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The Anglican evangelical response to the new Archbishop of Canterbury

Author
Category Articles
Date December 2, 2002

Reform leaders said they could not allow the appointment of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury to go ahead quietly. They spoke against his false teaching, prayed for him, encouraged evangelical parishes to take action, and set up a fighting fund to help parishes whose bishops make their lives difficult.

Speaking at the Reform Conference the Revd Paul Carter, of Vancouver said a "pre-emptive defence of the Gospel" was the only way to stop what has for too long been a drift into theological liberalism. Carter represents one of eight parishes who have walked out of the synod of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada since their heretical Bishop Michael Ingham has allowed services to bless same-sex unions. They are saddened that no other Canadian bishop has come forward to offer them oversight but there are assurances that African and Asian bishops will not abandon them, and will provide alternative episcopal oversight in due course.

Carter thinks there will be a new Reformation in the Anglican Communion. "As the first Reformation was aided by the invention of the printing press, so this new Reformation is being aided by the development of the Internet. Michael Ingham cannot do what he wants in a private corner any longer." Reform, the English Evangelical Anglican organisation, passed a motion expressing total solidarity with their Colleagues in the Anglican Church in New Westminster ACNW, their support for them and a desire to help in whatever practical ways might be possible.

The Revd William Taylor of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London spoke of his decision with his fellow clergy to distance themselves from Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury. They will refuse to accept their Church Commissioners’ salary, leaving it up to their own church to decide whether or not to pay them. Taylor has recently given a Lord’s Day sermon explaining it to the congregation at St Helen’s in the city of London.

The Revd David Banting, chairman of Reform, explained that after much talk with Williams, the Reform Council felt that the time had come for a statement rather than dialogue, and he reaffirmed their call for the Archbishop to resign from his appointment to Canterbury even at this late stage. His stand was affirmed by the whole conference.

Reform leaders acknowledged that the battle for the truth of the gospel had reached English shores with a vengeance. "Suddenly we found ourselves in a battle not of our own choosing. Homosexuality was the presenting issue, yet clearly the fault-lines in the Anglican Communion ran much deeper. This is an issue of authority of the nature of God’s revelation to us in His Word, and supremely in Christ. This is a wake-up call to English evangelicals. How will we respond? Will we have the courage of Christ to stand fast? Will we have the desire to pray for and seek a new Reformation? Will we be prepared to put on the line our jobs, our pensions, our families, our lives for the sake of the gospel of Christ? Time will tell."

Reform leaders said they could not allow the appointment of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury to go ahead quietly. They spoke against his false teaching, prayed for him, encouraged evangelical parishes to take action, and set up a fighting fund to help parishes whose bishops make their lives difficult.

The following motion was passed by 175 delegates (only one against and one abstention): The conference calls on churches to welcome as teachers to their churches only those bishops who can affirm, teach and defend: 1. the received teaching of the church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony; 2. the need for appropriate discipline within the church where there are sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony; 3. the practice of ordaining only those who themselves will teach, and seek to model in their own lives, the received teaching of the church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony.

A further motion established a "ministry fund" to provide help where bishops refuse to affirm the above propositions.

It was also agreed to seek to increase the staffing of Reform in order to organise those who are opposing Rowan Williams’ appointment, and to circulate immediately to all the Anglican primates a devastating critique of Rowan Williams’ writings by Dr Garry Williams of Oak Hill Theological College to be published by Latimer House.

Gary Williams explained that in his reading of almost all the Archbishop’s writings, he had discovered that the central problem for evangelicals is that Rowan Williams’ doctrine of revelation is unorthodox. "He seems to deny all knowledge. When we go to God all we hear is the silence of a baby. He teaches a radical denial of the possibility of theological speech, except of course that he allows himself the luxury of it. It is only when we enter the "dark night," going with Jesus into abandonment and hell, that we commit ourselves to God for his own sake."

Paul Perkin, vicar of St Mark’s in Battersea, south London, described by the Daily Telegraph as an Oxford graduate and former private school teacher, and an unlikely rebel, spoke to the conference on the central importance of the Archbishop’s teaching on homosexuality "It is not a secondary issue," he maintained. "This issue matters because it stands either side of the cross. Does God create my homosexuality part of my nature in his own image which was incarnated in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus? Or is homosexuality part of my fallen sinful nature which Jesus died on the cross to redeem?"

Other speakers observed that the Arian crisis of the fourth century was over one letter (iota) while the Reformation crisis in Europe was over the matter of indulgences. Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were martyred in Oxford in the 16th century over their doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, but that all of these may have seemed secondary to the issue of homosexuality There is a need to safeguard funds for gospel work and it is not just conservative evangelicals who are concerned. The broader Church of England Evangelical Council only the previous week expressed its very strong concern over Rowan’s appointment with at least one diocesan bishop expressing serious reservations privately. Some evangelical ordinands are questioning whether they can in good conscience go forward to ordination in the current crisis.

Speakers from New Westminster encouraged the conference in its resolve. Dr James I. Packer spoke of his sadness as he recognised in himself that there was no longer any surprise at the false teaching he was seeing. Professor Packer explained that in Vancouver they had declared themselves out of communion with the Bishop and the synod, and in retrospect he believed that had been a wise action. "It is a serious matter and it is also a focal issue. For ourselves, our best hope of achieving alternative episcopal oversight will be if provinces in the ‘south by south’ would suspend communion with New Westminster," which, he said, seemed probable. Carter also encouraged the conference to undertake what the army call "scenario planning." "Take time to think through every possibility and what your reaction to it will be. In New Westminster the "dissident parishes" know how they will react on November 1st if the House of Bishops fails to come to their aid."

English Churchman November 1 & 8 2002

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