The Church of England, like many Christian denominations, has faced trials and temptations down the centuries, from both outside in the culture and from within. Its beginnings were turbulent and yet the grace of God started what became a global witness for Christ, albeit a shaky one.
The Church of England is famed throughout the world, for its connections to King Henry VIII through to Westminster Abbey and the village church and is quintessentially English. More than that, the Church of England was once a beacon of light, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and gathering men and women into Christ’s Church, producing theologians and pastors and missionaries who stood firm on sound doctrine and who loved the church. Sometimes this came at a great cost.
The Church of England establishment had an unhealthy dating program with the State and wanderings back into a religion of form and with cassock and golden crosses. At times it was the Common Book of Prayer with the readings of Scripture that kept a light flickering within ageing stone walls of St Mark’s and St Mary’s. Other churches grew and were centres of faithful Gospel proclamation. Indeed, when my wife and I lived in England 20 years ago, we visited and were so encouraged by numerous parishes who’d invited me to preach. Young and old, married and single, were united together by the Spirit of God and were hungry to feed from Scripture. It is of no surprise that the healthiest and largest Anglican Churches in England are mostly evangelical parishes, that hold to and teach the faith once for all delivered.
Indeed, at the General Synod this week, their voices were heard and their impassioned warnings and love for the church resonated around the meeting place In London. To their shame, all 3 Houses voted in support of the Bishops’ recommendations in the report, ‘Living in Love and Faith.
Everyone agreed with aspects of the report. There have been times when Christians have not loved others as we ought. We have treated people with disdain, not love, with fear not welcome. We ought to repent when we look upon others in a way that contradicts the Lord Jesus. Other aspects of the report, including the Bishops call to introduce same sex blessing services, are untenable to Anglicans who uphold the teaching of the Church of England.
Today, in London, the Church of England entered into what is essentially a de facto relationship with the Devil.
The Church of England’s press release today states,
“The Church of England’s General Synod has called on the bishops to take the next step to issue prayers which would enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or civil partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing.”
This is effectively a de facto relationship with the Devil. They haven’t (as yet) redefined marriage, but they have determined to however call holy, that which God calls sin. It is only a matter of time before the divorce is formalised and the new marriage arranged.
This is a historical moment. This is the undoing of centuries of agreed and believed doctrine for the sake of fitting in with a culture that is proud of its sex without borders ethics. The self is King and no one is to object or disagree with the sexual preferences of anyone. And as numerous MPs have said over the past week, the Church of England must embrace same sex marriage or be cast aside.
There are many parishes scattered around England that have declared their faithfulness to the Lord of the Church over and above an errant English Church. How they proceed now will require much wisdom and strength and courage. May the Lord honour their faithfulness to Jesus.
Without repentance, there is no saving the Church of England. Without a return to doctrinal orthodoxy and practice, the Church of England will be little more than an English version of Thyatira.
God is love. God is truth. His word is loving and true. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for everyone who believes. It is not as though the Bible is unclear about matters concerning human sexuality, marriage, and life fulfilment. Churches for millennia and the majority of Christian Churches around the world today affirm the same theological understandings. Jesus never said that following him would be easy. Sometimes the world offers everything, if only we fudge His world a little, if only we excise that chapter or that verse and include a sentence from the hymnbook of today’s culture.
The Church of England’s song sheet is certainly sounding more like Sam Smith’s ‘unholy’ than it is God’s beautiful, gracious and life giving word.
One does not need to be a member of the Church of England today to feel a sense of loss, anger and great sadness. A small part of every Protestant believer has been betrayed. All our churches may come under greater social scrutiny and derision if we do not follow the now lost Church of England.
Today, as we did yesterday, and as we must tomorrow, take hold of the message of Jude,
“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. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”