Planet Anglican

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

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An Anglican Dilemma

 

I encountered a blog post, from a Scottish Anglican who was struggling with a dilemma. They had to make the choice of choosing between:

  1. An Anglican Church that is liturgically Anglican, but is devoid of orthodox, biblical teaching that is line with the Anglican formularies, Creeds and with the Reformation doctrines embedded within.
  1. An Anglican Church that has orthodox, biblical teaching that is line with the Anglican formularies, Creeds and Reformation doctrines embedded within but is devoid of Anglican liturgy.

 Sadly the individual could not find an Anglican church that is liturgically Anglican where the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is preached faithfully, where orthodox doctrine is clearly and unashamedly expounded. The author writes:

What this means is that I have to make a choice. Worship in a way that I think brings great glory to God and where I am at my most natural in my response to His unchanging glory, or hear sermons where the Gospel is preached and orthodox doctrine clearly and unashamedly espoused and expounded.

 So for the author the only way to solve this dilemma was to resort to the third option.

  1. Become a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Again he writes:

It is easier for me to worship with non-Anglicans than Anglicans who don’t act Anglican. I use the BCP in my own private worship and sometimes turn up at Anglican churches for weekday services as well as my local Orthodox Church.

He writes of another evangelical Anglican, raised low-church evangelical, who faces the same dilemma but has gone to a liberal Anglo-catholic church but is thinking of going Baptist due to the lack of faithful teaching. He draws the conclusion:

What we two represent are the result of the tough choice that the liturgically-minded evangelical must face.

After reading this I thought to myself, “Why is there the dichotomy between Anglican liturgy and faithful Biblical preaching and teaching? Why does there exist this Anglican Dilemma?

After he retired as Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale, Australia, the Rt Rev Peter Brain spoke to a group of Evangelical Anglicans in the diocese of Perth[1], noted that people are desiring to be part of liturgical churches, yet here in Australia, Evangelical Anglican churches are being the very thing that young Christians in the UK and the USA are trying to move away from. He said:

The evidence from the UK & the USA is showing that people aged 25-40 year old age group are leaving Evangelical/charismatic/independant/non liturgical churches for liturgical churches and this is due to ‘the IKEA model[2]’) – our services have become very flat liturgically… There is an irony in that the only Anglican churches where you don’t have four Bible reading are Evangelical churches. And this is a challenge. There is pressure when there are independent non-liturgical churches nearby and don’t have liturgy so we feel we have to copy them, but people are looking for something more.

His observations echo an article I read recently entitled Young Evangelicals Are Getting High[3], where the author writes:

The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.

Retired Australian Anglican Bishop Paul Barnett lamented that the biggest threat to Evangelical Anglicanism was not liberals, but Evangelicals themselves. He writes:

The situation today is that many evangelicals today would regard even a modern Prayer Book Service as “High Church” rather than what it truly is, “Simply Anglican”. Evangelical Anglicans are often “victims of their own success”.  Their skills in Bible Teaching and the orthodoxy of their churches have attracted the membership of many from other denominations where the Bible has been set aside. Through lack of understanding of “Anglican” elements (notably liturgy), these new members have often influenced the de-anglicanising of our churches.  Many rectors have not resisted these pressures. [4]

 From my experience Barnett is right and he is wrong. I think he is right on what he is saying, but wrong on the timing. It is not a situation that is happening today, as if it has only just started. It started when us Gen-X-ers were teenagers. For example 1998 in my twenties, my wife and I left Sydney (and a great Anglican Church) and went to an Anglican Church in the upper Blue Mountains and to my shame I ignorantly wrote the church off as “High Church” when in reality the service was the normal standard Holy Communion Service from the 1978 An Australian Anglican Prayer Book. The church was not ‘high church’, yet we decided that it was both because they simply used the Prayer Book[5].

Why is this dichotomy so prevalent? Is it possible that one of the main contributing factors is that Evangelical Anglicans may be experiencing a lack of Anglican Identity? In their opposition to Anglo-catholicism (though not so much today in Australia) and in particular liberal Anglo-catholicism, the extremely rapid rise in secularism within Australian culture, combined with the desire to be culturally relevant, is it possible that some Anglican evangelicals have sadly thrown the Anglican baby out with the liberal bath water? Could this explain why there are Evangelical Anglican Churches that are theologically Anglican, but in terms of forms consist of a bland generic evangelicalism? Could this be the reason why the Book of Common Prayer is not used, read, seen, or even heard of? Could this be the reason why younger Anglicans have not even heard of Cranmer and don’t even care?

