Planet Anglican

What’s the Go With Lent?


Once again Lent is upon us. I realise that many people in the Church today don’t observe Lent and perhaps don’t even know what it is about. So in this post I am answering the questions:
1. What is Lent and why observe it?
2. How does one observe Lent?
3. Should I observe Lent?

1. What is Lent and why observe it? – Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that focuses on three things, (i) Self Examination; (ii) Prayer; (iii) Repentance.
Historically, Christians who have observed Lent view this 40 day period with the mindset that says “I am going to go into battle against sin in my life”. Now I realise that when many Christians who are from non-traditional Anglican churches (or non-liturgical church) hear this they understandably ask the question: “Why set aside 40 days for Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance when these are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round?

The reason why I observe Lent and look forward to Lent is that although it is absolutely true that Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round, they are not always done consistently by me all year round, due to tiredness, laziness, and due to plain old fashioned pride.

I find Lent very helpful in that it provides me a platform and the opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional when it comes to self examination, prayer and repentance. And although Scripture is silent when it comes to Lent, it is certainly not silent when it comes to these three things.

2. How does one observe Lent? – Christians that I know whom observe Lent often give up things in order to be more focussed on repentance. I know one bloke who told me that he gave up Chocolate for Lent. My view is that it is only worth giving things up that serve to hinder your repentance and your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, thus giving up Chocolate is only worth giving up if it is causing you to sin! Lent is a good time to pray, asking God our Father to show us those sins that we are not dealing with, or those habitual sins that keep revisiting us and discourage us. Use Lent to give these up, during Lent a good move may be to acquire an accountability partner; a godly Christian whom you trust who can ask you how you are going during the next 40 days, someone who will pray for you specifically during those 40 days. And when Lent finishes continue to not sin in the area that God has convicted you about.

Lent is also a time to start something that you should be doing that you are not doing. For example in a previous parish where I served some years ago there was not a strong culture of mid week Bible Study groups, so I encourage the congregation to give up something for Lent that they are currently not doing – “give up not reading the Bible, give up not praying”. So I started a Lenten Bible Study Group. What was great about this is that people who normally didn’t study the Bible came to the group and when Lent finished at Easter, after Easter the Lenten Bible study group continued.

3. Should I observe Lent? I think that Lent is a one of those things that in itself is neither right nor wrong. As I said earlier, Scripture is silent in regards to Lent, so God’s people are free to observe it or not observe it. But I would only say this to you:
If you are struggling with a persistent sin in your life, a habitual sin, a sin that you think you have conquered that keeps returning, if you are struggling with praying and reading the Bible consistently, why not give Lent a crack? You just may find that Lent and the emphasis that it brings is just what you have been needing.

So it is my prayer that if you decide to observe Lent that it will be a wonderful special time of blessing for you, that God will use these 40 days to mould and shape you more and more into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
p.s Here is a great Lenten Study Book, ‘Shadows of the Cross’.


Fudging Anglican Unity

Today I encountered an article that was rather concerning. It was written by Dr. Winfield Bevins, and posted on Anglican Pastor entitled, “Whatever happened to the Anglican Via Media?”.  It is in essence it is a plea for Anglican unity.  The article I found to be concerning in that:

1. The definition of the Via Media offered in this piece is theologically inaccurate. The Anglican Church is Protestant and Reformed, as evidenced by the theology of the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. The definition of Via Media being between Rome and Canterbury was coined by the Tractarians (who were trying to justify their attempt reshaping Anglicanism into the image of Roman Catholicism.)

2. The Promotion of a theologically ‘multi-streamed’ Anglicanism.  One would be at great pains to see how the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles endorse the notion that one can be theologically Evangelical; or theologically Liberal, or theologically Anglo-Catholic or theologically Charismatic and all four can claim to be authentically Anglican

3. The Promotion of false unity – The unity promoted by Bevins is not true unity, it is organisational unity that stresses unity based on the least common denominator, the term ‘Anglican’ (whatever you hold that to be),  the thing that we can all agree on, which is “We are all Anglicans”.

It reminds of how some years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury in a conversation with the Church Of Ireland Gazette, stated he saw the Anglican Church in North America as being (in his words):“a fellow member of the church of Christ in the world,” but added the “ACNA is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.” His comments are indicative of the thinking that defines being an Anglican organisationally and institutionally and bypasses theology.

This article has done the same thing. Instead of the basis of unity being the Scriptures, the BCP, the ordinal the 39 Articles and the creeds, the basis is now something else entirely, a new focal point of unity and what that something else is labelled ‘Anglican.

