The Swanson Diocese

 

At their recent Synod this weekend, the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle passed two bills to enable clergy to bless what God in His Word deems to be sinful, to bless what the Bible says is an expression of an anti-God state of mind (see Romans 1:18ff), to declare holy what God states keeps people out of the Kingdom of God, and redefined the doctrine of marriage. This move mirrors that of a similar proposal passed by Wangaratta diocese in Victoria.

The Bishop of Newcastle in a letter that was made public a month before describes the first bill as follows:

“A Bill for Blessing of Persons Married According to the Marriage Act Regulation 2019 which would provide for a form of service for the blessing of a marriage conducted in accordance with the Marriage Act. The Bill proposes that the Bishop would have to stipulate a date on which the Regulation would come into effect.” This would allow the diocese to wait until the Appellate Tribunal rules on the Wangaratta matter before offering blessings.

A second bill was also introduced that “would remove any disciplinary process for a member of the clergy who pronounces or declines to pronounce a blessing of a marriage in which the persons being married are of the same sex and would remove any disciplinary process for a member of the clergy who is married to a person of the same sex.”

I am very saddened by this. For it was was in the Newcastle Diocese that I was ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood. It was a very moving experience. (I am the man in the chasuble that is is almost all white). It was very powerful hearing the exhortation to both in my public and private ministry oppose and set aside teaching that is contrary to God’s Word, to be told to encourage and build up the body of Christ, to preach the Word of God, lead God’s people in prayer, declare God’s forgiveness and blessing. Also the reminder to pastor after the pattern of Christ the great Shepherd, to lead the people of God as a servant of Christ; to love and serve the people with whom you work, caring alike for young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong; to studying the Scriptures wholeheartedly, reflecting with God’s people upon their meaning, so that my ministry and life may be shaped by Christ. I was reminded of how great a treasure has been placed in my care and that I will be called to give an account before Jesus Christ. It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I openly declared my conviction that the Holy Scriptures contains all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and declared by God’s grace determination and intention and desire to instruct from these Scriptures the people committed to my care, teaching nothing as essential to salvation which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures.

It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I served as the Chaplain for Scone Grammar School and was given the platform to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to hundreds of students on a weekly basis. It was in that capacity that I was able to preach the Gospel to hundreds of teenagers and the senior leadership of the Diocese at a Newcastle Anglican Schools combined service at Christchurch Cathedral in Newcastle  (right pic).

It was in the Newcastle Diocese that I discovered and used Cranmer’s jewels of Scripture soaked liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer; the rhythm of liturgy and the church calendar; the encouragement of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

But I am not at all suprised but this. The Newcastle Diocese is infected with a condition, a sickness. A sickness whose symptoms are apparent in almost every media item that pertains to the Newcastle diocese in recent years. A sickness that reminds me of my late Father’s yacht.

I grew up around yachts, and remember my Father bought a Swanson 32 (see top pic) which was moored out the back of our place in Drummoyne on the Parramatta River (left pic). It was a lovely upgrade from his previous heavy PR25. However, the Swanson had a sickness. Deep down under the surface, the fiberglass hull would bubble due to a condition called Osmosis. My Father would have to have the boat put in dry-dock and have it treated, more than once. He was told that they got it all but it always seemed to come back and end up back in dry-dock.

I asked an old Yachtie about it and he told me that it was due to the ratios of the fiber-glass resin being incorrect due to the builders transitioning from using wood to fiber-glass not getting the mixing ratios correct in the first place. I  had no way of knowing if this were true, but if it was true then no amount of treatment on the surface would fix the problem as the problem was at the fundamental level. They had to in essence “go back to formula”.

Just as my Father’s old Swanson had osmosis, the Newcastle Diocese has theological osmosis, indicative of mistakes made at the fundamental level. Two examples stand out for me during my four years in the diocese that highlight this sickness and the necessity for it to go back to formula:

Example 1: Interviews for ordination

The first year serving in the diocese consisted of being discerned for ordination. I was interviewed several times, was required to take a rather extensive independent psychological profile testing, and then undertake further interviews – with the one goal – to assess my suitability for ordination. At these interviews, various questions were asked of me as part of my ordination discernment. They were not all asked by the Bishop and the newly appointed Assistant Bishop of the time (who is now the current Bishop) but also various (yet key) people within the diocese, lay and ordained, at that time. However, I believe the questions speak for themselves as to the nature of this sickness that the diocese is infected with, thus I have deliberately chosen not to provide my answers (though it is helpful to add that my answers were often the basis for the proceeding question).

