…we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness…. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches.
The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel.
The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel.
The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008.
Published as a part of it is the Jerusalem Declaration. Some of its points:
The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.
We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
…we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.
We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.
We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.
We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.
So, in all of this is the gauntlet thrown down. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are “compromised and enfeebled,” “proclaiming this false gospel.” “The unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman” is, in the Jerusalem Declaration, elevated to equity with Scripture, Creeds, the threefold ministry, and the historical Anglican Formularies.
All of this, then, justifies not only “the planting of new churches among unreached peoples [but] also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches;” for “we reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed.” So, incursions across provincial lines are valid responses to the failures of American and Canadian bishops (and surely others soon enough) to “uphold orthodox faith and practice.”
Well, we in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have some sense of having experienced this before. The Global Anglican Future Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration are remarkably reminiscent of the Affirmation of St. Louis, in intent and consequence, if not literally in language. The Affirmation of St. Louis has been the distinctive formative statement of “continuing Anglican” bodies in North America, including some who are now part of the Common Cause movement.
And having seen it before, we can predict what it will mean, at least here. It will provide justification for those who chose to leave the Episcopal Church, and especially those who have left in all but name long ago and now find a new body more congenial. Some will leave, if not nearly as many as the separatists hope. New bodies will coalesce and splinter and coalesce again over time, until new bodies reach some level of stability. They are not likely, however, to ever grow dramatically from what they are now.
There are differences, of course. The connections with foreign bishops will add a certain panache, at least for a while. However, such connections will not make the new bodies more attractive than they already were for their doctrinal positions; and time will tell just how ready American and Canadian Christians are to live with very different models of authority from other cultures.
In any case, and once again, the gauntlet is thrown down. This new movement, led by its primates, exists to challenge the existing relationships and structures of the Anglican Communion, from Canterbury on out. While it begins its work with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, it can hardly stop there. It can only come soon to the British Isles; and one wonders what the approach will be to other conservative Anglican provinces that choose to remain with Canterbury instead of joining the movement.
It seems a long time ago that I described Archbishop Williams’ efforts to maintain the Communion as “cowboy poker,” won by those who stayed longest at the table (here and here). Well, clearly some have made a decision. They have attended GAFCON, and have disparaged the Lambeth Conference that they will not attend. They have determined that some are acceptable and some are not, and have stated their standards. Some will certainly back away from this; but just as certainly some will chart their course by this map. Are you watching, Archbishop Williams? These have chosen to walk away.