Author: Joshua Bovis

Anglican Priest and Vicar.

Smoke… and… Mirrors

 

Smoke and Mirrors – noun 

an explanation or description that is not true or not complete and is used to hide the truth about a situation:

This week the ABC ran a piece highlighting the Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes’ enthusiasm in regards to conducting same-sex blessings before he lays down his Bishop’s pastoral staff at the end of the year. I thought this was rather strange as last year the Anglican Bishops (and I assume +Parkes was present) made an historic agreement, an agreement that states (Responding to Recent Changes in the Marriage Act)

We, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following.

Guiding principles

1. The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth.

Thus the Bishops agree that they will uphold the traditional view of marriage and if any change to this doctrine is to be attempted, due process will be followed.

Thus the Bishop of Wangaratta publicly stating his intention to “bless” homosexual couples who are legally married in the eyes of the Australian marriage act seems to be in breach of this agreement and in fact I would say that it obviously is. Of course, technically speaking he is not in breach of the agreement, technically speaking, he would not be marrying homosexual couples; “blessing the persons and not the relationship”; so technically speaking he is still upholding the doctrine of the Anglican Church which states that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

The practice of clergy conducting same-sex blessings are:

Based on a lie – the lie being that God approves of sexual expression couples of the same gender when Scripture is abundantly clear that He does not. In fact, every time homosexual sexual expression is mentioned, the context is always negative. Clergy who conduct such blessings are being false witnesses, they are saying God’s blesses what God’s Word says is sin. Scripture is clear, God will not bless, sustain, and encourage couples in sin.

Based on a false Gospel – a gospel of no repentance. Scripture is clear that homosexual sexual expression is evidential of rebellion against God and sign of God giving people over to judgment as a result of the aforementioned rebellion. Romans 1:18-32 is crystal clear on this. However, by ‘blessings such a union, Anglican clergy, (Bishop or otherwise) ‘blessing’  in essence, are sending a message that says the gospel consists of “come as you are and stay as you are”; which is not the message of the Gospel.

Are deceptive –  Anglican bishops who find it desirous to conduct same-sex blessings of couples who are married in the eyes of the state, know that what they are doing is not conducting a marriage. They know that what the Bible teaches regarding marriage will do all they can to push the boundaries but not technically breach them so that they cannot be held to account. Thus these so-called “blessings” will be treated as a marriage but technically will not be a marriage (because technically, they are already married). By all human appearances the services will appear to be like a wedding, they will be treated as a wedding, but technically will not be a wedding.

Are coercive History has shown us that in every denomination, every issue of a Biblically untenable nature that revisionists have desired and have had granted to them has led to coercion from revisionists towards those who disagree when they are in positions of authority. They use the rhetoric of being “a broad church”, but their diversity and tolerance is only extended to those who agree with them and/or acquiesce to their position.

Example – The Church of Scotland:  Decades ago, the General Assembly of the Kirk passed the ordinance that women could be ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The shift went from a woman could be ordained to, a woman should be ordained. When the decision came to pass, the official view in time moved from women should be ordained to women must be ordained.

Notice the progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

So in practice, those who in good conscience do not hold to women’s ordination are excluded from the discernment process for ordination within the Church of Scotland.

This revisionist tactic is unstated, yet it is far from subtle, though is not unique to the Scottish Kirk. It occurs within the Anglican Church. When women’s ordination came about there was the same talk from revisionists saying “oh yes, those disagree are free to disagree, etc” and, “It won’t divide the church”, etc. However it has divided the Anglican Church, and women’s ordination is often used by revisionists bishops as a way of preventing orthodox clergy coming into their dioceses, thus in practice, clergy are not free to disagree if they wish to serve in the said dioceses. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process before it begins is to ask them what they think of Women’s ordination.

If they don’t agree with Women’s ordination they are told:

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

It is the same coercive progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Although women’s ordination is in my view, not a first-order issue, there is every reason to believe that if the Anglican Church of Australia goes down the same road with same-sex blessings (which is a gospel issue), the same tactic will be employed. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/  being ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process is to ask them “What is your view of same-sex blessings?” or “Do you think you could work in a diocese that conducts same-sex blessings?” Instead of the onus being on the Bishop for endorsing a view and praxis that is antithetical to Scripture, it is placed on the person being asked the question and if they say they don’t agree, predictably they will be told…(here it comes)

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Revisionists bishops who resort to this tactic may say, “technically I have done no wrong”; Bishop Parkes may think or state that he will not be violating the Bishop’s agreement by stating his intention to conduct same-sex blessings, and say “Technically, I have done no wrong”.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

Remind me of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20

This is the way of an adulteress:
    she eats and wipes her mouth
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”

 

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

 

 

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The Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz

When I started this blog, my intention was (and still is) for it to be primarily a writing journal of sorts, with the secondary goal of encouraging and inform Anglican Christians and amazingly the majority of the readership are from the USA.  I tend to avoid being polemical and although polemics has its place, I tend to avoid such posts out of the awareness that posts of this nature can produce (as the saying goes) “more heat than light”. However, as an Anglican priest, I feel compelled to write about the denomination in which I love, in which I serve, the Anglican Church of Australia, as there are serious warning signs concerning its near future.

