Chirpy Ruth Gledhill of The Times of London reports here on the ABC’s speech to General Synod. He points out that the Anglican Communion may very well split permanently over the consecration of women bishops and homosexuals. He envisions a two tier system in which some churches in the Anglican Communion are ‘in’ and others are ‘out’.
I can’t help observing that the Anglican Communion is split already and has been for a long time. The split is not between those who like women clergy and those who don’t. The split is not between those who are in favor of same sex marriage and same sex clergy and those who don’t. The split is not between Evangelicals and Anglo Catholics, or Africans or English or Americans or Asians or rich or poor.
The split in the Anglican Church is much more profound than that. The split, as former Bishop of London, Mgr. Graham Leonard said in The Path to Rome, is between, “those on the one hand who believe that the Christian gospel is revealed by God, is to be heard and received and that its purpose is to enable men and women to obey God in love and through them for creation itself to be redeemed. On the other hand are those who believe that it can and should be modified and adapted to the cultural and intellectual attitudes and demands of successive generations and indeed originates in them.”
This is what divides Anglicans–not all the particular issues. Furthermore, this is also what divides the rest of Christendom–including the Catholic Church. The divide within Christianity is not even essentially between Protestant and Catholic, or between all the different Protestant denominations. The divide, as Mgr. Leonard so succinctly put it, is between those who believe the old time religion and those who do not.
The question should not be, “Do you think women should be bishops?” or “Do you think two people of the same sex can marry one another?” The question is, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of a Virgin Mother, died on the cross for the salvation of a sinful humanity, rose again on the third day and is now seated at the right hand of the father?” The real question is, “Do you believe that the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, established the Church as the sacrament of salvation and that the Christian’s sole purpose on earth is to love God, serve him, make his way to heaven and take as many others with him as possible.”
Christians of all denominations and traditions who fudge on these basic questions of belief will inevitably take either a radical or at least a soft line on the contemporary ‘issues’. That is because, whether they are conscious of it or not, they essentially believe that the Christian faith is not a revealed religion, but a relative religion. That the Church is not founded by God through his Son Jesus Christ, but it is a human and historical construct, and as such it needs to adapt to the changing needs of society.
This is the split Anglicans (and all other Christians) need to confront head on, and as far as my opinion matters, the sooner a radical realignment takes place within Christianity the sooner we will be able to get on with the Great Commission. What do I mean by ‘radical realignment’? I mean let those who have come to realize that they really do believe the old time religion join the One, True, Old Time Religion i.e. The Catholic Church, and let those who do not scamper off to join whatever sect suits them best.
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