An Open Letter to Anglicans of Great Britain

An Open Letter to Anglicans of Great Britain

July 18, 2017

Many will share our dismay at the recent decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England and the pursuing principles, values and practices contrary to Holy Scripture and church Tradition.

Given the persistent failure of the majority of the House of Bishops to fulfil the God-given duties which they have sworn to discharge these tragic developments were, sadly, not wholly unexpected.

Accordingly, and in preparation for such eventualities we, as some of those committed to the renewal of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism have already started to meet, on behalf of our fellow Anglicans, to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future.

We now wish that we have done so to be more widely known.

Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration.

We will meet again, as planned and with external facilitation, mediation and episcopal advice, in October.

It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors.

We would value your prayers and any expressions of interest from those who feel they might be able to make a valuable contribution to our deliberations.

Anyone desiring to contact us can do so through any of the organisations or churches listed.

Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, Former Chaplain to the Queen
Mrs Lorna Ashworth, General Synod of the Church of England, Archbishops’ Council
Revd Nigel Atkinson, Vicar St John’s, Knutsford and Toft
Revd Andrew Bawtree, Chair of the House of Clergy, Diocese of Canterbury
Revd Mark Burkill, Chairman of Reform
Rt Revd John Ellison, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Rt Revd John Fenwick, Bishop Primus, Free Church of England
Rt Revd Josep Miquel Rossello Ferrer, Free Church of England
Ven Dr Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, Vicar St Mary’s Harmondsworth & PiC Anglican Igbo Church of the Holy Trinity, London
Rt Revd Paul Hunt, General Secretary, Free Church of England
Canon Nigel Juckes, Incumbent, Llandogo, Monmouth
Mr Daniel Leafe, Gafcon UK
Mrs Susie Leafe, Director of Reform
Rt Revd Andy Lines, ACNA Bishop with Special Mission
Revd David McCarthy, Coordinator of the Scottish Anglican Network
Revd Lee McMunn, Mission Director, Anglican Mission in England
Revd James Paice, Trustee, The Southwark Good Stewards Trust
Rt Revd Jonathan Pryke, Senior Minister Jesmond Parish Church, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Convenor of Anglican Partnership Synod
Ven Dr Will Strange on behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship in England

The Importance of Being Right: Comments on Eugene Peterson’s The Message

By Rollin Grams July 18, 2017

rollin

Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ focuses our attention on a particular virtue.  But being earnest does not hold a candle to being right!  Being sincere counts for nothing if one is sincerely wrong.  This, in a word, captures the problem with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Personal perspectives on Scripture simply cannot replace careful Bible translation and interpretation any more than they should guide pastoral care based on the truth.

the message

Eugene Peterson has been in the news this past week about a flip-flop on his views on homosexuality, and then a simple wave of his hand at the issue—a major embarrassment for anyone in either pastoral ministry or theological education, let alone both.[1]  Yet his error goes deeper—even to altering the Scriptures themselves.  His opinion on homosexuality is actually not important to the Church, though his ramblings will, no doubt, injure some people’s faith.  An individual scholar’s opinions, though, are simply not relevant to the Church’s unchanging witness through the centuries to the truth or the authoritative teaching of Scripture on an issue.  Consider how Peterson’s Biblical paraphrase, The Message, handled key New Testament texts that deal with homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27

The Message

  • Romans 1.26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men – all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it – emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,  27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Peterson’s rendering of the text obscures the issue of lesbianism in verse 26.  In verse 27, he focuses the problem on abuse and lust rather than the acts themselves.  Even the NRSV’s more literal translation is not as helpful as it might have been.  It translates ‘natural use’ with ‘natural intercourse.’  This is a decent translation, to be sure, but the word ‘use’ is actually an important part of Paul’s point, since he is talking about the use of sexual organs according to their natural purpose.  Whether or not we might believe that the NRSV needs improvement, Peterson’s paraphrase totally misses the point.

1 Corinthians 6:9

The Message

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex….

New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites….

