufficient fruits in its purveyors.

I contend that most Christian churches today continue to perpetuate a bad story, one that’s not really Christianity, but instead, the story of modernity with a superficial Christian garnish. In the description of Rod Dreher, the average person attending a Sunday worship service these days is “fed nothing but the thin gruel of contemporary Christianity, with its shallow theology and upbeat sloganeering.” Today’s churches have sold the birthright of a rich narrative for “a pot of message.”

In line with Freeman’s article, philosopher John Milbank argued that modernity is not actually “secular reason” (he doesn’t believe there is a such a thing) but a story, or mythos, “and therefore cannot be refuted, but only out-narrated.” If Christianity is to ever hope to overcome both modernism and postmodernism, they’re going to have to start telling a better story again.


Contentions

Over the next few weeks I shall be posting a series of “Contentions” concerning the Anglican Church – touching on fundamentals of why we are or would want to be Anglican and thus part of something bigger than just a local church.COntentions

Ask God to Forgive You, Not Excuse You FIVE LESSONS FROM C.S. LEWIS

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God exists everywhere and everywhen. He is eternal and omnipresent. And not only is he present everywhere, he is everywhere pursuing us. He is the hunter, the king, the husband, approaching us at an infinite speed. Central to C.S. Lewis’s vision of the Christian life is the basic fact that we are always in God’s presence and pursuit.

This basic fact about reality yields a basic choice. We can either embrace and welcome this reality, surrendering ourselves to this eternal, omnipresent, and pursuing God, or we can vainly try to hide from him, to resist his advances, to reject his offer. Thus, though it is true that we are always in God’s presence, it’s equally true that we are perpetually called to come into God’s presence, to unveil ourselves to him.

“All of us are worse than we think.”

A chief component of this unveiling is the confession of our sins. If we are to come into God’s presence, we must come honestly. We must come as we are. And what we are is a bundle of sins, fears, needs, wants, and anxieties, so our honesty and unveiling must include the confession of sins.

Lewis is aware that the confession of sin is difficult and fraught with danger. Thus, in a number of places, he offers counsel on the perils and pitfalls of confessing our sins.

1. Beware of vague guilt.

One of the main hindrances to unveiling before God is a vague cloud of guilt that often hangs over us. And vague guilt is particularly troublesome. For you can’t repent of vague sins; you can only repent of real ones. And all real sins are specific sins.

This means that if you find yourself in the fog of vague guilt, begin by asking God to show you the details. Press through the smoke to see if there is really a fire in there somewhere.

If you do, and you find yourself unable to discover any real concrete sin underneath the vague sense of guilt, don’t feel compelled to go rummaging around until you do. Instead, treat the guilt like a vague buzzing noise in your ears — something to be endured as you continue to seek to unveil in God’s presence (Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, 34).

2. Confess your sins quickly and specifically.

Other times, our reluctance to unveil is driven by the fact that we are guilty and we know exactly why. We know what the guilt is about, and we’re trying to avoid the conviction. In such moments, we often also feel that God is standing there, watching us hem and haw and dance and make excuses and saying to us, You know you’re only wasting time. In such cases, the best solution is the simple one. If there’s a specific sin in your life, confess it to God, clearly, honestly, and forthrightly, without using euphemisms (Lewis, “Miserable Offenders,” in God in the Dock, 124).

This means using the biblical words for sins. “I’ve lied,” not “I’ve not been quite honest.” “I’ve stolen,” not “I’ve used something without asking.” “I’ve lusted in my heart. I’ve committed sexual immorality. I’ve envied another person or coveted his gifts. I’m full of bitterness and hatred toward that person in particular. I’m puffed up and arrogant. I’m full of anxiety and fear. I’m not trusting God with the future.” In the same way that you can’t really confess vague sins, you can’t vaguely confess real sins.

3. Ask God to forgive you, not to excuse you.

Often when we ask God to forgive us, we are really asking him to excuse us. But according to Lewis, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites (Lewis, “On Forgiveness,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 178–181). Forgiveness says, “You have done an evil thing; nevertheless, I will not hold it against you.” Excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” Therefore, to excuse someone is to let that person off the hook because he didn’t really belong on the hook in the first place. We refuse to blame someone for something that wasn’t his fault to begin with.

“Ask God to forgive you, not to excuse you.”

When it comes to God, Lewis notes, “What we call ‘asking God’s forgiveness’ very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses.” We want him to remember the extenuating circumstances that led us to do what we did. We go away “imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses.”

When seeking God’s forgiveness, we must set aside the excuses and the blame-shifting. If there were extenuating circumstances, God is more aware of them than we are. What is required of us is to find what’s left over after every circumstance has been stripped away, the little ball of sin that is hardened like a cancer. That is what we are to bring to God. That is what he must (and will) forgive.

4. Don’t camp at the cesspool.

Some Christians have thought that one of the chief marks of Christian growth is a permanent and permanently horrified perception of one’s own internal corruption (Letters to Malcolm, 98). The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner stink. We feel that faithfulness demands pitching our tent by the dark caves and slimy bogs of our hearts.

