Anger at Archbishop Glenn Davies for saying Anglicans should believe what Anglicans believe

Outrage is one of the few certainties of our age. At times there is a good reason for anger, sometimes it’s misguided, and sometimes it’s a rhetorical weapon used for avoiding sensible discourse and argument. And yes, for third parties watching on it can be difficult to discern what is what.

Predictable parts of the media and progressive Christians are today fuming at Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop because he believes Anglicans should be Anglican.

The line that has particularly infuriated people is this,

“My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us.

“We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world.”

 

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Robyn Whitaker of Pilgrim Theological College tweeted in response,

There’s a redefinition of “Anglican” here that is terrifying and must be utterly rejected. Christianity has always tolerated a range of views. What is being advocated by @abpdavies is a fundamentalist cult.

First of all, Glenn Davies hasn’t redefined Anglican. He is doing what he’s supposed to do, namely upholding Anglican doctrine and practice, and calling out those who are creating fracture by introducing unAnglican ideas. Indeed, it is worth noting that at the very same event where Archbishop Davies gave this address, the Synod prayed for Jay Behan, a newly appointed Bishop over a new group of churches in New Zealand who have been forced to leave the Anglican Church of NZ because it has turned away from Anglican doctrine.

Whitaker’s use of language here is designed to paint Sydney Anglicans into a religious box where all fanatics and right-wing dangerous religious people belong. The reality is very different. Sydney Anglicans belong to mainstream and historic Christian faith which is practised by many other denominations in this country and across the world. You may not like or agree with the Sydney Anglican Diocese but calling them a cult is intellectually and morally disingenuous.  Whitaker suggests “Christianity has always tolerated a range of views.”. No, and yes. Christians throughout history have agreed on some things being tertiary, but many other beliefs and practices are primary, and agree on these is necessary for continued unity and fellowship. Despite her implication, Anglicanism (as with Christianity) isn’t an endless spectrum of alternate theologies, as though I can believe whatever I want about God and call myself Anglican. Anglicanism consists of concrete beliefs and practices, which include the 39 Articles, and more important, beliefs and practices that are grounded in the Bible. As Melbourne’s Ridley College (an Anglican college) recently, stated,

“We are convinced that the biblical vision for human sexuality is clear. We also believe that it is beautiful, and that God’s commands are for our good as well as for his glory. The traditional path may be a hard one to travel, but it is the one we are called to take.”

It is interesting to note in light of her tweet that Whitaker’s own denomination (the Uniting Church), is squeezing out evangelicals who hold to the classical view of marriage. An example of this was reported in The Australian last week.

Jarrod McKenna also tweeted,

“It’s Jesus’ church. You don’t get to ask those you disagree with to leave”

Yes, it is Jesus’ Church, and that’s the point. The Lord Jesus Christ establishes and defines the Church, not us. So when people come along and declare that they no longer agree with Jesus, it is incumbent upon Churches to point this out and call them to repent. Should they decline and persist in holding to erring ideas, they ought to leave. Glenn Davies is simply acknowledging the Bible’s own processes on this matter, and it also makes sense. I should add, there is a difference between someone wrestling with the Bible’s teaching and someone who rejects the Bible’s teaching. There is an important distinction between someone struggling with doubt as they come to terms with biblical ethics and someone with knowledge deciding to say no. There is a difference between a person who is exploring the faith and a leader who has decided that no longer adhere to church doctrine.*

For example, if a member of a sporting club decides that they no longer hold to the values of the club, it is a matter of integrity that they move elsewhere. If a member of a cricket club insists that they no longer want to play cricket, but instead want to redefine the club as a lacrosse society, the right thing to do is for them to move to a sporting club that plays lacrosse.

Last month I wrote the growing schism in the Anglican Communion and argued at the time, “Of what use is a doctrinal statement if churches can freely ignore or reject articles without consequence? Of what benefit is a definition of marriage if churches and pastors can circumvent the rules and pursue alternate avenues without disciplinary procedures both defined and enacted? These clergy and churches have either broken fellowship or they have not.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is acting with pastoral awareness of the churches and is using commonsense.