Questions asked:

  • What do you think of homosexuality?

  • Do you think homosexuals can be Christians?

  • What do you think of GAFCON?

  • Are you anti-gay?

  • What is your view on women’s ordination?

  • Could you work with a woman rector?

  • Do you think it is right for women to be Bishops?

  • It is likely that the Newcastle Diocese could elect a woman bishop, what do you think about that?

  • How do you feel about the fact that the majority of clergy in this diocese don’t believe in Penal Substitutionary atonement?

  • Do you feel that you have an obligation to correct other clergy when it comes to their different views, particularly when it comes to penal substitutionary atonement?

  • Do you think you can serve in a diocese where your view is the minority?

  • How do you think you would go serving in a parish where: a)Your Bishop is a woman b)Your Rector is a woman and a lesbian c)Your Rector also does not believe in penal substitutionary atonement d) The majority of people in the parish don’t believe in penal substitutionary atonement e)There are homosexual couples in the church?

  • How do you feel about serving in a diocese that is sacramental?

  • What are your views about wearing robes?

  • If you were visiting a patient in a hospital who was a Muslim and they died? Do you believe that they would go to heaven?

  • What if the person was a Buddhist?

  • How you would respond to the fact that many clergy in the diocese would find your views to be OFFENSIVE & ZENOPHOBIC?

What was apparent to me then, and even more so now eleven years later, are the questions that I was never asked:

  • Will the gospel be faithfully preached by you?

  • What is your understanding of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?

  • Will you aim to ensure that the Bible is taught with clarity and passion?

  • Are your sermons manifestly rooted in the text of Scripture?

  • Will you exercise personal care over the flock? How will you do this?

  • Do you believe in the complete trustworthiness of all of Scripture?

  • Do you devote adequate time for study and preparation?

  • How is your personal godliness going?

  • How is your prayer and Bible reading?

Instead of discerning whether I met the qualifications for the church office laid out in the New Testament and the Ordinal; instead of asking me if I believe and eagerly rejoice in my denomination’s (Anglican) statements of faith, creeds, and confessions, the concern of the diocese were primarily my views on homosexuality, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, women’s ordination (to the priesthood and especially to the episcopate); and how I would respond to clergy who are either female and/or gay and/or do not believe Penal Substitutionary Atonement and laypeople who are gay and/or do not believe in Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Example 2: Discernment Retreat

Towards the end of my discernment year, the Bishop invited me (along with other candidates) to attend a discernment retreat over a weekend.

Two things stood out. Firstly, I remember the week leading up to the Discernment retreat, the then Director of Ordinands rang me rather late at night me in a stupor over the fact that I did not send the certificate proving that I was baptised in the Anglican Church (because I did not keep the certificate when I was 16 years old), and referring to my other material (papers I had to submit pertaining to what I believed to be the essence of Anglicanism – I wrote extensively as I recall on the prime authority of Scripture, the saving death of Christ, his physical resurrection from the dead, the 39 Articles, the Ordinal, the BCP, the Anglican Constitution of Australia) as “all this s**t!” .

Secondly, on arrival at the retreat, all candidates were given an envelope and told not to open it until the final day. The contents of the envelope turned about to be a hypothetical scenario and we had to sit in a circle and discuss as a group how we should deal with it. Our circle was surrounded by another circle consisting of clergy and laypeople whose role was to take notes and assess our responses. It was rather intimidating, but I could see the logic behind it. It was designed to see how we would respond in a group context dealing with an issue that we may not be prepared to answer, which in my years of ministry makes sense as parish ministry is not always predictable.

As we opened our envelopes, my scenario was not a surprise – teenagers throwing rocks at the church building;  because it is a situation I had already encountered in real-life ministry. As the candidates went through their hypotheticals, they were all predictable in my view, (with one or two being pastorally tricky) but then… the last candidate read out her scenario:

Anthony and Stephen have come to church seeking…

I knew what was coming next…

… to have their relationship blessed by the Rector, what advice would you give your Rector?