When my children have asked me something about the future, I often reply by saying “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet”, which is based on a very loose rendering of Amos 7:14. But I don’t think one need be a prophet to see the condition of the Anglican Church of Australia and where it may be heading.

In recent years there has been a wrestling match within the Anglican Church between two different views on marriage and human sexuality. These views are like two tectonic plates that collide with one another and the heat and the friction between the two creates magma displacement and volcanoes. On the surface, it may seem that the friction pertains to the issue and definition of marriage, but under the surface, the real issue is bigger than the definition of marriage. These two tectonic plates represent two irreconcilable views, two incompatible world-views… two opposing Biblical hermeneutics… two antithetical gospels.

The Rev David Short from Canada who is certainly no stranger to this friction, wrote an article fifteen years ago entitled Crisis in koinonia in which he reveals the heart of the reason why there are two competing unities within Anglicanism, and it is worth quoting:

At the risk of oversimplifying, what lies beneath the rift within Anglicanism are two different religions: two different Gods, two different views of the fall, sin, salvation, humanity, the cross of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the coming judgment and the mission of the church. Blessing same-sex unions is one manifestation of a deeper conflict in the divergent movement of two irreconcilable theological tectonic plates.”

I remember as a six-year- boy watching the news about the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980. Though at first, everything seemed serene, the warning signs appeared, warning signs that showed that the eruption was imminent and when it erupted, fifty-seven lives were lost. The so-called serene exterior of Mt St Helens was just that… “so-called”. The Anglican Church of Australia consists of twenty-three autonomous dioceses that are sort of held together by a Constitution however, the serene ecclesiastical exterior is being shaken by the warning signs of seismic activity; caused by these two irreconcilable theological tectonic plates colliding. This collision has caused eruptions in the USA, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, and New Zealand. I may be off in regards to the timing, but I believe that an eruption of the Anglican Volcano in Oz is coming soon.

Seismic Activity Warning –  The Diocese of Wangaratta 

Last year the Synod of Wangaratta passed the following:

a) acknowledges the widespread national and local support for the recent changes to Australian marriage laws, to include same-sex couples

b) commends the pastoral value of the Bishop authorising a Form of Blessing for optional use in the Diocese of Wangaratta alongside, or in addition to, a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant, and

c) requests that the Bishop of Wangaratta ensure opportunity for the clergy and laity of the Diocese to engage in further discussion as part of the process leading to the potential Diocesan provision for blessing of civil marriages.

Point a) seems rather superfluous if it were the sum of the motion, but it serves as the precursor for b) and c).

One can see the logic, “Our culture is on board with same-sex marriage, our country is on board with same-sex marriage, therefore we need to get on board otherwise we will be left behind”. In other words -theological accommodation, or filtering Scripture through the lens of culture or church functioning as a mirror.

The issue is framed as if the issue is about church-order and marriage and nothing more.

However, the outgoing Bishop, +John Parkes at the end of August this year, will be requesting that his diocese’s upcoming synod endorse a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages and will, himself, be prepared to preside over such a service. He has stated on the record:

“I do not believe, (and I think the science is in and closed), that people choose sinfully their sexual identity and that it is on a spectrum and I refuse to condemn people for being who they are and wanting to live as I believe God made them to be. And if that puts me out of sorts with some part of the Anglican Communion, so be it.”

Seismic Activity Warning – The Newcastle Diocese

As I understand it, the Bishop of Newcastle +Peter Stuart is aiming to promote “the Newcastle Way”. In a recent Ad Clerum which was made public, he writes:

In our Diocese of Newcastle, we have many perspectives. My desire is that we find a loving way to express our shared life.

On social media, he used the nomenclature, “Comprehensive Anglicanism”.

Of course, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that if this is what comprehensive Anglicanism is, then this is brilliant.  If this is the Bishop’s goal in the Newcastle Diocese, to seek a loving way amongst Anglicans who have diverse perspectives regarding the forms of Anglicanism; that is a very healthy attribute and one to engender and encourage in any diocese. The Holy Scriptures I believe support this, and this is also echoed in the Anglican Formularies, in particular, article XXXIV of the Thirty-Nine Articles which in the first paragraph states:

Article XXXIV

Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.