Lewis thinks this is a bad idea. But it’s not a bad idea because we’re not thatcorrupt. We are that corrupt. All of us are worse than we think. Our hearts really are slimy. When you look in there, it’s true that there is depth upon depth of self-love and sin. But Lewis commended an imaginative glimpse of our sinfulness, not a permanent stare. The glimpse is enough to teach us sense, to humble us so that we don’t regard ourselves more highly than we ought. But the longer we stare, the more we run the risk of falling into despair. Or worse, we might even begin to develop a tolerance for the cesspool, even a perverse kind of pride in our hovel by the bog.

Thus, we must cultivate the practice of imaginative honesty about our sin. We must look at it clearly and acknowledge it. We must not try to hide it or make excuses for it. But, equally, we must not wallow in it either. We need to know sin is in our hearts, and we need to feel the ugliness of it. But then we must also remember that Jesus covers all of it.

5. Surrender self-examination to God.

In our attempts to lay ourselves open to God’s view, we must remember that self-examination is really God-examination. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24). This doesn’t make us passive. We’re active, but our activity is mainly in opening ourselves up to divine inspection. Self-examination is only safe when God’s hands are on the reins.

“You can’t repent of vague sins; you can only repent of real ones. And all real sins are specific sins.”

This is what this might look like. We surrender ourselves to God; we give Christ the keys to every room in our heart. No dark closet held back. No basement corner off-limits. The whole house belongs to him (and he is free to demolish, if he deems it best). We lay ourselves open before him and ask “for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as [we] can bear and use at the moment” (Letters to Malcolm, 34). ⁠There may be deeper sins, down in the black caves, that we don’t yet see. But perhaps we don’t see them because God knows we’re not ready to face them yet. We must learn to crawl before we can walk. God wants us to complete boot camp before sending us off to war.

Then, having surrendered and having asked for our little daily dose of self-knowledge, we believe (and, for some, this is one of the greatest acts of faith that they ever do) that he is fully capable of drawing our sin and our sinfulness into the light, into our conscious attention where it can be confessed and killed.

In the meantime, if we are daily surrendering ourselves to God in this way, we ought to forget about ourselves and do our work.

Are You Avoiding Good?

Finally, as we confront our own reluctance to unveil in God’s presence, it’s worth remembering what God is really after. C.S. Lewis tells a story about his wife, Joy,

Long ago, before we were married, she was haunted all one morning as she went about her work with the obscure sense of God (so to speak) “at her elbow,” demanding her attention. And of course, not being a perfected saint, she had the feeling that it would be a question, as it usually is, of some unrepented sin or tedious duty. At last she gave in — I know how one puts it off — and faced Him. But the message was, “I want to give you something,” and instantly she entered into joy. (A Grief Observed, 46–47)

How much effort we put in to avoiding all that would do us good. This is the great paradox we carry with us into God’s presence. God is here and now, and he demands all of us. But God is here and now, and he wants to give us everything. God is for us, not against us. He may not be safe, but he is most definitely good.

“How much effort we put in to avoiding all that would do us good.”

And he won’t settle for half measures, because he loves us and wants to give us himself. And he can’t give us himself as long as we’re full of ourselves. But if we give up ourselves, if we die to ourselves, then he will give us himself, and, in giving us himself, he will give us back ourselves.

In fact, when we unveil in God’s presence, we find that we become our true selves — stable, strong, full of life and joy, and conformed to the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another.

Monsters in Mitres: The Church of England’s bishops have been corrupted by their absolute power

Author:

Jules Gomes

You can impeach the President of the United States of America and hold the world’s most powerful man to account. You cannot bring to book an Anglican bishop. He is accountable to nobody. He is lord of his diocese and sovereign of all he surveys. For all the ceaseless chatter about equality from the archbishops and bishops, the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the only institution that remains as feudal and fixed as in the Middle Ages.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is now stripping naked our episcopal emperors of mitre and muscle as it exposes the glaring abuse of unbridled power exercised with heightened impunity by bishops in the Church of England. The IICSA hearings began on Monday and are being streamed live on the internet. Each hour lays bare revelations of corruption and nepotism. Each witness tells horrific tales of the abuse of power and the power of abuse.

The Archbishop of Canterbury gets the first resounding slap on his wrist in chairman Alexis Jay’s opening remarks. Justin Welby has been a naughty boy. He’s told journalists he would be giving evidence. ‘It is most disappointing that confidential matters were shared by the archbishop in breach of the undertaking,’ says Professor Jay in disapproval of Welby’s cavalier attitude. Further, by casting doubt on Bishop George Bell’s character, despite the findings of Lord Carlile’s review, Welby also demonstrated he was not accountable to a high-profile independent review.

Meanwhile, in a parallel theatre of the absurd, John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, is shamed with a raft of bishops, Peter Burrows (Doncaster), Steven Croft (Oxford), Martyn Snow (Leicester), Glyn Webster (Beverley) and Roy Williamson (Bradford, now retired) by Fr Matt Ineson for covering up his rape by a former Bradford vicar. ‘By lies, by cover-up, the Church of England has gone out of its way to protect them [the bishops],’ he said. Like him, another victim, ‘Gilo’, is calling for an end to what Gilo calls ‘the Society for the Protection of Bishops’.

The hearing quotes a statement from the victims of abuse explicitly indicting the bishops: ‘Many of us have suffered not only the abuse itself but also years of manipulation, blanking and lies by bishops and leaders in the Church of England.’