I remember inwardly groaning and thinking this was the end of the ordination journey for me. Everyone had their say, and I said nothing, hoping to get out of it. But the candidate who was leading this discussion said these fateful words to me:

“Joshua, what do you think?”

I could have retreated to cowards corner and have said “no comment” or attempt to obfuscate around the issue. But there was no evading the question. I knew I had to respond. So I answered by saying that what matters is not what I think or what anybody else thinks, but what matters is what God thinks and furthermore, we can know God’s mind on this issue as He has revealed it in Holy Scripture. I then very briefly summarised how God endorses and blesses only two types of sexual expression; heterosexual sex between a married couple and celibacy for those who are not married. I also mentioned that for the Rector (or any clergy) to bless the union between these two men was not only in violation of Holy Scripture but also went against the Lambeth 1:10 resolution. Thus the right thing to do was to point this out to the Rector and say to him:

“It is obvious that Scripture is very clear on this issue”.

I said nothing further and the poor candidate who was given this hypothetical thanked me for my contribution and then concluded that if this were a real situation, the best way forward would be to form a committee to meet with the Rector to talk about it further.

After this final exercise, it was not hard to see amongst some of the examiners what they thought of me. Though there was some orthodox clergy in that group who gave me supportive subtle smiles.

Fitting In over Fidelity

When I reflect on my four years in the Newcastle Diocese, and on my journey from ordination candidate to priest, what is clear to me now is the Newcastle Diocese’ concerns regarding my suitability for holy orders were not based on my fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ (and to Scripture, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Creeds, and the vows I would make at my ordination), but on my fitting in – fitting into a diocese that appeared to have very specific views and agendas pertaining to:

  • Homosexuality (gay clergy, lesbian clergy and homosexual couples in church)
  • Women’s ordination (to the priesthood and especially to the episcopacy)
  • Penal Substitutionary Atonement (chiefly, its denial)
  • The wearing of robes (in particular anglo-catholic vestments)

Other Symptoms 

I have a friend named David Ould. He too is an Anglican priest, and his website has a far-reaching national global readership and David blogs extensively about current Anglican matters pertaining to the National church. One time he wrote about the decision of the Newcastle Diocese to appoint a priest to the role of Archdeacon on the Central Coast. (Pictured here promoting a “fabulous pride mass” in October 2016.)

The inference behind his post was that this appointment was controversial or perhaps radical due to the fact that the newly to be appointed Archdeacon is a man who openly denies the very things he promised to believe, affirm, uphold, teach and defend at his ordination. I rarely disagree with Rev Ould, though this time I did, as I believe that this appointment was neither controversial or radical.

Although the appointment was made by their Bishop who was relatively new to the role at the time (and has since resigned), with all fairness and due respect to him, he was acting in line with the dominant theological stance, ethos, emphasis of the very diocese that elected him as Bishop. The appointed Archdeacon is very much an advocate of LGBTQIA+ ETC rights and the lifestyles that goes with those who identify themselves as such.  He affirms women’s ordination to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. He denies Penal Substitutionary Atonement and the authority of Scripture as God’s Word Written, denies the Biblical teaching of the future state of believers and unbelievers. He holds to the centrality of the Eucharist, and he loves wearing vestments. In short, he fits in.

Fast forward to August this year; the Newcastle Diocese approved and promoted Newcastle Pride Week and with it yet again, another ‘Pride Mass’. This is what it said:

Next Friday 23 August Saint Luke’s Wallsend is hosting a ‘Pride Mass’ in conjunction with Equal Voices Anglican as an opportunity for this parish and the broader Anglican church to celebrate and affirm LGBTIQA+ people in Newcastle and the Hunter during Newcastle Pride Week, especially within the church.

“We intentionally used the word affirm, as that is the place we believe the church needs to move to if it has yet to do so,” says Reverend Canon Andrew Eaton, Minister of St
Luke’s.

“An affirming church is one that says we are not just including you in our community, as if we were doing you a favour by not excluding you. We are affirming your presence in the community, and your equality in the eyes of God. We value what you bring, all of you. We would be diminished if you are not part of this community, this expression of the body of Christ.”

The preacher at the Pride Mass will be Fr Stuart Soley, vicar of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Fitzroy in Melbourne. Fr Stuart is a fearless advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community both in the Anglican Church and wider community. He comes to Newcastle Diocese from a parish with a proud history of affirming LGBTIQA+ Christians and working with the marginalised in their community.

