Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Communion News

If you are interested in how things are playing out in the Anglican Communion, Rowan William's nuanced article in today's Guardian will be worth checking out.

Responding to the ECUSA's (the American Episcopal Church) plan to ordain practicing homosexuals, Williams said that same-sex blessings were "at the very least analogous" to Christian marriage and people living in such unions could not "without serious incongruity" have a representative function in a church whose public teaching was "at odds with their lifestyle".

(h/t The Guardian)

UPDATE: The ubiquitous Tom Wright gives his response here. And for a slightly different take, Glenn Davies gives his response.


Bruce Yabsley said...

Thanks for the link, Matt.

Mike Bull said...

Nuanced means subtle, like a serpent. In our personal lives, and in the church, there is an appropriate time for a bleeding heart, and an appropriate time for a bloody Levitical "sword". This is the latter.

Doug Wilson writes:

“Scripture describes for us the sin of being antichrist, the Greek word being antichristos. There are four uses of the word in 1 John, and one in 2 John, and that’s it for the Bible. Surprising to many, the antichrist is not found in the book of Revelation at all. The recipients of John’s letter had heard that the antichrist was going to come, and indeed, John says, many antichrists had already come (1 Jn. 2:18). The antichrist is defined as one who denies the Father and the Son (1 Jn. 2:22). And the spirit of antichrist is a refusal to confess that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3). The same thing is said again in 2 Jn. 1:7. The spirit of deception and antichrist is a rejection of Jesus come in the flesh.

So what is the sin of being an antichrist. Through long-standing misunderstandings about eschatology, the definition of this sin has gotten almost completely distorted. A common understanding is to see The Antichrist and The Beast as the same character out of poorly written end times novels. But this is not the case at all. In Scripture, a beast is a civil ruler, persecuting the Church. An antichrist is a false teacher from within, one infected with all the latest ideational leprosy. For a beast, think Stalin, Hitler, Nero. For an antichrist, think of a mild, soften-spoken Anglican bishop — one who denies that Jesus was God enfleshed.”

Matthew Moffitt said...

Mmm, actually by nuanced I meant careful, thoughtful and gracious - the kind of qualities Rowan Williams has brought to the leadership of the loose Anglican confederation.

Matthew Moffitt said...

PS Can you show me where Rowan Williams has denied Jesus' incarnation?

Mike Bull said...


I think you missed my point.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Mike I don't know the context of the passage you quote from Doug Wilson (and I don't know Doug Wilson, moreover), but if you make a long denunciatory comment on a Rowan Williams thread that ends with "For an antichrist, think of a mild, soften-spoken Anglican bishop — one who denies that Jesus was God enfleshed", it is reasonable to suppose that you might be making a criticism of RW.

If that is your criticism of Williams, then it is ridiculous and impertinent and contrary to all the evidence.

If that is not your criticism of Williams, then what is your point? You said that Matt is missing it: sorry, but in that case I'm missing it too.

Mike Bull said...


Thanks for your reply.

My point was that Williams' admirable working for unity also shows a serious lack of sound judgment and a susceptibility to false teaching.

There is a time to demonstrate love through forgiveness and reconciliation. And there is a time to lovingly sever ties with those who will not submit to the plain teaching of the incarnate Word. Lack of sound judgment is exactly what Christ condemns as lukewarmness.

I am sure Williams' intentions are the best, which makes him all the more dangerous. And the point at which a culture challenges the church is exactly the point at which the church must make a stand. This is always the case.

One can still be gracious and careful and also stand for the truth. If he was worth his salt, Williams would be calling for these people to repent. That is his job as over-shepherd.

I hope I have made the point clear. The church's failure to do her housekeeping always has a detrimental effect on the surrounding culture. Perhaps the Communion needs a new broom.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Mike, you and RW have a different reading of what his job is. He doesn't view the job of the AofC as being an "over-shepherd" in quite the same way as you seem to — and this is no idle weakness on his part, as the Arch is most precisely not supposed to be some sort of Anglican Pope. And if he started behaving like one, on any issue other than this, I think there's little doubt that people around here would be first in the line to criticise him for it.