The most damning statement against bishops is on page 132 of the transcript of the hearing’s opening session: ‘diocesan bishops are not formally accountable to anyone’. Welby is quoted as saying, ‘I have no legal power to direct that bishops take specific action or to dismiss a bishop.’ If diocesan bishops are not accountable to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the frightening conclusion that must be drawn is ‘Who, then, are Welby and Sentamu accountable to?’

The hearing cites a statement from the campaign group Mandate Now: ‘The diocesan bishop is king in his diocese. The power and status of the bishops is hardwired into the culture of the Church of England.’ It quotes a victim abused by a former bishop: ‘The bishop told me he had the power to give me everything I wanted in life and the power to take it all away’. It goes on to note ‘the broader issue of the unaccountable power of bishops in church structures which were conceived in medieval times’.

Most people know Lord Acton’s celebrated aphorism, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. What most people don’t know is that Acton was referring to bishops. Historian and thinker John Dalberg-Acton was writing to Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London, in 1887.

In the context of the IICSA hearings, Acton’s entire argument to Creighton on the corruption of episcopal power is worth its weight in gold: ‘I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.’

So what makes bishops the most egomaniacal of leaders? Bishops are paid far more than vicars; archbishops receive around £65,000 a year compared with a vicar’s stipend of £24,000 per annum. Inequality? Ha! Twenty-six bishops are given legislative power through seats in the House of Lords and have opportunities to curry favour with politicians.

Bishops still demand to be addressed as ‘Bishop’. The bishop’s mitre and crozier are episcopal totem poles. Bishops are supplied with a generous discretionary fund and with a secretary and chaplain. Most of all, bishops ‘are running multi-million-pound institutions with significant numbers of office holders and employees, as well as a vast number of volunteers’, as the hearing concedes.

Bishops are also the ultimate decision-makers in a diocese. This leads to a culture of ‘inbuilt deference to the bishop’, as social worker Shirley Hosgood reveals to the hearing. Bishops are responsible for clergy appointments. Since the ancient freehold that protected a vicar for life was made redundant, the cleric is at the bishop’s mercy.

Above all, bishops now have the most draconian weapon against clergy – the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), introduced in 2003. An unhealthy proximity to ecclesiastical judges makes it possible for bishops to manipulate the CDM process. So far, to the best of my knowledge, not a single bishop has been found guilty under the CDM, even though a number of CDMs have been brought against bishops.

Lord Acton argues that those seated on thrones of power should not escape justice. ‘You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason,’ he tells Bishop Creighton. ‘I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science.’

So far, the IICSA is exposing the corruption of absolute power in the Church of England. Lamentably, we can’t hang corrupt bishops. Neither can we strangle the last bishop with the entrails of the last politician. We can do far more and pray Mary’s Magnificat that God will ‘pull down the mighty from their thrones and exalt those of humble estate’.

‘An attack on Lord Carey is an attack on us all’, say Church of England figures

by Olivia Rudgard, Telegraph:

A criminal case against Lord Carey would be an attack on us all, conservative Church of England figures have said.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, 10 signatories including the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former bishop of Rochester, suggested that the former Archbishop of Canterbury was being targeted for his involvement in the Bishop Peter Ball case because of “what he represents of biblically faithful Christianity”.

The letter, also signed by Simon Rufus Isaacs, Marquess of Reading, who is a friend of Prince Charles, former bishop of Woolwich Colin Buchanan, and campaigner Andrea Williams of Christian Concern, says that similar high-profile cases have not resulted in prosecutions for misconduct in public office.

On Monday this newspaper reported that police and prosecutors were considering a criminal investigation following the publication of the Gibb report last year, which found that Lord Carey, 82, was among senior figures who had “colluded” with convicted sex offender Ball.

The letter says that investigations into child sexual abuse, Operation Yewtree and Operation Hydrant, “have investigated hundreds of cases of suspected misconduct in public office and have yet to bring a case to trial.”

It adds: “No one has been charged with any offence in relation to the misdemeanours of Jimmy Savile.

“The cases against Lord Bramall, Leon Brittan, Edward Heath and Cliff Richard were all dropped.

“Why is Lord Carey being targeted at this time? Certain public leaders appear to be being attacked by insinuation without due process.

Read here

Read also: George Carey criminal investigation would be attack on ‘biblically faithful Christianity’ by Harry Farley, Christian Today

Watch:

Is Foreign Missions Part of Your Church’s DNA?

Church DNA

By Rollin Grams January 16, 2018

Christian mission requires not only a mandate, such as the Great Commission of Matthew 28.18-20, but also a Church, communities of interconnected believers who embrace the missionary mandate and seek to accomplish it.  One of the largest challenges to Christian mission in our era is the non-denominational church, disconnected to other churches and therefore unable to accomplish the mission, inevitably duplicating the efforts of others, and incapable of taking a long view of missions.  The result is mission projects, short-term mission trips, a confusion as to what actually constitutes Christian mission rather than good works, unclear goals, mission ‘agencies’ instead of mission ‘societies’ that go beyond linking individuals with foreign ministry opportunities by actually having a clear vision of the mission that needs to be accomplished, and, worse, actual damage in ministry.  I can think of one independent church that manages to avoid such problems—only one—and it is because the church exists primarily for the sake of international missions.  Otherwise, I would lay the confusion about Christian missions largely at the feet of the independent church movement in the West.