“This Eucharist, like all services at St Luke’s is open to all people,” says Rev’d Canon Andrew. “It also must be a safe place for the LGBTIQA+ community, many of whom have suffered terrible bigotry and exclusion by the church.”

Newcastle Pride Week runs from 22 August to 26 August, 2019. The ‘Pride Mass’ is taking place at Saint Luke’s Wallsend on Friday 23 August at 7pm. Refreshments to follow.

The Newcastle Diocese has a sickness. It has the wrong formula, it has rejected the Apostolic gospel for a false gospel, a gospel that says “come as you are and stay as you are”; a gospel devoid of repentance. With the exception of some faithful orthodox parishes, clergy and, laity, the Newcastle Diocese has turned its ears away from the voice of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures and has listened to the voice of this age; replacing the infallible Word of God with the fallible words of men. The Newcastle Diocese has swallowed hook, line and sinker, the pan-sexual zeitgeist of our time which is ruining lives in the present and will ruin souls eternally. .

Incredulously the diocese desires and prays “to be seen to be making a valuable contribution to the region and people they serve”, however, unless the sickness is removed at the theological fundamental level (i.e. the diocese repents and submits to the Word of God and the Apostolic Gospel ) and “goes back to formula”,  any contribution the Newcastle Diocese makes will be akin to putting a boat in dry dock and merely scraping off the bubbles and relaunching it to the water.  That being the case, barring a miraculous intervention from God, the Newcastle Diocese will continue to sail further and further towards the horizon of irrelevancy on the currents of the western pan-sexual zeitgeist it has embraced, driven by the winds of a secular culture it vainly attempts to harness; whilst under the waterline, the hull will continue to bubble away and rot away leading to its eventual sinking.

The Newcastle Diocese is the Swanson Diocese.

 

 

 

The Emperor Has No Clothes

 

“The emperor has no clothes”.

This expression comes from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale about an emperor who loved wearing fine clothes and spent all of his people’s money on them. He had a different set for each hour and was, without doubt, the finest dressed man in the land. One day, two swindlers claiming to be weavers entered the Emperor’s city and proclaimed they were capable of making the finest, lightest, most magnificent cloth the world has ever seen. So extraordinary was this cloth, it was invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.

Thus the Emperor thought he could use such cloth to weed out undesirables in his city. He paid the swindlers an enormous sum and they set out to “create” the clothes; knowing they would only need to go through the motions. The Emperor sent several advisors to gauge their progress and all the advisors reported the cloth magnificent, not wanting to appear unworthy for seeing nothing at all; the cloth didn’t exist!

Finally, the clothes were “finished”, the swindlers already having counted the gold and jewels they had received. A procession was arranged to show off the Emporer’s new clothes and the entire city gathered in the center to view them. Having been “dressed” by the swindlers, who remarked how wonderful he looked, and how light the cloth appeared on him, he appeared before his people. The people, having heard of the weaver’s abilities and the clothes fictitious properties, were amazed and offered thunderous applause to the now beaming Emperor. None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor’s clothes been such a success.  While expressing admiration at their Emperor’s new “invisible” clothes, a small boy cried out… “But the Emperor has no clothes!”

Within the Anglican Church of Australia, we have an integrity problem; clergy who have clothed themselves with theological garb labeled ‘smoke and mirrors’, adorned themselves with apparel named “conversation”; “listening”; “dialogue”, “duel integrity”, decorated with the ecclesiastical bling of anglo-catholicism to mask their theological revisionism, which serves to entice undiscerning laity into thinking that they are clothed with authentic Christianity.

The Gospel of these Bishops is gospel devoid of repentance, an ethic that it reverses what God in His Word declares, deeming blessēd what God declares sin. They have no clothes.

Archbishop Glenn Davies in his presidential address has called them out:

My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world. (link to text).

From the context of his address, it is clear that Archbishop Davis is speaking to Anglican Bishops of Australia who seek to change the doctrine of marriage and the doctrine of Christ’ church. Bishop Davies has issued a clarion call.

The pretense is over.  If Bishops do not believe the Catholic Faith, do not agree to the doctrine of the Anglican Church as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons: and do not believe that doctrine to be agreeable to the Word of God then they must show integrity and give up Holy Orders.