Of course doctrine is more important, substance matters more than the form, and to put form before substance is to give the Anglican denomination the throne of which Christ is seated. However form still matters. If Bishops Brain and Barnett are right, if clergy are not resisting the pressures to deviate from Anglican distinctives, if Evangelical Clergy see themselves as Christians first and being Anglican a very poor and distant second, who view Anglican distinctives as something to apologise for, tolerate or even reject, then this will be modelled to the laity and in my view this Anglican dilemma will only widen . We may even end up with laity and clergy who are Anglicans by accident rather than by conviction.[6]

Over the years people have asked me “so why are you an Anglican”? At one level I had no say in it. Although both my parents are not Christians, on my school forms my Mother wrote Church of England, (even though she is Scottish!) So growing up, the Anglican Church (The C of E it was known then) to me was simply ‘the Church’ even though I was not a Christian and never went to church. However it was through the ministry of an Anglican church and through the attendance of that Anglican Church that I came to faith in Lord Jesus in High School. So in essence it was all I knew.

I am so thankful to God for the ministry of that Anglican Church in Sydney as what that being a Christian is about being three things:

“Biblical” because we are careful to give the scriptures their rightful place as the primary source of our knowledge of God and our faith.

 “Evangelical” because we preach the Good News of Jesus atoning sacrifice on the cross, which justifies all those who trust in Jesus as their saviour and submit to him as Lord.

 “Reformed” because of our commitment to belief in the sovereignty of God and the other doctrines of grace rediscovered in the Reformation of the 16th century.

As an Anglican Christian and Anglican priest, I have strived, and still strive to be Biblical, Evangelical, and Reformed. Yet as a younger man I had a very pragmatic approach to denominations and one could say that I was rather ‘post-denominational’ and I saw the Anglican church as merely being ‘a good boat to fish from’ which of course it is. However over time I have come to see Anglicanism in a much more vivid way. To be an Anglican Christian is also about being:

“Historical” because Anglicanism embodies a way of worship that was crafted in the first century, found new vigour in the reformation, and is still fresh with vitality.

“Liturgical”, because Anglican life is rooted and rhythmic. And through the liturgy it is collaborative, actively engaging all in the work of worship. And what a great blessing the Book of Common Prayer is!

A good analogy for to articulate this is to use the example of being colour blind. I am colour blind and although I think what I see is normal and it is what everyone else sees, it turns out that what I see is very different to what normal colour visioned people see. My journey as an Anglican Christian and as an Anglican Priest has been like a person who over time has come to see more colours, and I find this to be very exciting.

The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry who up until very recently was the Dean/Presidentof Trinity School for ministry nails it as far as I am concerned about the strengths of Anglicanism and thus I think he should have the last word in this piece:

“What excites me about Anglicanism, and what I have come to see all the more clearly with the benefit of further study and experience, is that ‘Anglicanism offers the historical anchoring that many evangelicals seek (and I believe should seek). It allows us to root our convictions in the riches of the tradition of Christian thought and prayer that faithful followers of Jesus Christ have passed down to us. We can discover an ancestry that goes back two thousand years – right back to the teaching of Jesus himself, with great theologians, liturgists and saints whose writings can help us to be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be. It also makes us more clearly part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This blend of biblical authority and evangelistic fervour makes for a powerful Christian witness and nutritious soil for growing disciples”[7].

 

Notes

[1] His address can be listened to here.

[2] IKEA – is a brand of furniture from Sweden that is very popular in Australa. It is very modern, and comes in pre fabricated packaging that is very simply to set up and comes in flat packaging.

[3] http://thechristianpundit.org/2013/07/17/young-evangelicals-are-getting-high/

[4] This annual public lecture for the Anglican Institute at Ridley Melbourne was delivered by Bishop Paul Barnett on 13 May 2013. Bishop Barnett, who was Bishop of North Sydney from 1990-2001, is Fellow in Ancient History at Macquarie University; Teaching Fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada; and Professor at Beeson Divinity School in the US.