Of course, we have to add a word about denominations in our day.  The mainline denominations have gone or are going in a heretical direction.  They are declining in number in the West, where the heresies flourish.  And they have lost any sense of mission because they have equally lost any sense of the Gospel and of the need for conversion.  Indeed, their heresies, whether Christological, soteriological, or moral, are directly connected to a vision of Christianity that has nothing to do with conversion: the Church’s goal is to accommodate itself to the culture, to be a positive influence of justice and mercy in the culture, but not to convert persons—a far too judgemental idea!  The elephant in the room of the mainline denominations is Scripture, which can be made to support such a view of Christian faith only when tied down with the heaviest of chains and manipulated with cruel intent.

So, if non-denominational churches are not the answer, and if the old, mainline denominations are not the answer, our main hope for engaging in Christian missions lies with the newer denominations.  Some came into existence by splitting off from the mainline denominations over a hundred years ago, and others are newly formed.  They have often splintered as minor points of new teaching created irreparable rifts between overly self-important leaders.  They have sometimes been formed because members were left church-less when they were evicted from their congregations, particularly in the early days of the Pentecostal movement (early 20th century).  More recently, they have been formed because they have had no choice but to take their reform movement out of the mainline denomination.  The largest Protestant Church in the world, the Anglican Communion, is currently forming various, alternative groupings—effectively ‘denominations,’ though internationally connected within Anglicanism—as a result of doctrinal heresies and false teaching about sexuality.

The question, or challenge, though, is, ‘Will these new denominations be successful in the work of the Church?’  Those that formed over unimportant rifts inevitably remain self-absorbed, closed, and fairly irrelevant.  Those that formed in the early days of Pentecostalism typically had a strong missionary focus, and this is one of the positive reasons that Pentecostalism’s growth is worldwide (sadly, there are some negative reasons for growth as well—most especially, the Prosperity Gospel in some, not all, of the Pentecostal groups).  Missionary outreach—global, costly, enthusiastic, Gospel-focussed, church-supported, Spirit-empowered missions—in Pentecostal denominations is one of the major stories of the Church in the 20th century.  The newer denominations being formed out of reform movements in heretical mainline denominations, however, have largely been pressed into defining themselves in terms of orthodoxy and Scriptural authority.  The challenge they face is much greater than simply being orthodox: they face the challenge of whether the missionary task will be woven into their fabric, become part of their DNA.

Churches need a missionary vision.  Those that focus on being friendly and on having enjoyable community will both enjoy and struggle with their inward relationships.  The main focus will be on getting along with one another—unity, love, compassion, and so forth.  These are powerful forces that form community, but they beg the question why these cannot be found in other groups around the city—the orchestra, the YMCA, the football club, or the village pub.  Those that focus on being orthodox will often offend people who cannot subscribe to their beliefs—major or minor—or they will create divisions among themselves over minor points of theology (often guess-work about the end times!).  Yet the church is a community, and the church is a confessional community under authorities that determine doctrine and practice.  Nevertheless, something more is needed for a healthy church, and that is a clear vision of purpose and an activity that demands time and effort—mission.

People committed to a mission find community in the common mission, even when they would not be likely to associate with one another for other reasons.  Homogeneous groupings might be somewhat diversified through a focus on more integration of community or cultural practices, but they will be far better diversified by a focus on a common and essential mission.  The educated and uneducated, the various ethnic groups, the young and old, male and female, can all pitch in to engage the pressing mission that the community has as its purpose, identity, and activity.  People committed to a mission have to have a clear conviction of truth, of Biblical authority, and Christian doctrine, but they can lay aside less significant debates to focus on accomplishing the mission.

It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit is associated in Scripture with Christian unity, truth, and mission.  Church unity without truth is false unity.  Truth without mission is truth not worth proclaiming to those who do not know it.  An overly meticulous concern for truth in inconsequential areas of theology leads to disunity, which fails to accomplish the mission of the Church.  And unity as too narrow a goal for the Church will fail to recognise that there are those ‘outside’ who have not been reached through the Church’s mission.  Indeed, missions—the Great Commission of the Church—is the genetic wiring in the body of Christ that produces organic unity and theological health.  Is it part of your church’s DNA?

Are All Evangelicals Orthodox?: The Church, Ordination, and Prayer for the Sick

By Rollin Grams December, 2017

Evangelicalism is not a particular denominational confession or tradition in the Church.  It is a movement—an orthodox, Christian movement in Protestantism that relates to the Reformation and is an extension of German pietism and the great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries.  (By ‘orthodox’ I simply mean what the Church has typically taught everywhere, always, and by all through the centuries that is grounded in Scripture.  I am not referring to the Orthodox Church in particular.)  It is best described historically, especially if the alternative is a political description.  This historical definition allows a definition in terms of what united different orthodox movements operating within and outside wayward, Protestant denominations over the post-Reformation centuries.  However, has Evangelicalism remained untainted by the Enlightenment’s Deism, secularism, and rationalism—its anti-supernaturalism and denial of miracles?  I think not, and I will seek to illustrate this with reference to teaching in the Church on prayer for healing of the sick.

