A Third Issue

Dear Friends of the Anglican Realignment,  

I note with approval that the federal judge who received the South Carolina case from the Episcopal Church (TEC) has remanded the case to state court.  TEC wanted the federal court to preempt the South Carolina state court system and rule favorably on the claims of TEC to all things pertaining to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, their charter, seal, insignia, etc.  Instead, the judge ruled that the case belonged in state court. This does put TEC in a more difficult position because the South Carolina Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Dennis Canon and the concept behind it are null and void. This state court ruling will be a guide for the courts that will now hear the litigation and make a decision.

Also noted is the papal acknowledgement and concern that a gay lobby (perhaps, since this is in Italy, we should say gay mafia) is deeply embedded in the Vatican Curia and high levels of governance. When there is a problem, the first step in finding a right way forward is acknowledging that the problem exists. Removing all those leaders whose moral conduct contradicts Catholic moral doctrine and teaching would be a first step in cleaning house. I suspect that Pope Frances is the strong yet gentle man to take on this task; may God empower him with both wisdom and courage to see this through.

Within the larger Christian community, and indeed within Anglicanism itself, there are some issues that divide denominations, communions and families. You may be familiar with some of the issues, and may have had to deal with them firsthand in your own family, workplace, or church. One issue is the ordination of women to Holy Orders. Both sides feel they have convincing arguments, and it is difficult to find a middle ground. Another issue is sexuality, and primarily homosexuality, and how this is dealt with for membership, communion status, and for ordination. 

A third issue is one you may not have heard of or encountered, but it does play a role in church teaching and conduct. This issue is a modern replay of the reformation era theological arguments, usually termed Calvinism and Arminianism, after their founders John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Both theologies are soundly based on Holy Scripture, but focus on different aspects of the salvation story, and seem to be contradictory to one another. Although Calvinism has much to say about many things, and without doing full justice to Calvin, I would say that it focuses on the Sovereignty of God, and that everything else falls under that. Arminianism focuses on the free will of mankind, and on the acceptance or rejection of God’s grace in our life. The Sovereignty of God requires God to be omnipotent, and omniscient. The concept of predestination arises out of this, as does double election, that is, God has already chosen who will respond favorably to him and be saved, and those who will reject him and his Grace, and face destruction. The Arminians, on the other hand, believe in the Sovereignty of God, but they also believe that men and women have the freedom to choose for or against God, otherwise they won’t be legally responsible for their actions, and it would be unfair for them to be consigned to destruction if they had no say in the matter.

If you start with a human who has free will, having the ability to choose for or against God, and allow a large measure of God’s grace preeminently invested into the individual, it would seem that God is left waiting around to see which way the human will decide, and that doesn’t agree with God being all-powerful. John and Charles Wesley as Anglicans taught what seems to me to be a fairly Arminian doctrine. In the recent past, Presbyterians taught Calvinism and predestination, while Methodists following the Wesley line taught Arminianism. Baptists fell into both camps. I’ve seen plenty of “First Baptist this” or “Second Baptist that” churches, but then I’ve also seen “Free Will Baptist” churches, and surprisingly I’ve even seen a “St. Paul Baptist” and a “St. John Baptist” churches. I’ve wondered what the last two might teach, but haven’t taken the time yet to visit.

Anglicans can fall into either camp, and how they sort their theology out on these subjects will usually be reflected in their attitude toward ministry and life. I understand the need for God’s Sovereignty to be upheld, but I also think that God didn’t intend to make us all into automatons, and that in his all-powerfulness, he chose to voluntarily set aside his all-powerfulness in order to give humankind the free agency to make decisions, to sin, and to make choices that take us away from him. That decision on his part did necessitate God coming to earth in human form in Jesus Christ to bring the grace of God to the battlefield of life, where the for-or-against-God decisions are being made by men and women. I have noted that a weak man cannot be a meek man, for a weak man has only weakness to rely upon, but a strong man, strong in faith in God and with God spiritually equipping him, can choose to be meek. Jesus, who could actually have called upon legions of angels to fight with him as a man of great strength, chose to be meek and accept what was inflicted on him because he was grounded in God, and in fact was God the Son.

I think at some point later on, when Christ has gathered us together for eternity, the seeming dichotomy between the Sovereignty of God and the freedom of the human will shall be reconciled and both shown as true. I want to believe that I shall see a day when faithful Baptists and Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans, and others as well, will all be together in God’s presence, perhaps astonished at who is or isn’t there. I have only touched lightly on this serious and heavy subject, but perhaps some of you might wish to read up on the Remonstrance of 1610 and the Synod of Dort, and start to wrestle with some of these concepts which are actually still alive and live underneath some of the issues we have to deal with.

Please remember that God isn’t through with you, ever. He remains deeply caring about how each of your days go, and the decisions that you must make. He has time for you if you will take time for him.

Blessings and Peace in Jesus Christ our Lord 


The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council

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