That a once highly respected denomination could plunge in one lifetime from a place of general esteem, among serious orthodox observers, to a reputation for radical departure from the revealed truth of Holy Scripture, is breathtaking. Then to see the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as the preacher at a Royal Wedding, with the blessing of the Church of England and most of the world’s press, is even more confounding. Unless one knows the New Testament teaching of Jesus.
The world does not esteem the way of the Lord. Nor do those who seek the approval of the world. Nor does the enemy of men’s souls. But the leaders of the church of Christ Jesus? Those sworn to uphold the truth of the gospel? Those who promised to be loyal to the “doctrine, sacraments, and discipline of Christ” as it was first received? How could a house of bishops go from overwhelmingly “wanting” to condemn heresy in 1966 to applauding the election of a proponent of gay and lesbian sexuality by 1997?
There is an often repeated tale that if you want to boil a frog, you need to start him off in cold water. As the water warms up he becomes more and more comfortable, until at length the water boils him alive. If he had been thrown into a pot of boiling water to begin with, he would have leaped out and survived. Burned, for sure, but alive. It is a perfect parable for what has happened in the Anglican Family in so many places.
When a much younger man, and trying to defend the historic Faith and Order of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, I was accused of believing in the “old slippery slope argument.” Naive and sensitive to social pressure from colleagues, I drew back. I did not think I was wrong, but my confidence was shaken by the widespread rejection of my opinion. Little by little my conscience grew stronger and my willingness to stand my ground grew, yet all the while I was drowning in a larger context of revisionism. After the General Convention of 1994 I thought the hour was perhaps too late, but I gave my best for three more years. In 1997 I had to say “No more.”
Twenty-four years later I am still seeing the effects of the incremental changes that so many of us got used to, even though we repented and fled. I watched as an entirely new denomination, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), came into existence, and as the number of smaller offshoots (calling themselves Anglican) from the Episcopal Church has grown. But it is very clear that these “protest movements” are not gaining ground in the current moral and political confusion in America or Canada. The theology and polity of these groups is not gaining traction in the culture. It seems this is so for at least two reasons. Firstly, and commendably, they are absolutely opposed to the cultural trends shaping the society of the West. And secondly, but unfortunately, they are still continuing to trust in patterns of leadership and ministry that have failed effectively to assist the church of Christ Jesus to grow and flourish for many generations.
Sadly, in 2020, many godly leaders are not seeing reality, nor facing the consequences.
Next Week: Presbyopia