The Biblical Basis for Praying for Healing

The Biblical basis for praying for healing is canonical, theological, and textual.  Canonically, stories of the miraculous hand of God and of healing are to be found in both the Old and New Testaments.  Theologically, the ministry of Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God—the reign of God—and this is connected to the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry and in the ministry of the disciples in the Gospels, as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  We have come to speak of the ‘overlap of the ages’: the first and second coming of Jesus place us within an overlap of ‘this age’ with the ‘age to come.’  While this age clearly continues with sin, suffering, and death, the age to come has been inaugurated with Jesus’ redemption of sinners from their sin, his resurrection from the dead, his exaltation over all authorities, and the Father’s sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church.  Textually, we may point to the ministry of healing given by Jesus to the disciples:

Mark 6:13 And they [the twelve disciples] cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

The elders in the churches are to continue this ministry given the disciples:

James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

This ministry is more widely disseminated in the local churches: it is not limited to clergy.  There are those given the gift of the Spirit to works miracles (1 Corinthians 12.10).

The Early Church’s Understanding of a Ministry of Healing by the Clergy and in the Church

As we look at ancient liturgies for ordination and worship, we find the continuing belief in miraculous healing.  Following are several examples and quotations from primary sources to illustrate these points.

Hippolytus (early 3rd c.) discusses various ways, not only by means of the laying on of hands, someone might be recognized as a presbyter: by having been imprisoned or put in bonds because of confessing Christ, by being a widow for a long time, by being given the book to be a reader without ordination, by showing purpose by remaining a virgin, and by showing appointment by already having the gift of healing (The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus I.10-15).

In the Ethiopic Epitome of Hippolytus, the prayer for the ordinand includes, ‘—that he, being filled with powers of healing and words of teaching in meekness’.[1]  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s liturgy includes a number of prayers for the healing of the sick, such as in the Preparatory Service III: ‘For the sick and the diseased we implore that God should heal them and speedily send upon them mercy and compassion.’[2]

The ancient Christian Armenian Church also mentions the spiritual and miraculous work of priests.  The Armenian prayer for the ordination of a priest includes, ‘Grant him, Lord, the apostolic grace to remove and drive away from mankind all evil infirmities and impure spirits by the imposition of his hands and by invoking your most powerful name to help and to heal the infirm.’[3]

The ancient, albeit unorthodox, Nestorian Church’s rite of ordination for bishops includes the following injunction and prayer that agree with more orthodox versions of Christianity:

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give’ and ‘Clothe him, O LORD, with power from on high, that he may bind and loose both in heaven and on earth; that by the laying on of his hands, the sick may be healed, and miracles be wrought by him in Thy holy name, and to the glory of Thy great Godhead….[4]

In the Liturgy of the Holy Apostles Adai and Mari of the Assyrian Church of the East, the priest prays: ‘For those who are grievously sick, and tried by evil spirits, let us pray….’[5]

The Great Litany of St. John Chrysostom (4th c.) prescribes prayers for the sick:

For travelers by land, by sea, by air, and by space; for the sick and the suffering, and for captives; and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.’[6]

In the Litany before the Lord’s Supper, Chrysostom directs the priest to pray:

…heal the sick, O You who are the Physician of our souls and bodies.[7]
The Coptic Church (Egyptian) similarly has this prayer by the bishop at the ordination of a priest:

‘Yes Lord hear us, grant him a spirit of wisdom to be filled by healing deeds and doctrinal words to teach Your people meekly and adore You purely.’[8]

Modern Evangelicalism

Evangelicalism is going through a difficult time.  If it has historically been defined particularly as a renewal movement within mainline denominations, such as Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Methodism. The turn of these denominations in the West in our day to unorthodox teaching has meant a crisis of identity for Evangelicals.  This statement will have to remain a contention in the present essay, perhaps to be taken up at a later date.  To be sure, this is not the only challenge to the meaning of ‘Evangelical’ in our day, but it does seem to be a significant reason for confusion over the meaning and purpose of Evangelicalism in the 21st century.  (I say this with the hope that a clearer meaning and purpose will emerge soon as I strongly believe in the importance of an orthodox movement across the differences of various theological traditions.)

In the increasing absence of Evangelicalism defining itself over against the mainline denominations, Evangelicals are being defined by the new denominations that declare themselves ‘Evangelical’ and by the non-denominational, independent churches that continue to proliferate and identify themselves as ‘Evangelical’—what we might call the Western Independent Churches.  The question coming into focus is whether this newer ‘Evangelicalism’ is to be considered orthodox.  The old, mainline denominations claimed to be orthodox, even if there were serious problems within them in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  Since the mid-20th century, they have increasingly rejected orthodox teaching and practice.  The assumption seems to be that those who claim the title ‘Evangelical’ in our day are the heirs to orthodoxy, since the mainline denominations clearly are not.  This may be largely true, but it is a claim to be proven as much in the West as in, for example, the African Independent Churches, some of which are orthodox and some decidedly not.

The question, then, is whether any church claiming to be Evangelical must be orthodox as well, or whether there are some Evangelical churches and denominations that are not actually orthodox in some area of theology or practice.  This essay is not about how some so-called ‘Evangelicals’ in the West have claimed that they can also be proponents of same-sex marriage—a decidedly unorthodox and unbiblical contention.  Yet that example does seem to add a significant exhibit to the case for questioning whether all Evangelicals are orthodox in Christian faith.