If an Anglican no longer holds to Anglican beliefs and practices, they can no longer be described as Anglican in any meaningful way and so it’s a matter of integrity that one stops pretending to be so. If a football player changes clubs, it is inappropriate for them to wear the jumper of their previous club. Be honest about it and go support the team you’re now playing for.

I understand why some people don’t like what Glenn Davies has said. Some people may not agree with his views, but he is being consistent with the teaching and practice of Anglicanism (and indeed with that of Christian denominations around the world). As a leader of that Diocese, he has the responsibility under God to “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9), “to contend for the faith” (Jude 3), and “to keep watch over the flock” (Acts 20).

What especially grieves me amidst this ongoing issue is not only the way progressives publicly misconstrue the true nature of mainstream Christian Churches but the fact that they also misconstrue to everyday Aussies the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel doesn’t affirm 21st Century sexual ethics, it is offers something better, more astonishing and good.

If I may defer to Ridley College once more,

“We acknowledge that homosexuality is a difficult topic to discuss. This is not because the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is especially unclear, but because its implications are so deeply personal. We are Bible scholars, but we are also people. All of us have wrestled with God’s teaching on marriage on a personal level as it relates to those we love –  our children, our friends, those we pastor  –  and indeed to our own lives.

“We rejoice with the many gay, lesbian and same-sex attracted men and women in our churches who love Jesus and are quietly committed to following him on this path, trusting him with their whole lives even, and perhaps especially, with their sex lives. The church as a whole can learn much from their example about what following Jesus looks like as we await his return. Jesus calls us to give up our lives, take up our cross, and follow him no matter the cost. If, for some of us, life has become a little too comfortable, a little too much like the world, incurring too little a cost, then we might look to these celibate gay, lesbian and same-sex attracted saints whose lives can serve as a living, breathing sermon, an example to follow, and a reminder not only of the cost of following Jesus but also that he is worth giving up anything to follow.“

 

 


*It should be noted that the Archbishop’s comments were directed toward bishops and clergy of the Anglican Church. This is a distinction that the media is overlooking

13 thoughts on “Anger at Archbishop Glenn Davies for saying Anglicans should believe what Anglicans believe

  1. Thank you, Murray, for writing so helpfully in support of our Archbishop . How wonderful that biblical faith transcends denominational hedges. (I’m a member of Sydney synod.)

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    • I agree, the Archbishop of Sydney has every right to say “Please leave us,” to those whose beliefs are fundamentally incompatible with the diocese as a whole.

      However, when Archbishop Davies and Bishop Condie found themselves in a fundamentally incompatible position with the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia they chose to remain within the Church while freely ignoring and rejecting the beliefs of the the majority of the Church as expressed by the Primate; beliefs which held their actions would be a breach of its National Constitution and a violation of the national and worldwide Anglican communion.

      As the Primate, Archibishop Freier, said:

      ” … I do not think that it is for us individually, acting independently, to determine with whom we are in communion or to act unilaterally to that end. I do not think that it is for individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia to determine with whom we, as members of that Church, are in communion. We must act in accordance with the Constitution that binds us as the Anglican Church of Australia.”

      So then why doesn’t the Diocese of Sydney “please leave” the Anglican Church of Australia and form their own, perhaps with the like-minded Dioceses of Tasmania, Bathurst, and North West Australia?

      Not leaving would be hypocritical. Leaving would solve numerous problems, such as Bishop Nelson’s refusal to recognise Archbishop Goldsworthy as Metropolitan of the Province of Western Australia.

      Leaving would allow them to attend to the “much work [there is] to do in evangelising Australia [without being] distracted by the constant pressure to change [the ACA’s] doctrine” ⁠— pressure emanating from places such as Wangaratta, Bendigo, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Newcastle ⁠— and the Rev David Ould could fill his blog with stories of people coming to Jesus instead of using it, like a modern day Tomás de Torquemada, to hunt down and expose heresy from within the Anglican Church of Australia.

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      • I was going to compose a reply, but Glenn Davies‘ letter linked at the end of Archbishop Feier’s letter says it all. (Linked here for your convenience http://acl.asn.au/abp-davies-in-support-of-lines-consecration/)
        In brief, believe these innovations being introduced in the ACA are inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations, and this impairs fellowship. Supporting Anglicans who have been alienated by their “progressive” bishops is not inconsistent with the FDs. So who should leave, those maintaining the doctrines as we have received them, or those who want to discard them?