The two words that address homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6.9 are ‘malakoi’—‘soft men’—and ‘arsenokoitai’—‘men going to bed with men’.  The first word, ‘malakoi’, fits into a major discussion in ancient philosophy about people who lack self-control, particularly in sexual matters.  It was also further used in reference to men with a homosexual, feminine orientation.[2]  This is how Paul uses the word in a list of three sexual sins: adultery, soft men, and men having sex with men.

The second word appears to have been Paul’s own creation—a compound of the words ‘men’ and ‘bed’ (a euphemism for sex in Greek as in English).  The word essentially means ‘men bedders’ and focusses on the act of homosexual intercourse rather than, as malakoi, on the orientation and its consequences for a person’s whole disposition in life.  The correct translation of these words has escaped translators far too often, sadly.  The English Standard Version, for example, simply collapses the two terms into ‘men who practice homosexuality’.  The New Revised Standard Version limits ‘malakoi’ far too much.  It is possible to understand one example of ‘soft men’ as those men who receive sex from another man, and some of these people were male prostitutes.  Yet the word is far broader than this single category, and it could lead some people to think that the issue is really about prostitution when ‘prostitute’ is not in the Greek text at all!

The second term, ‘arsenokoitai,’ is translated as ‘sodomites’ in the New Revised Standard Version.  ‘Sodomites’ is a term for homosexuals with a lengthy history, since the men of Sodom in Genesis 19 sought to engage in homosexual sex with Lot’s visitors.  The problem with this translation in 1 Corinthians 6.9 is that it brings Genesis 19 into focus, whereas this is not the case.  Moreover, some interpreters of Genesis 19 have tried to understand the passage to mean anything but homosexuality!  While these alternative understandings are certainly wrong, use of ‘Sodomites’ in 1 Corinthians 6.9 could lead a reader who is familiar with these mistaken views on Genesis 19 to think Paul is talking about something other than homosexuality.  Again, he does not say ‘Sodomites’ but ‘men having sex with other men’ (with no distinction between those receiving or those giving the sex, as some interpreters have suggested for these two words in this passage).

These problems with translations pale, however, when one turns to The Message.  The rendering of the verse is completely botched.  The two words under discussion that capture aspects of homosexuality are totally obscured: the reader does not even know the subject of homosexuality is in view.

1 Timothy 1:10

The Message

  • 1 Timothy 1.10 sex, truth, whatever!

The New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Timothy 1:10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching…

As with Peterson’s rendering of 1 Corinthians 6.9, one is not aware in 1 Timothy 1.10 that Paul is presenting a sin list.  Persons needing to see that the early Church and New Testament authors opposed the slave trade will not see this in The Message’s paraphrase of the verse.  Nor will they see that this verse affirms what was said in the sin list of 1 Corinthians 1.9 about homosexual men going to bed with one another.  Paul uses the same complex word, arsenokoitai, as in 1 Corinthians 6.9.

Jude 7 

The Message

  • Jude 7 Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Jude 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

As with his handling of Romans 1.26-27, Peterson focuses on sexual excess in his rendering of Jude 7: ‘burning and burning’.  He catches the connection between Sodom and sexual immorality, but he misses the ‘unnatural lust’ picked up by the New Revised Standard Version.  The word ‘lust’ is not in the Greek, but the New Revised Standard Version does point the reader to the issue of the unnatural act of homosexuality by its translation of ‘other flesh’ in the Greek.[3]

Conclusion

Thus, we see a consistent re-interpretation of New Testament texts on homosexuality by Peterson in the New Testament.  The problem begins already with the choice to produce a paraphrase rather than encourage people to use a translation.  One of the most distressing things to see is a ‘seasoned’ Christian walking around with a paraphrase like The Message.  This suggests an ignorance of the difference between Bible translations and paraphrases.  The Message is not a Bible translation and should not be used for Bible reading or Bible study.  A paraphrase is closer to being a commentary.

