A game of AFL is taking place on a local oval when a small group jump the fence and start kicking a round ball along the ground. The game stops. Players approach the group and ask them to desist.
They retort, ‘we’re also playing football.
The players answer, ‘no, you’re playing a different game. Different ball, different shaped ground, different goals….if you’re interested, you can join us but first of all, get rid of the soccer ball’.
The group insist, ‘no, we are playing football. We can all play together at the same time.”
In trying to point out the obvious, someone again speaks up, ‘hang on, look…the balls are a different shape. The goals are different. You’re wanting a completely different sport.’
Ignoring the self-evident, the group gaslight the footy plays and again insist,
“We’re going to use this ground. Let’s talk about it. Let’s arrange a series of meetings to sort it out. After all, what we share in common is far greater than our differences.”
In the meantime, the match has been severely disrupted, the umpires feel bullied, and with each new sentence uttered by the small group of soccer players, they encroach further onto the oval and begin handing out Man U jumpers to everyone.
A significant announcement was made this week, one which may change the Church landscape in Australia. The decision is not so much about changing the game but is confirming that we will not change the game. GAFCON is responding to what is a tireless intrusion onto Christian Churches by certain bishops and leaders who are trying to change the Gospel beyond recognition. They are not playing the same game as Christians Churches, but something quite different.
Bishop Richard Condie, has explained the situation well,
“You know as well as I do that there is an emergency…When some of our bishops have failed to affirm basic biblical teachings [on marriage and sexual ethics] at the recent General Synod – when 12 of our bishops failed to uphold what Christians have taught for millennia – you know there is an emergency.”
“The issue for us is the authority of the Bible.”
He’s right. And let’s not fall for the red herring, “GAFCON are obsessed with sex and sexuality”, as one person put it yesterday. Not at all. It is the errant bishops who keep pushing and insisting churches allow and change their doctrines and practices on sex and marriage. GAFCON is rightly observing how these aberrant views impact and are ultimately shaped by a distorted theology of the Bible and the Gospel.
Marriage may be the presenting issue, but it is about so much more. There is an irreconcilable view of the Bible, of the cross, of the nature of sin and salvation, and the list continues. It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that ecclesial leaders who reject the Bible’s teaching on sexuality often don’t believe in other crucial doctrines including the atonement and the resurrection.
As we turn to Jesus, we find the superlative includer. Jesus shows kindness and mercy toward those who for 100 reasons sit outside the Kingdom of God. The very definition of a Christian is someone who did not belong and now by grace alone is welcomed by God. The same Jesus insisted on the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality. Jesus describes any sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman as ‘immoral. Today’s faithless bishops are pretty much saying, Jesus is wrong.
The Bible is clear, our moral practitioning is connected to other essential Christian beliefs about God and about sin and salvation and more.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
“ We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:9-11)
Churches that adopt the anthropological positions of popular culture are not serving their community well or God. They are giving people a message without hope and without grace. They are like an old English General sipping his brandy from a grand chateau while sending a carrier pigeon to the front line and telling the soldiers in the trenches, ‘there is peace. You are safe. All is well’.
Even as hundreds of Australian Anglicans meet in Canberra this week, I’ve heard some Anglican voices crying out, ‘peace, peace…what we need to do is keep dialoguing and living together’.
This reminds me of Bishop Curry and his famed sermon of ‘love’ at Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018. Behind the scenes, this preacher of love was seizing church properties and dragging leaders before disciplinary hearings. For what crime of the church? These pastors and churches continued to teach the orthodox position on marriage rather than capitulating to the culture.
Conversations and meetings and forums and synods have met for years, and sadly little progress made. What are Christian Churches meant to do when bishops and coaches insist on changing the very game?
GAFCON is choosing faithfulness to God over allegiance to broken institutions.
The Sydney Morning Herald has published a fair report on the story, although there was this one unfortunate line,
“The Diocese of the Southern Cross was formally launched in Canberra on Sunday. The first service was led by a rebel minister who resigned from the liberal Brisbane Archdiocese because he “cannot go along with same-sex blessings”.
Rebel isn’t the right word to describe Rev Peter Palmer. He has given up a steady stipend and is now driving a bus to put bread on the table. His congregation has lost their church’s property. Far from being a ‘rebel minister’, Palmer is a Christian minister who has chosen to remain faithful to Jesus while his Diocesan bishops have chosen faithlessness to both the Gospel and the churches under their care.
As news of this week’s GAFCON announcement circulates, I am not hearing cheers and laughter over the decision to introduce a new Anglican Diocese in Australia, but tears and lament at seeing ecclesial leaders persisting with errant teachings and destroying churches under their care. And there is love for God and the deep desire for the Gospel to go out to Australians.
Christ’s Church is holy to God. The Gospel is too vital for Christians to play ball with those who are maligning it. People (both inside and outside churches) are too important and misleading them with errant teachings doesn’t help anyone.
This issue isn’t limited to the Anglican Communion. There are other Christian denominations in Australia facing similar trouble. Eventually, we must decide, who will we follow. Will we obey the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, or will we play the role of the chameleon and keep changing the gospel according to the whims of the culture?