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      • Who should leave?

        If all are happy to coexist in a broad church that accommodates differences; no one needs to leave.

        If, however, some feel they can’t coexist with others with whom they differ on matters of doctrine then the only avenue open to them is to appeal to the others to leave ⁠— as you have ⁠— and if they don’t, then they must decide whether to stay within a national structure which obliges them to expend significant time and energy debating “change[s to] our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world”.

        (My understanding is Archbishop Davies was addressing progressives within the Diocese of Sydney but the principle of not wanting to be distracted from the work of evangelism applies equally to the Diocese’s interaction with the national church.)

        I come back to the Rev David Ould’s blog, which is overwhelmingly devoted to exposing heresy within the Anglican Church of Australia from Newcastle to Perth.

        Rev Ould has a very high public profile which should enable him to evangelise to a much larger audience than most other Anglican ministers, and yet looking at the landing page of his blog as of today, of the ten blogposts displayed only one deals with a topic other than parts of the ACA embracing or accommodating the “lusts and pleasures of the world.”

        Instead, imagine for a moment the Diocese of Sydney had broken with the ACA. That would mean the goings on in Wangaratta would mean as little to Rev Ould as the internal machinations of, say, the Uniting Church; which is to say not at all, judging by his blog. Being freed from the constant pressure from church liberals would liberate Rev Ould to take his own advice to Archbishop Curry on how to use the blessing of a large audience to share: “You know, the stuff which Christians affirm is at the heart of the gospel.”

        So if they don’t leave, why don’t the Dioceses of Sydney, Tasmania, Bathurst, and NWA leave the ACA? Non-Anglicans like me are genuinely puzzled by the preference to ‘stay in the tent’ and complain rather than break with an institutional church which, history attests, only ever becomes more accommodating of progressive views ⁠— you wouldn’t have a female Archbishop today were it not for the ordination of women in 1992 ⁠— and this applies equally to the aforementioned Dioceses’ utter refusal to contemplate leaving the ACA as well as GAFCON’s utter refusal to contemplate breaking with Canterbury despite Archbishop Welby’s “compromised” leadership. It’s as though the institutional church, with the Queen at its apex, is treated with a reverence unbefitting a fallible man-made institution.

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      • Hello Juan,

        I see that you’ve twice raised a concern about content on davidould.net. If it’s any comfort then I can assure you it’s a question that I ask myself constantly, especially given that my day to day ministry is far more directed in the manner that you would prefer.

        But I keep coming back to this apostolic observation…

        Jude 3    Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

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      • Hello David,

        Yes of course it’s perfectly biblical to warn the faithful of the ungodly who have slipped in among them; but Jude transmitted his warning in a private letter; he didn’t use his contemporary equivalent of a public broadcast – preaching in the public square – to share news of heresy with the world-at-large while foregoing an opportunity to share the the Gospel.

        If I may pay you a compliment: you, along with the Rev Dr Michael Jensen, have the gift of exceptional public profiles. I’m not sure what they put in the water in Sydney but I can’t think of any up-and-coming next-gen Anglican leaders elsewhere in the ACA who have achieved similar renown and with it the ability to reach such a wide audience with the Gospel.

        This is why a posed the question: do you really want someone who might not know much about Christianity or the Sydney Anglicans, but knows about you and casually chances upon your blog to be drawn into the internecine doctrinal warfare within the ACA?

        Wouldn’t it be better to use publicly broadcast media to evangelise and to fight doctrinal battles in private? Sure, what you might intend to share privately may be made public – Jude’s epistle certainly was! – but that would be their choice, not yours.

        Lastly, isn’t the elephant in the room the increasing inability of the broad church, which the ACA tries to be, to accommodate both conservatives and liberals? The conservatives have called on the liberals to leave, and have given very sound reasons (“We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted,” etc.); but if they choose not to leave, and there’s no legal mechanism to force then to leave, then by Archbishop Davies’ own logic the conservatives should leave to form their own church – a ‘Church of Confessing Anglicans of Australia’? – in order to evangelise without distractions. Imagine, if you will, a future where there is no need for davidould.net to report on the activities of Lisa Ahuja or any other cleric from what would be ‘that other denomination’?