This essay rather has in focus the ancient Christian belief in the miraculous and in the practice of prayer for the sick associated with the clergy and others in the church.  On the positive side, the newly established Anglican Church of North America’s ordination of a bishop includes this charge: ‘Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, do not devour them; hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring back the lapsed, seek the lost.’[9]  We have here the continuation of the ancient church’s belief in miracles and its understanding of ordination to a ministry that includes healing ministry.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, the Westminster Catechism of the mid-17th century asks no question about healing, although in its many Scripture references for other questions it does provide Biblical passages that mention healing.  The somewhat new, ‘Evangelical’ Reformed denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America’s ‘Pastoral Letter Concerning the Experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today’ addresses speaking in tongues, working miracles, and healing.  It claims that these gifts have been given ‘undue prominence’ in our day, and the general tone of the pastoral letter is to downplay these gifts.  Its comments on speaking in tongues are only about wrong views to hold and nothing about what might be said positively about this gift.  It allows that miracles and healing ‘cannot be limited,’ but the letter’s concern is to speak against an ‘obsession’ with these gifts.[10]  One gets the impression that these gifts are more problematic than anything else to an otherwise fairly rational expression of Christian faith.

Also of interest is that the Roman Catholic Church lacks a reference to healing the sick for ordinands—only comfort for the sick by deacons.[11]  It is, as an ancient Church, a Church that, of course, does believe in the miraculous and in healing.  The liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church (‘Evangelical’ in the denomination’s name has nothing to do with ‘Evangelicalism’) lacks specific prayer for healing in its liturgy.  Rather, it calls for prayer for ‘the poor, the persecuted, the sick, the lonely, the forgotten, and all who suffer….’[12]  Perhaps this is not prayer for deliverance to a God who hears and answers prayer in miraculous ways but more of a statement of concern for those who suffer by a caring community.  We regularly see older denominations retain some of the teaching and practices of the earlier Church while not believing it and redefining it in some way.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (this time, ‘Evangelical’ is linked to ‘Evangelicalism’) lacks any reference to ministry to the sick by those being ordained, let alone a reference to a ministry of healing.[13]  Some of the EPC’s churches are charismatic, however, and the denomination will pray for healing of the sick.  Yet the ancient linking of ordination to a ministry of healing the sick is lacking.

There is, however, a rationalistic, Enlightenment understanding of the Christian faith in certain groups and denominations that claim to be Evangelical.  ‘Cessationism’ is the term given to those who believe that the miraculous (speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miracles in particular) has ceased.  A stark example of this is the doctrinal statement of John MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, California.  It includes the following statement about speaking in tongues and miracles:

We teach, in this respect, that God the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the bestowing of all His gifts for the perfecting of the saints today and that speaking in tongues and the working of sign miracles in the beginning days of the church were for the purpose of pointing to and authenticating the apostles as revealers of divine truth, and were never intended to be characteristic of the lives of believers (1 Corinthians 12:4-1113:8-102 Corinthians 12:12Ephesians 4:7-12Hebrews 2:1-4).[14]

How the Scripture passages cited here could possibly relate to this rationalist contention is beyond me, and how such a statement ends up in a doctrinal statement is disturbing at several levels.  Are we now confessing what we do not believe?  Are we confessing things with no Biblical warrant?  And, as this article is concerned to explore, are we confessing things that do not relate to the historic, orthodox Church?  In other words, is ‘Evangelical’ necessarily orthodox?

I would suggest that ‘Evangelical’ is necessarily orthodox in theology and practice.  If so, Enlightenment Evangelicals who deny miracles, understand ‘faith’ as merely a set of dogmatic propositions, and who do not pray for the sick cannot actually be considered ‘Evangelical.’  We may do well to state as well that the Prosperity Gospel is equally outside orthodox, Evangelical faith.  Yet there are no grounds on which to exclude the latter while denying the miracle-working power of God in doctrine and prayer for the sick.  On the contrary, we should rejoice in the testimonies of persons among us who have experienced the miracle-working power of God in their lives in salvation, healing, miracles, and the transformation of sinful desires to desiring God and His righteousness.  As we face the task of defining ‘Evangelical’ for the 21st century rather than jettisoning the term for all the challenges the term poses in our day, we need to retain the connection between ‘Evangelical’ and ‘orthodox Christianity.’  If we Evangelicals are not Biblical and orthodox in faith and practice, we are nothing at all.[15]