Even so, Peterson’s handling of key New Testament texts on homosexuality suggest that his personal views come out in his paraphrase.  It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Peterson intended to undermine the meaning of the text in his paraphrase and, perhaps, thereby indicate his rejection of the text of Scripture.

[1] See, e.g., Jake Meador, ‘Eugene Peterson Shrugs: Why Theological Indifference is Worse Than Progressivism,’ Christianity Today (July 13, 2017); online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/july-web-only/eugene-peterson-shrugs.html?start=1 (accessed 18 July, 2017).  Meador’s article points out another aspect of the importance of being right.

[2] S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Pub., 2016).  See ch. 15.

[3] To his credit, Peterson does capture the focus of the parallel text of Jude 7 in 2 Peter 2.  He does not opt to focus on sexual excess in this passage but renders verse 7’s reference to Sodom as ‘sexual filth and perversity’.  (The New Revised Standard Version has ‘the licentiousness of the lawless’.)

WHEATON, IL: GAFCON Archbishops Consecrate Canon Andrew Lines in Bishop Studded Occasion  

Christianity without repentance is not true Christianity, said Nigerian Primate to 1,400 ACNA delegates

By David W. Virtue in Wheaton
www.virtueonline.org

With guests from Scotland and England observing, some 50 global Anglican archbishops and bishops laid hands on UK-born Canon Andrew Lines and declared him to be a Missionary Bishop for Scotland and Europe under the theological protection of GAFCON, a global Anglican movement of orthodox archbishops and bishops reclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Anglican Communion.

This action was roundly denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as “unnecessary”. Welby condemned it as an ecclesiastical “cross-border intervention”, setting in motion what could be viewed as a threat to both his authority and the hegemony of the Church of England.

Lines was described as a “godly and well learned man” by ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach. Lines had been received into the Diocese of the South, an ACNA diocese, and declared a priest in good standing.

Lines swore an oath of conformity. He promised he would hold his life in conformity to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of Christ “as the church has received them.” Lines then signed an oath.

Addressing the assembled 1,400 delegates, Nigerian Primate Nicholas Okoh, leader of the largest province of the Anglican Communion, praised God for the Jesus revolution. “The universal challenges today include climate change, increase in violence and terrorism, a fierce spirit of independence, freedom itself, human rights, migration, hunger, poverty, HIV/AIDS and nuclear threats. In all the challenges, it has never been easy for men and women to speak in the name of God and make disciples. The Great Commission is not about personal advancement or personal interest, but for the glory of God.

Okoh said that the New Testament was clear in that the disciples were given a comprehensive authority from the Father to rebuke, encourage, but noted that a time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine and gather around them teachers with “itching ears” and turn aside from the truth.

“Take heed to the flock over which God has given you. Beware of false teaching. In most cases, heresies and false teaching is not necessary obvious. Falsehood is a mixture of truth and falsehood. This creature is partly animal and partly human. Flee from such teaching.

“Keep your head in all situations. Do the work of an evangelist. People of God, it is never true to water down the gospel message, in fact, I am convinced that the opposite is true when we concentrate on delivering the gospel of Jesus Christ, people will be cut to the heart and repent. Christianity without repentance is not true Christianity. We must refute erroneous doctrines, contend for the faith of the Church. We are to place teaching above ceremonies which is gaining the ascendency.

“Bishops, clergy and lay people must be concerned with spreading the gospel to all nations.

“In different parts of the world there are a great cloud of witnesses. The Uganda martyrs, the traditional thought forms in Nigeria is another and you, ACNA, are also paying the price.

As you go, avoid fruitless controversies and meetings, spend quality time in spreading the gospel message. Preach and pray in the power of the Spirit, call on the power of God in the name of the Holy Spirit and it will revolutionize your church. If you do, the dead will rise, blind eyes will be opened to hear what has not been heard…follow it.”

“To you (Andy) Lines, I say keep going and keep moving. Jesus our Lord who is sending you out today is the chief missioner and He makes you more than a conqueror. I will be with you, He says to the close of the age.”

END