For example Bevins states:

Regardless of which camp you are in, Anglicans are united in the essential “catholic” doctrines of the Christian faith. 

I would stop him and there say, “Yes and the essential ‘catholic’ doctrines are those expressed in the BCP, the Ordinal, and the BCP, which are Protestant and Reformed”

However further on writes:

The Catholic, Evangelical, Broad, and Charismatic divide is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism.

This leads me to ask the question, why would the ABC, Benfields or any Anglican define being Anglican in such a way that it leads to the Scriptures, the BCP, the 39 Articles and the creeds being bypassed?

Sadly I suspect the reason is one of avoidance.

Shifting the focal point of Anglican Unity from the BCP, the Ordinal, the 39 Articles and the Creeds will:

  • Avoid accountability. It will ensure that no-one within the Anglican Church will have their theology and praxis critiqued in light of Scripture, the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. It means that those within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis is aberrant will not be accountable.
  • Avoid offending people; particularly Bishops, Priests, Deacons and to some extend laity within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis are dissonant from the Scriptures, the BCP and the 39 Articles.
  • Avoid having to actually deal with the white elephant in the room – that within the Anglican Communion we have very different belief systems in operation, with incompatible views of what the Gospel is; the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and regarding the authority of the Scriptures.

So if an Anglican church has a priest who believes that the Holy Spirit is a woman, whose Bishop that declares Jesus death was not propitiatory, an Archdeacon who believes Jesus resurrection was not physical, the Rector’s Warden who believes that there is no need for repentance, the Vestry who believe that all are saved and one can live how they like as long as they are faithful to their own spiritual journey (however they define their journey); the Assistant Curate who believes that the Scriptures are not the Word of God written; the postulant who thinks that the 39 Articles are really just the 39 Artifacts; none of this matters. ‘Anglicans’ can continue to thumb their nose at the Scriptures, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Creeds, and in good conscience say they are a true Anglicans and are all united as Anglicans because “this is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism”.

This diversity is in reality one big fudge for the only way it will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything or by saying that every one is correct, which sadly is what this article is saying.

The Principal of Sydney’s Moore Theological College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson wrote:

The Anglican Church has always been confessional in nature, as witnessed by the history of subscription to the Articles, which began in the time of Cranmer and continues around the world today.

Long may this continue!

As Andrew Brashier says in his very good response to Bevins entitled Holding the Centre, or Moving Goalposts:

As to teachings that go beyond the boundaries of our common center we must state in unison, thus far and no further.

Could not say it better myself.

At Least Newman Had Integrity

“We have a real integrity problem in the Australian church, in the Anglican Church of Australia and within many denominations as well.”

This is the conclusion of an Anglican priest Rev David Ould, when interviewed about another Anglican Priest who in essence preaches and believes a message that is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture,  the 39 Articles, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Anglican Constitution of Australia or in other words, contrary to the Christian faith.

The purpose of this post is not to outline the heterodoxy of the Anglican Priest in question, but rather highlight the heart of the problem, which is the situation within the Anglican Church of Australia where we have clergy who don’t mean what they say and say what they do not mean.

When I have told Anglican Christians who are faithful Bible believing Christians that there are clergy who don’t believe what they are supposed to believe, the question I am always asked is:

How did this happen?

This is a very good question. After all, one would be right to expect that Anglican Clergy actually believe what they say they do and mean the promises they make at their ordination. However at one level we should not be surprised, in the Holy Scriptures we are warned that there will be false teachers and false teachers are just as much a reality in the 21st century as they were in the 1st century. We are warned again and again, for false teachers never come in saying “I am false teacher”. They infiltrate and destroy, as the Lord Jesus Christ says, in Matt 7:15:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

The Apostle Paul says the same think in Acts 20 when he gives his words of farewell to the Ephesians Bishops. He says in vv:29-30:

29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

 The threat to the church is not going to come from atheists burning Bibles saying “God is dead! God is not real!” It is going to come from our own number who with Bibles in hand, with the letters Rev before their name (and even the title Right Rev before their name), those who have been to Bible college, who will distort the truth. They won’t outwardly deny it. But distort it. I remember years ago going to an Anglican Provincial Conference in Canberra and the guest preacher preached a series of sermons from the Epistle to the Romans. He expounded the Scriptures faithfully and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was proclaimed clearly and yet… afterwards the then director of ordinands of the diocese in which I served in at that time was asked by an ordination candidate what he thought of the sermons and he responded by saying “I have a different understanding of the Gospel”. His different ‘understanding’ was a not a different understanding but a euphemism, for ‘different gospel’ He did not come out and say, “I believe in a different gospel” as that would have been too obvious. False teachers will always infiltrate the church, so there is no reason why us Anglicans will be immune to their infiltration.