[5] The church had no one our age, it was rather stuffy, the minister was about to retire and looking back it was not suitable for us as young married couple. But at the time I put this down to the notion that the church was ‘high church’.

[6] A friend of mine who is also An Anglican Priest once stated that he could easily become a Presbyterian Minister. On the Website of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney where the author points out that”On more than one occasion I’ve heard ordained Anglicans murmer that believers baptism is more biblical than infant baptism”. You can read the article here.

[7]. http://www.tsm.edu/about_trinity/a_case_for_evangelical_anglicanism

Why We Don’t Pray For The Dead

Recently I came across an article written on Anglican Pastor by a fellow Anglican Priest entitled Why We Pray for the Dead.

What surprised me was not only his endorsement of the practice, but the implication behind the title that it is normal Anglican practice to do pray either for the dead or to the dead. Also there is no evidence that it was practiced by the early church, not until the middle of the second century.

Here are 10 reasons why we are not to pray for the dead:

1. There is no Scriptural support for praying to anyone other than God. None.
2.There is no Scripture support when it comes to praying to Christians who have died. None!
3. To pray to dead Christians, (asking them to intercede for us) is to give them attributes that only God has. (If every Christian prayed to dead Saints, then those dead saints must have the ability to hear all the prayers of Christians at once – this is a quality only our Triune God has).
4. Praying to dead Christians may be an ancient practice, but this does not authenticate the practice. An old error whilst old, is still an error.
5. The practice is inconsistent with the Anglican formularies.The practice was bound up with particular medieval Catholic doctrines and practices which the Reformers strongly rejected and Cranmer, having kept such prayers in the 1549 Prayer Book, removed them totally from the 1552 revision.The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is, of course, largely the text of 1552, but in one definite difference is in this prayer. Thus today, unlike in 1552, we pray:

“And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of they heavenly kingdom”.

The phrase ‘that with them’ is seized upon and taken by some to mean that we are praying for both us and the ‘departed’. But this is to distort the plain meaning of the English language and the prayer.
6. Whilst I agree that those who have died in Christ are not in Heaven,(Heaven being the place where soul and body is reunited again) but are in Hades (the place of interval), there is no need to pray for them.Those who are in paradise are walking with the King – enjoying the Lord Jesus, in his paradise with the wonderful joyous indescribable expectation of at a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns) of being inside the Father’s house, the place that has been reserved and prepared for them personally by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who have died outside of Christ will be in the King’s prison segregated and separated from the Lord Jesus Christ and from his people and will suffer remorse and regret of knowing that the life that had on earth is over, and that there is no altering of their choice in life to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and with that the horrifying, agonisingly indescribable expectation of a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns ) of being cast into the Father’s garbage tip, the place that has been reserved and prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Thus praying for those whom have died does nothing to alter their destination. It is fixed at death. This is why Scripture is clear that we are to pray to God for the living.
7. Whilst all Anglicans state their belief in the Communion of Saints, what we are saying is that we believe that the catholic (World-wide, universal) church is made up of a spiritual communion or fellowship of Christians, including those who are alive (sometimes referred to as “the church militant,” cf. 1 Cor. 12:1ff) and those who have died (sometimes referred to as “the church triumphant,” cf. Heb. 12:1).
Those who have died in Christ are now with Christ ,whereas those who are alive in Christ on earth worship Christ by faith. What unites us is that both are in Christ and are part of His Church. This does not give us warrant to pray for them.
8. How can such prayers be faithful to justification by grace through faith in Christ alone and the reality that “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.27-28)?
9. The practice of praying to the dead and/or for the dead is inconsistent with not only the Scriptures, the BCP but also with the 39 Articles. (see Article XXII)

Article XXII
Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

10. The Homily on Prayer also roundly condemns the practice of prayer for the dead

So in essence, praying to the dead and/or for the dead, may be an ancient practice, but it has no Scriptural support, it is inconsistent with the Scriptures, the theology of the BCP, and the 39 Articles. In fact Scripture, the theology of the BCP and the 39 Articles make it abundantly clear that we are to not pray for the dead.