Over the years I have come to see that within the Anglican Church there are a number of preferences when it comes to the forms as there are people,(i.e traditional, contemporary; robes, civilian clothes, Holy Communion weekly, Holy Communion twice a month; different styles of music) though it can be difficult to please everyone. This is one of the reasons why I  love our Anglican Liturgy –  it frees us from approaching church with a consumer mentality, it encourages God’s people to be active participants in corporate worship instead of being critical spectators or consumers, it inculcates the Biblical truths rediscovered at the Reformation, and it also guards us against the constantly changing trends of the modern contemporary church which at times seeks to entertain which can transform Anglican corporate worship into bland, dull generic Anglo-lite worship. Article XXXIV acknowledges that there is freedom within the Anglican tradition for diversity so far is the expression of that freedom does not go against the Holy Scriptures.

However, this is not what +Stuart is referring to. For he then continues

In our Diocese of Newcastle, we have many perspectives. My desire is that we find a loving way to express our shared life. It is of the Gospel that we continue to welcome and affirm LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ and welcome their use of their gifts for the service of God, his people and his cosmos. It is of the Gospel that we continue to welcome and affirm LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ and welcome their use of their gifts for the service of God, his people and his cosmos.

It appears that the Bishop of Newcastle is aiming to seek a loving way amongst Anglicans who have diverse perspectives, not pertaining to the forms of Anglicanism but to the substance of Anglicanism, the very nature of the Gospel itself,  as +Stuart believes that the welcoming of LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ is “of the gospel”. Yet his first two sentences treat the issue as if it were a second-order issue (as if it were about forms, rather than the substance) evidenced by his expressed hope that “we find a loving way to express our shared life”. (What ever the term “shared life” means).

Seismic Activity Warning The Grafton Diocese

  • The Anglican Diocese of Grafton at the recent Synod passed a motion asking the General Synod to introduce same-sex marriage and blessing liturgies.
  • Faithful Anglican clergy put forward the motion that was spectacularly normal in its orthodoxy:

27. Standard of Worship and Doctrine

That this Synod affirms the authorised standard of worship and doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia as set out in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution.

The motion was soundly defeated in a vote by houses with approximately 2/3 of the delegates voting against it.

This is a shocking move on Grafton’s part. They are sending a message to the national church, saying “We are the arbiters of what we deem to be the truth, not the Scriptures”. However, Grafton diocese unwittingly showed its true colours. It has dispensed with obfuscation, smoke and mirrors, and the revisionist buzzwords such as “conversation”; “listening”; and/or “faith journey”. By showing their hand, the Grafton Diocese has removed the serene ecclesiastical exterior revealing the giant caldera of rolling, bubbling and spluttering lava, evidence of the theological tectonic plate that it truly is. Therefore other provinces and/or dioceses who are of the same theological tectonic plate who use phrases such as “different understanding”  or “dual integrities” simply will not wash with those who uphold the authority of Scripture and the Anglican Formularies. This sort of rhetoric will be seen by the Biblical discerning as nothing more than theological sleight of hand in an attempt to stop the friction between the two colliding theological plates.

I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, but one need not be either to see that the eruption of the Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz will come. The eruptions took place in the USA, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, New Zealand. It will erupt here, will not be because of different definitions of marriage and/or human sexuality but because of the friction of two different belief system,  two different religions, with two opposing gospels both lay claim to the name Anglican.

The eruption is coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There Can Be Only One”

Recently I came across another concerning post on Anglican Pastor entitled “4 Reasons Why I Now Celebrate Communion Facing the Altar, Not the People”

In this piece the author, Rev’d Ben Jefferies give four reasons why he has adopted the practice. However after reading his piece I remain unconvinced by his article for numerous reasons and found his article concerning on several fronts. No doubt there are others who can articulate those concerns better than I can, but here are two reasons that stood out to me.

1. Anglicans do not have altars.

Jefferies insists of using the term altar when even those most cursory glance at the liturgy of the Anglican Church (the Book of Common Prayer) and the history of Classical Cranmerian Anglicanism shows that we have no altars. Whilst some may deem his use of the term to be mere semantics, I believe that Jefferies use is deliberate. It buttresses his notion that although we don’t offer anything pertaining to our salvation, we still offer something; and also supports his notion that the priest’s role is sacerdotal, not in the full Roman sense, but in a way that goes beyond the Scriptures. For example he writes:

The spotlight is no longer on you, as a person, and the experience you are or are not having. Rather, you become subordinate to the role you are there to fulfill: the role of priest…In the pulpit I am to preach God’s Word to the people. But in the Eucharistic prayers, I am to take the people’s spiritual needs to God, as an appointed intercessor. 