Archbishop Davies is right – “The Emperor has no clothes”.

(See – “At Least Newman had integrity”. )

 

Aberrant Anglicanism & the Death of Doubt

 


I have always held (and still hold) to the view that doubting is something that is a common experience for Christians.  Over the past 30 years, like all other Christians) I have had doubts, what I call the ‘What ifs’

  • What if… the Bible is not true?
  • What if… there is no God?
  • What if… Jesus did not rise from the dead?
  • What if…

I am pleased to say that I am that point in my walk with the Lord Jesus that these doubts are more what I call residual doubts that belong to my Christian life from long ago. However, during my first curacy, I experience a doubt of which I was not prepared for, nor the insidious way it crept up on me.  Let me explain.

My curacy was spent in a diocese and a parish that was/is predominantly like the majority of Anglican dioceses around the world, a diocese that is liberal catholic. Liberal Catholic Anglicanism is an unusual beast in that it has the outward forms of Catholicism with liberal theology. Now in spite of this, there were positive things about my curacy.

It was during my curacy that my quiet times were transformed by being introduced to the Daily Offices. I had not even heard of this practice and at first, I found it to be very dull, repetitive and pedestrian. But after doing it every morning and every evening with my supervising Rector, I realised that my prayer life and Bible reading was changing. No longer was my quiet time dependent on how I felt on any given day when it came to prayer and Bible reading. Time was no longer an issue as it was a scheduled non-negotiable part of my day. When my supervising Rector retired, my new supervisor introduced me to doing Morning and Evening Prayer using the BCP. The theology of the BCP so encapsulated the theology of the Reformation that I was hooked. So now it is my norm to do the daily office using the BCP. I believe the Book of Common Prayer is a wonderful blessing to the English speaking world and that more Anglican Christians will be blessed by using it.

It was during my curacy that I experienced the blessing of taking the Lord’s Supper weekly. Before this, I was more interested in the sermon than the sacrament. I took the Lord’s Supper for granted and deemed it of minor importance. I was encouraged to ask and answer the question, “Have I been shaped more than I know by a superficial and reactionary church culture that says there is wisdom in not making too much of the Lord’s Supper and not taking it too often?”

However, as I reflect on my curacy and in spite of the wonderful highlights I experienced; a doubt crept in.  A doubt that I was totally unprepared for. It was like someone was whispering into my soul, so ever softly, almost imperceptible at first… What if…my sin has not been forgiven?

It was a whisper that slowly over time became a voice. And the doubt led to fear and it became very spiritually immobilising.  At first, I did not know what fed this doubt. But eventually, I put it down to three things: three things that all Anglican clergy face in dioceses where forms and theology exist that are not consistent with Anglicanism as established by the BCP, 39 Articles, and the Ordinal and the Anglican formularies. In other words – Aberrant Anglicanism.

  1. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is either denied, minimised or avoided.
  2. Semi-Pelagian theology is practiced
  3. Being in the theological minority

Penal Substitutionary Atonement was either denied, minimised or avoided – The great truth of the gospel is that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. Although I aimed to preach this great truth, I was constantly exposed to a context and culture where penal substitutionary atonement was either denied, minimised or avoided. A result of denying this truth leads to sin also being denied minimised, which abrogates the necessity of assurance for those who did not believe in sin, or that they are sinners. Thus the assurance of sin was declared, but not the basis of it. However, for a newly ordained clergyman who sinned daily and was very aware of their own sin, this lack of assurance over a period of time only fed the doubt.

Semi-Pelagian theology – One of the crown Jewels and strengths of Anglicanism is our liturgy. The prayer book I think is gold. However, there is a practice that is very common amongst liberal Catholic Anglican parishes.  In the parishes I served (before and during my curacy) we had Holy Communion every week (brilliant). However, within Holy Communion was semi-pelagian theology. This was evident by a prayer that was sung entitled the  Agnus Dei.  The Agnus Dei is not in the BCP, it is a prayer where the Priest and congregation pray together. It is said just before the bread is broken and it goes like this:

Priest: Jesus Lamb of God:

All: Have Mercy on Us

Priest: Jesus Bearer of our Sins:

All: Have Mercy on Us.

Priest: Jesus Redeemer of the World

All: Grant us your peace.