In any case I am still going to call you on your rhetoric. You've mounted a defence here that moves from "other people are doing bad things", to "I disagree with the way RW is doing his job of responding to it", to "he is lukewarm", to "he is dangerous", to "it is legitimate for me to launch a screed at him that openly implies that he's a heretic". This is slippery.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Oh and BTW, re "the point at which a culture challenges the church is exactly the point at which the church must make a stand": this amounts to letting the other party set the agenda. If someone else's position amounts to being an answer to a bad question, responding with a straightforward negation—even if the original position is framed as an attack—perpetuates the error rather than moving things forward.

Mike Bull said...


We'll just have to disagree on this one.

As I said, I have no doubt his intentions are honourable. He is under a great deal of stress to hold things together - except that according the New Testament, we are NOT to hold such things together. Paul delivered the unrepentant to Satan, in the hope that God's discipline would bring them to repentance.

The point of my original quote from Wilson was that attacks upon the church are not always persecutions from without. How many times to the epistles warn against false teachers? RW has great wisdom on some issues, but on others, and where it currently seems to count, he has let the side down. No wonder many Anglicans are looking to the African bishops for some real Christian leadership (reported in the comments below the article).

I have nothing personal against RW. And this is not a debate about his job description. He can't propose a different standard for some Anglicans. The Bible is our authority, and if we are not happy with God's judgments upon things, we should quietly leave.

Prophets who cry "Peace, peace" when no peace is possible are always false prophets. And they usually appear just before the ship goes right under.

"True and righteous altogether" is something we should be able to say of our Lord's judgment even when we are the guilty party.

This issue isn't a debate over whether Christian women should wear open-toed shoes. This issue IS something worth dividing the church over, and even if RW fails to be a wise judge like Solomon, Christians will make the judgment themselves, as we recently saw in the Uniting Church in Australia which has suffered an implosion for a similar lack of judgment. Is that what we want for the Anglican Communion? because that is what is coming. If Williams won't bring a biblical division, God will.

Jesus gives us time to repent, and if we don't He will always come and snuff out the candlestick. It is His reputation at stake after all.

Mike Bull said...

"this amounts to letting the other party set the agenda."

No so. RW has perpetuated the issue by not making a biblical stand.

To illustrate the point, the Reformers took a stand on exactly the issues the RC church raised against them. How is that letting the other side call the agenda?

Luther: "You want us to pray to the saints? Well, lets talk about homosexual clergy. We agree on that one."

Bruce Yabsley said...

Mike, re Williams, we will indeed have to disagree.

Re letting the other party set the agenda, I suspect the Reformation point rather makes my case. My historian / theologian betters tell me that many of the explicit positions of the RC Church at that time amounted to answers to bad questions inherited from the mediaeval period, and that Prot. answers in the same terms were necessarily imperfect.

An example would be framing works within questions about merit. The question itself is an unhelpful one. There is an excellent discussion of this in Oliver O'Donovan's On the Thirty-Nine Articles re Article Thirteen.

Mike Bull said...

Yes, I understand that is very probable.

But my point is, we don't "turn our eyes away from judging, lest the land be defiled" so we can avoid being crucified, burnt at the stake, villified or even just pilloried by the media, or so we can keep the weeds in the wheatfield.

Williams has demonstrated by his actions a gross misunderstanding of the Scriptures. The Bible never puts unity above holiness. This crowd cops out by redefining "holiness", and they should be excommunicated - legally if possible, but if not (according to the Communion's laws) then just plain old practically. New worship is always begun in the wilderness. Then once the glory departs, God lets the scavengers in to cleanse the defiled land of the corpses.

People always think: "Oh, but our situation is different." It never is.

Sometimes the worst and most dangerous protagonists are the "nice guys", which was my original point. And the ones labelled as "intolerant", like Wilson, or Sydney Anglicans, who make a stand, are the ones with spiritual sense.