However having said this I believe that there are two other factors that have contributed to the integrity problem we have within the Anglican Church of Australia (and through out the world) today.

1. John Henry Newman  (21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890)

John Henry Newman was a Anglican Priest who became a Roman Catholic Cardinal, but before doing so worked very hard to try and re-intepret the Anglican Church  formularies, the BCP and the 39 Articles in line with the doctrines of the RCC. His infamous Tract 90, published in 1841, encouraged Anglicans to read the Thirty-nine Articles as a Catholic document.2 Now it must be said Newman was not a theological liberal, he did not deny what liberal theology denies. However what he did do (perhaps without realising it at the time), was to open the door for ordinands to publicly assent to the Articles, and to Anglican Doctrine, (which is Scriptural, Reformed and Protestant) while reinterpreting them to mean what they want them to mean. The problem with this I think is obvious, the theology of the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal is Reformed and Protestant and thus to interpret them as otherwise whilst still signing oaths and making declarations such as:

I firmly and sincerely believe the Catholic Faith and I give my assent to the doctrine of the Anglican Church (insert province) as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons: I believe that doctrine to be agreeable to the Word of God;

reduces the oaths and declarations to mere vestigial words and makes the promises made mere perfunctory formality.

One scholar put it in more blunt terms in regards to the legacy of Newman in this regard:

‘Whether he intended to or not, he taught us to lie’.

2. Liberalism

Liberalism sees itself as a reform movement of Christianity. In reality it is a form of extreme theological accommodation. So beliefs about the resurrection, the atonement, the authority of the Bible, the nature of salvation, the need for the response of repentance and faith, even the divinity of Christ are reconstructed to fit the prevailing culture in order to make the Christian faith plausible.

So…if  ordinands can publicly assent to the 39 Articles, and to Anglican Doctrine as outlined in the BCP and the Ordinal and reinterpret all along Roman Catholic lines, (due to the legacy of Newman), what is to stop ordinands reinterpreting them along liberal lines? “After all, it is all about one’s ‘interpretation’, so I will say all that I am required to say, and promise what I have to promise, but I can interpret those doctrines, and oaths and promises the way that suits my “different understanding. I can reinterpret the 39 Articles as the 39 Artefacts”.

The result of the above is that the Anglican Church has clergy whom at their ordinations, did not say what they mean, nor mean what that say when they were ordained.Which in turn has led to these clergy over the subsequent years and decades becoming Bishops, who did not say what they mean nor mean what they say when they were consecrated as Bishops, which in turn has led them to ordain ordinands who also will not say what they mean, nor mean what they say at their ordinations, and the cycle continues.

This is how it happened. This is how it happens. This is how it will continue happening.

However I believe that this must stop happening and what is needed is a call to integrity. If ordained clergy (be they Deacon, Priest, Bishop) do not believe the Catholic Faith, do not agree to the doctrine of the Anglican Church (insert province) 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.

If a person is considering ordination, or is a candidate for ordination, and do not believe the Catholic Faith, do not agree to the doctrine of the Anglican Church (insert province) 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 not proceed with ordination.

I remember some years ago when attending Post Ordination training which was called CME (Continuing Ministry Education) and amazingly the subject of the 39 Articles of Religion came up. One of the Evangelical priests who was part of this group expressed the importance of actually believing what one says they believe and meaning the promises that one makes at their ordination. The director of ordinands (who remember had a “different “understanding of what the gospel is) responded by talking about the importance of not being ‘legalistic’ and ‘pharisaical’ about such things, and this Evangelical Priest who was part of this group responded by saying “I would rather be called a legalist and a pharisee than be an oath-breaker”. At this point the tension in the room rose considerably and the Director changed the subject, but this godly and courageous priest looked at me and the one other Evangelical Priest in the room and said “At least Newman had integrity”. This comment was lost on everyone one else, but it certainly was not lost on me, nor the other Evangelical Priest in the group.

This was the one good thing about John Henry Newman’s legacy.  Eventually he realised he could not reconcile what the Anglican Church believes with what he believed. He realised as an Anglican Priest he was saying what he did not mean, and he did not mean what he said and he could do so no longer. So he left the Anglican Church and became a Roman Catholic Cardinal.

“At least Newman had integrity”.



Further Reading: A very accurate piece by J.I Packer entitled What is An Anglican?

[1] The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Jerusalem Declaration