[1] Cf. http://www.agape-biblia.org/literatura/Burton_Scott_Easton_-_The_Apostolic_Tradition_of_Hippolytus_(1934).pdf; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[2] Cf. http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/church/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[3] Cf. https://www.stnersess.edu/resources—the-armenian-sacrament-of-ordination-to-the-holy-priesthood.html; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[4] Cf. George Percy Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals: With the Narrative of a Mission to Mesopotamia and Coordistan in 1842-1844 and a Late Visit to Those Countries in 1850; also Researches into the Present Condition of the Syrian Jacobites, Papal Syrians, and Chaldeans, and an Inquiry into the Religious Tenets of the Yezeedees, Vol. II (London: Joseph Masters, 1852), pp. 344, 345; online at https://books.google.com/books?id=8FUZV3_VSqMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=George+Percy+Badger,+The+Nestorians+and+their+Rituals&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwik8aaAsI3YAhUNYt8KHZQZAYkQ6AEINTAC#v=onepage&q=Badger&f=false; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[5] Cf. The Liturgy of the Holy Apostles Adai and Mari Together with Two Additional Liturgies to be Said on Certain Feasts and Other Days: and the Order of Baptism (Typis Missionis Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, 1890); https://books.google.com/books?id=K1Q1AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP183&lpg=PP183&dq=takhsa&source=bl&ots=LY44QHzpV8&sig=x5BCOHup5f1Wfeup5jW32EP-sUA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiUy4DYj43YAhUkkeAKHS20CpwQ6AEIVzAJ#v=onepage&q=sick&f=false; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[6] As quoted in Fr. Joseph Irvin, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Orthodox Service BooksNumber 1 (Lulu Press, 2017), n.p.; online https://books.google.com/books?id=PY4tDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cf. http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/thecopticchurch/sacraments/7_priesthood.html; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[9] Cf. the ‘Ordinal’ at http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/texts_for_common_prayer.

[10]

[11] Cf. http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/jmjoncas/LiturgicalStudiesInternetLinks/ChristianWorship/Texts/Centuries/Texts_1900_2000CE/RCWorshipTexts1900_2000CE/Rite_of_Ordination_of_a_Deacon.htm.  The service of ordination for priests does not mention healing or ministry to the sick: see http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books-1962/rituale-romanum/40-the-sacrament-of-holy-orders-rite-of-priestly-ordination.html.

[12] Cf. download.elca.org/…/Evangelical_Lutheran_Worship_Ordination.rtf.

[13] Cf. https://www.epc.org/file/main-menu/resources/download-epc-forms/service-form-ordination-and-installation-of-a-minister.pdf.

[14] See p. 77; online at https://www.tms.edu/about-the-seminary/doctrinal-statement/; accessed 15 December, 2017.

[15] Some Evangelicals try to define ‘orthodox’ narrowly, such as by what is affirmed in the Nicene Creed.  The Creeds contribute to an understanding of ‘orthodoxy,’ but they are decidedly not limited to what the term means.  The Creeds define in whom we believe, as my colleague, Dr. Donald Fairbairn, argues, and are not definitive by themselves for either orthodox beliefs or practices.

ANGLICAN MISSION IN ENGLAND COMES OF AGE

 

By Julian Mann
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
The Anglican Mission in England, launched by the Archbishops of the Global Anglican Future Conference in 2011 to support biblically orthodox Anglican ministry outside the Church of England, is now coming of age.

With the upcoming ordination of nine men on Thursday (December 7th) in East London by Andy Lines, consecrated in June by the Anglican Church in North America as missionary bishop to Europe, AMIE can no longer be accused of being an angry adolescent jumping up and down on the side-lines.

What was striking was the statemanslike nature of the statement by AMIE’s mission director Lee McNunn announcing the ordinations. This belied the juvenile headline by the allegedly evangelical but actually liberal-leaning website, Christian Today: ‘Rival Anglican church ordains new clergy in challenge to Justin Welby’ (current Archbishop of Canterbury).

Mr McNunn did not minimise the corrosive false teaching in the Church of England but made clear that AMiE is wanting to position itself positively for biblical truth rather than acting as a protest movement fired by what it does not believe in:

‘We know that many faithful Anglicans remain within the structures of the Church of England. However, some are finding their entry to ordination blocked by liberal clergy who do not believe orthodox Anglican teachings, like Jesus being the only way to be saved. Moreover, an increasing number of those exploring ordination now have no interest in joining what they see as a fundamentally compromised denomination. They are distressed by the number of senior clergy who are keen to bless what the Bible calls sin. Many are now talking to AMiE about a different way of being an Anglican in England.’

He added: ‘They are discovering the joy of belonging to a network where church leaders actually believe the historic Reformed faith in the 39 Articles, and where clergy are fully convinced that people need to be saved from the judgement to come. They are also experiencing the delight of being led by bishops, who all believe that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation; who uphold the supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of belief and behaviour; and who are personally involved in the lives of the clergy.’

Inevitably with our fallen human nature being what it is, there will be some immature elements in AMiE who set out to compete with biblically faithful Anglican churches and ministers in the Church of England and seek gratuitously to provoke the CofE hierarchy. But the Lord willing these elements will lose influence as AMiE continues to grow up.

The growing maturity of the movement was also expressed by Andy Lines who said of the men being ordained to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in existing AMiE churches and in new congregations: ‘There has been a lot of work by a number of people involved in bringing these men to the point of being ordained. It is good to be part of the process of recognising their giftedness and godly character but they will need our prayers in the days and months ahead because like us they are weak and the work is hard, but our God is gracious and powerful.’