I suppose one could pray this prayer during confession of sin, though the Biblical norm is to pray to God the Father. However, this prayer abrogates the true meaning of the sacrament. Instead of the Lord’s supper being a sacrament/sign where we go to the table as Forgiven sinners, who have been redeemed by the once and for all sacrifice of Christ at the cross in our place; we go to the ‘Altar’, praying that the Lord Jesus will have mercy on, bear our sins and grant us his peace when we eat ‘the body of Christ the bread of heaven’ and drink ‘the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.’ So in practice, one gets the sense that by taking the Eucharist we are contributing to our salvation.

It is no wonder that for many laypeople in liberal/catholic Anglican parishes, the Eucharist is the high point of the service and is what they value most about church. What do I have to do to contribute to my salvation? What if I have not done enough? Or my question of doubt:

What if…my sin has not been forgiven?

Answer: Take the Eucharist. For taking the Eucharist solves this…hopefully.  I asked two Priests, one of whom was liberal catholic, the other is less liberal and more catholic, how Christ is present in the Eucharist if not physically, and they both said, “it is a mystery.”  The sad thing is that I suspect that many laypeople, when asked if they are going to heaven when they die, will respond the same way, saying “It’s a mystery”.

This is tragic because the heart of the gospel is not a mystery, in the gospel the mystery has been revealed (i.e Eph. 3:1-6). Furthermore, The Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles make it abundantly clear that the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone.

Being in the Theological Minority – Reformed-Evangelical Ministers face in liberal catholic diocese/parishes face many difficulties. From my four years in such a diocese, each minister had their own way of dealing with them. One of those difficulties was not being in touch with like-minded clergy. It only fed isolation and doubt. Don’t get me wrong, the clergy who I served alongside with were easy to get along with, and were some of the warmest people I had met within the church. But be that is it may be, there were certain subjects that one simply could not bring up. If I had, I would have been simply told most likely that I was wrong, that what I believed to be the gospel was at best a theory of the atonement, or at worst, wrong.  Being one of a small minority who believed in Penal Substitutionary Atonement, who believed that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, by grace alone; who believe sin is rebellion against God rather than “not living our lives the way in which God would want us to live – “transforming unjust social structures”; there was simply not the voices of encouragement to assuage my fear and the secondary doubt that came from being in the theological minority,  “What if they are right about me being wrong?”

The Death of Doubt

So what did I do? I did what every Christian does when they should fear and doubt. I put on the armour of God. I delved deeply in the reservoir of God’s quenching Word; devoted myself to prayer; spoke with like-minded Christians in other places, whether it be by phone, email or SKYPE. When it came to Holy Communion I reminded myself (and was reminded by like-minded clergy in other dioceses) of the two-fold action of the Lord Supper: firstly, our action – deliberate remembering, calling him to mind, joyfully contemplating him, praising him, praying to him; secondly, God’s action – renewing our gratitude for grace, our confidence in forgiveness by grace, our hope for glory, and our strength for service, all by the Holy Spirit. I was encouraged to think of the bread and wine as coming to us by the hand of Christ himself and His guarantee to us in love, and that He will nourish us spiritually forever.

I kept on preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to myself and  I kept on preaching God’s Word and God’s gospel to others. Remembering verses such as John 3:16; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:1-10 1 John3:16; Titus 3:5-6 and many others. I actively listened to the right voices – most importantly God’s voice, which is heard when one submits to the Word of God; and secondly, the voices of those who aimed to preach God’s Word and His gospel faithfully.

Thankfully God, through His Word and His people reminded me afresh of the truth and beauty of the Gospel, and the wonderful assurance that goes with it. The doubt died and thus when faced with the liberal and or catholic/semi-pelagian aberrations I could ignore them. It meant when it came to authentic Anglican liturgies, I could embrace them.

Aberrant Anglicanism is spiritually dangerous, and in this piece, I hope to have highlighted one of the more insidious dangers that come with exposure; of how it can lead to erosion of assurance, erosion of confidence in the Scriptures, erosion of confidence in the gospel. It can happen slowly over time, just like erosion. I now serve in a diocese, in a context where our Bishop and every Anglican clergyman believes God’s Word and believes His Gospel wholeheartedly, yet I never ever want to forget what it was like during that first curacy. So how important is it that those of who are in senior leadership do all we can to encourage curates who are serving in hard places.

Which is why movements such as GAFCON are so important.