        A couple of my friends who are Sydney Anglicans have told me not to hold my breath for this to happen, and they say the reason it won’t happen boils down to money and property. These are only the opinions of three people, expressed over lunch today, but if true it would be a very unbiblical answer to false teaching within the ACA. Nowhere does the Bible say: ‘Turn away from false teachers … unless doing so means you would lose millions of shekels, and your lands and houses of worship, in which case stay in communion with the heretics.’

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  2. Put so very clearly. I like the sporting analogy. If you want to play lacrosse, join a lacrosse club. The same analogy can be drawn from any other community organisation….. a brass band does not require ukulele players, and “intolerance” of ukuleles has nothing to do with it.
    What is going on here is an attempt to force “acceptance” by the “church” of behaviour and beliefs that are inconsistent with its life and teaching.

    Once apron a time, those who disagreed with the beliefs and teaching of a particular church simply exercised their right to reject that church.
    Now apparently the goal is to destroy every church by making all of them conform to the world…… and when that happens, there will be no point in the existence of any church……. goal achieved.

    Romans 12:2

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  3. The Archbishop’s first priority is to be a guardian of Christian faith. Upholding the authority and supremacy of Gods word is of paramount importance. God’s word and God’s laws do not change. They are perfect.

    Human laws can and do change. A change in human law is sometimes good and sometimes bad. In the same way a new idea or a new way of thinking is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

    Any attempt to alter or mess with God’s laws is always bad. It undermines God’s sovereignty. It’s how, thanks to Adam and Eve (and ourselves) we got into this mess in the first place. Ie broken relationship with God. It’s a direct result of wilful disobedience.

    Changes in wider community beliefs, the beliefs of journalists, the results of plebiscites, and a Christian persons belief that is contrary to Gods word has no place in determining matters of corporate faith or the governance of a church.

    The Bible determines church doctrine. Gods word on human sexuality and marriage is crystal clear. The Archbishop is a faithful servant of the Lord when he champions the Bibles clear teaching on marriage.

    Those that are part of Gods family are faithful to Gods word. God Created all and God’s plans and purposes for his creation are clear. They are the same now as always. It’s only some people’s position that has changed. It’s a sad departure from God’s law.

    Picking only the parts of Gods word that you like or that are culturally approved and rejecting other parts is not faithful.

    False teaching must be rebuked. It is Biblical to do so.

    Repeated calls to repentance are tiresome. It’s hard to say how much patience, how many calls to repentance should be made. At some point the unrepentant should probably go their own way.

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  4. We are truly blessed to have a Leader like Glen Davies ,who is a faithful and obedient servant of Christ. As he guides The Anglican Church through this maze of that which is scriptural and right , and that which is unscriptural, misguided and seeks to accommodate the world with all its views. My prayer is that the next Archbishop, whoever he is and whenever he is, will be as close to God’s own heart as this man is.

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  5. From my study of scripture it is very clear what the Bible states regarding God’s creation of male and female and their role in this world. One man for one woman. As soon as this is tampered with chaos results. History reveals this. When a nation no longer respects God’s order of creation and Jesus Christ as Lord; all crumbles; including the land on which we live. The church is the Bride of Christ and must be without blemish. Which means NO COMPROMISE. Once God’s explicit word is thrown out the window; then Christ is no longer there as He is THE WORD. Praise God for a bishop doing his job. He is blessed and honoured.

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  6. What we have here is one apologist standing up for another apologist, who are both cheesed off with apologists of a different Anglican pursuasion. Two camps, both slinging the same slurs at each other in a most unbecoming way. From the outside looking in it seems petty and trivial. From the inside looking in, to many of us in the pews, it also seems petty and trivial. One theological position vs. another theological position – with both sides claiming to be right. Really? What happened to Christian love in all this, when Anglican church people are telling other Anglican church people ‘it’s my way or the highway!’? I thought we’d got over the Medieval practice of torturing those we disagreed with and killing each other over where to put a full stop in a statement of faith. God is the Judge in matters to do with how each of us lives our lives, not men in ivory towers. Live and let live, I say, and then when we die our merciful God will show us the Truth – rather than our own interpretation of what the rules are or should be. Love God and love your neighbour – the only two essentials given to us by Jesus.

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