Anglican priests/presbyters preside over a memorial meal at the Lord’s table. They do not act as the appointed interccessor at the Altar. God’s people only have one appointed intercessor and that it is the Holy Spirit:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, becausethe Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.(Romans 8:26-27)

God’s people also have only one mediator – the Lord Jesus Christ

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”  (1 Tim 2:5-6)

Know where in the Book of Common Prayer is the Lord’s Table ever referred to as an Altar. The Rubric in the BCP also says:

The Table at the Communion time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel, where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said. And the Priest standing on the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling. 

This was ratified in the changes made in the second Prayer Book of Edward VI (1552). Two important changes that are worth noting:

  • The term altar was removed and no loner used to refer to the Holy Table.
  • The officiating clergyman was to stand “at the north side” of the table instead of “afore the midst of the altar”

2. We are not sacrificing or offering anything at the Lord’s Table

Jefferies seems to be struggling to have it both ways. He writes: As the priest, I am presenting things to God, to please him.

But then states: What can we present to [God] that he will find acceptable? Certainly not our merits or works or anything from us, or even, anything in the created world whatsoever. The only offering that is pleasing to God is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Golgotha. That was the one pleasing, propitiatory sacrifice. The only acceptable oblation to God the Father.

Yes, as the BCP says:

Almighty God, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death on the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins fo the whole world;

But then again puzzlingly, Jefferies states:

Therefore, how dare we bring before Almighty God anything of less value! Therefore, the best (and only!) thing we can offer is a memorial of that one sacrifice on the cross. A remembrance to God, that we spiritually lift up before him, asking for him to accept in our place. We ask God the Father to accept the oblation of Jesus on our behalf, and in a mysterious way, we make this plea through the celebration of Holy Communion.

The only thing that we can offer to God of ourselves is our gratitude: Our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (to use the words of the Eucharistic prayer). And besides that, our whole selves, which we also offer in the prayer.

But even as we offer ourselves, it is not as ourselves that we render ourselves to the Father. Rather, as the Body of Christ, as part of Christ, we the Church present our lives, body and soul, to God, as part of Christ’s own offering of himself to God.

Some may think we offer something on an Altar, we don’t offer anything on a table. 1 At the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion, we are not presenting anything to God. We are not asking God to accept anything in our place, as Scripture and the BCP already attests, Christ has made the once for all sacrifice in our place. We don’t need to ask God the Father to accept what He has already accepted.

W.H. Griffith Thomas puts it well in his seminal work The Catholic Faith: a Manual of Instruction for Members of the Church of England:

The truth is that, strictly and accurately, the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice but a sacrament. It has sacrificial aspects and relations because it is so closely associated in thought and purpose with the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and becasue it is the standing testimony to the world and to ourselves of our constant need of and perpetual dependance on that sacrifice in all our approach to God. In a sacrifice we give, we yield up; in a sacrament we receive, we appropriate. The only acts in the Lord’s Supper according to the institution are “take”, “eat”, “drink”, “this do”, and these are not sacrificial. The ideas of a sacrifice and a sacrament are so distinct and different that the Lord’s Supper, unless Scripture warrants it, cannot be both at the same time”.

So for an Anglican priest to adopt a posture that sends the message that we have altars, that Anglican priests are acting as intercessors and mediators, that we are offering anysort of sacrifice, turns the Lord’s Supper into something it is not.

I remember as a teenager watching a movie entitled The Highlander. I don’t remember much of this movie except two things:

  1. The main actor’s Scottish accent has to be the worst version in movie history (even Mel Gibson’s Braveheart version was better).
  2. The line in the movie “there can be only one” (that is, only one immortal).

Thus when it comes to the Altar “there can be only one” – and it was the Cross at Golgotha. When it comes to the sacrifice, there can be only one – and that was the Lord Jesus Christ.  When it comes to our mediator, there can be only one – and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. When it comes to the intercessor for God’s people in prayer, – there can be only one – and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Footnote:

1. A careful reading of the liturgy of the BCP one can see that the prayer where we offer “our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” takes place after the Lord’s Prayer, which is prayed after the Lord’s Supper has completed. Note the rubric:

When all have communicated; the Minster shall return to the Lord’s Table, and reverently place upon it what remaineth of the consecrated Elements, covering the same with a fair linen cloth. Then shall the Priest says the Lord’s Prayer, the people repeateding after him ever petition. 

I believe that Cranmer was intentionally placing this prayer where he does in order to dispell any notion that we are offering anything upon an altar and that our prayers be consistent with the Apostle Paul’s teaching that the sacrifice we offer is our daily lives (Romans 12:1).