By God’s grace, the consecration of this former British Army tank commander is proving to be a great blessing to orthodox Anglicanism. But for AMiE to be an effective force for the gospel in the future it needs to continue to give the lie to that Christian Today headline with the humility and realism exemplified by him and Lee McNunn.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK – www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk

Modern pharisees — the moral preening of the archbishops

Author:

Jules Gomes

Two men go to the temple to pray, one the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other a Trump-voting American fundamentalist. Archbishop Justin, standing before ITV’s Robert Peston, prays: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, Tories, pro-lifers, patriots, climate change deniers, wealth creators, welfare state haters, women’s ordination objectors, Islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, Jacob Rees-Mogg or even like this fundamentalist Christian Trump-voter. I support Fair Trade and food banks. I challenge Wonga and high street banks.I pray for the UN climate summit in Paris. I issue press releases on child refugees and terrorist attacks. I denounce Brexiteers and praise Remainers.’

The Trump-voter, standing far off, will not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast, saying: ‘I am a garbage collector from America’s Rust Belt struggling to raise a family. I voted for Trump. God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Jesus’s much-loved parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is a classic text on the dynamics of virtue signalling. The Pharisee, like the Archbishop, is seeking moral approbation. On ITV, Welby said he ‘really genuinely’ does not comprehend why fundamentalist churchgoers voted for Trump. There are a number of features to this liturgy of sanctimonious virtue signalling.

First, it is public, performed in the Temple or on TV. Second, it is effortless. It involves no risk. Third, it is elitist. The Pharisee is not like the Publican. The Archbishop is not like the American. Fourth, it is exclusive. The Pharisee and the Archbishop exclude sinful publicans, Republicans, and creepy fundamentalists crawling out of Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.’ Fifth, it is self-centred. The camera must focus on I, me and myself – a trait Martin Luther termed homo incurvatus in se: man curved in on himself.

James Bartholomew, author of The Welfare of Nations, coined the term ‘virtue signalling’ in 2015. ‘One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous,’ he notes. ‘It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.’ While researching his previous book, The Welfare State We’re In, Bartholomew realised that the Victorians and Edwardians gave more to charity than today’s citizens. Even the working classes gave around 10 per cent of their income, compared with less than 1 per cent for today’s overall population. Today, people think they are virtuous because they vote Labour and express hatred of Right-wingers. ‘That is not virtue.’ writes Bartholomew. ‘That is lazy, self-righteous and silly.’

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, proved Bartholomew’s point last week, when he returned to the safe spaces of the BBC studios to be interviewed by Andrew Marr, and donned his dog collar after the fall of Robert Mugabe. Sentamu cut up his collar on the Andrew Marr Show in 2007 in protest against Mugabe.

Sentamu did not visit Zimbabwe and demonstrate outside Mugabe’s palace. He would have been thrown into prison. That would have been a virtuous act of protest requiring real courage. Your publicity stunt really had Mugabe quaking in his boots, did it not, Archbishop? You could have made a Mugabe voodoo doll and stuck pins into it! Sentamu’s act was a feel-good virtue-signalling feat. He felt good and enjoyed the publicity. Andrew Marr felt good because the BBC had done its bit to virtue signal its opposition to Mugabe. We all felt good because we had vicariously demonstrated our hatred for Mugabe.

Jesus warns against virtue signalling when he asks his disciples to ‘beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. He ridicules religious leaders who make ‘their phylacteries broad and their fringes long’ (and slice their dog collars in television studios).

Social psychologists Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke prefer to categorise such behaviour as ‘moral grandstanding’ – public moral discourse aiming to convince others that you are ‘morally respectable’. Others must judge you as ‘worthy of respect or admiration’ because of ‘some particular moral quality – for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project,’ they argue. Sentamu’s vanity project lasted ten years and was made visible by the empty space around his neck.

There are life and death issues in the North of England over which Sentamu presides. Clergy survivors of sexual abuse have been pleading with him for justice. Fr Matthew Ineson, one of the victims, tweeted this a couple of days ago: ‘Today is the 98th day since risk assessment request on Bishops Sentamu, Croft, Snow & Burrows (for failure to act on disclosures of child abuse & leave a priest child sex abuser 5 years to potentially abuse again) sent to @JustinWelby STILL no reply. Why? Child abuse unimportant?’ Teenage white underclass girls in northern towns have been raped by mostly Pakistani Muslim men on an industrial scale. The C of E is haemorrhaging members over the failure of its hierarchy to uphold orthodox teaching in the face of a militant sexually permissive zeitgeist.

Welby or Sentamu haven’t let out the tiniest squeak of protest or opposition.

Ironically, the rise of virtue signalling parallels a growing interest in Aristotelian virtue ethics. Philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue and Bishop N T Wright in his book Virtue Reborn have both stressed the importance of virtue as building character.

But virtue signalling is the opposite of virtue. Real virtue is done without drawing attention, is in harmony with reason and natural law, and is directed toward helping others or toward God. Virtue signalling turns virtue ethics on its head because it must be readily visible, it is silly and unreasonable and it does not help anybody, says Kevin Clark.

The most devastating consequence of virtue signalling is that it becomes a substitute for character building and replaces Aristotle’s four principal virtues of courage, justice, prudence and temperance with publicity stunts, sound bites, Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter shares.

Oh, by the way, Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, took a virtue-signalling HIV testlast week. ‘It’s just a pinprick. A simple, pain-free test. And the staff I dealt with were lovely, putting me completely at ease,’ Bayes said. Poor Jesus, I thought! He had to endure a crown of thorns on his head, nails through his hands, and a spear thrust into his side.

First printed in The Conservative Woman