By Gavin Ashenden
The thought of leaving Canterbury, spiritually or emotionally, breaks my heart. I grew up there. I spent five years in the school built around its cloisters. I sang from its tower on Ascension days. I sat for hours at the entrance to the cloisters where Thomas a Becket was struck down for refusing the demands of the secular over the sacred. I took the Eucharist there in the bowels of its undercroft before dawn in the mists of winter. I was confirmed there when the saintly prophetic Michael Ramsey was Archbishop.
But Canterbury has sold its birthright. She planted the orthodox Gospel around the world so that scores of millions worship our adored Risen Christ, but has slid from under the obligations of the Apostolic faith she received, to a heterodox secularized shadow of that faith.
I often wonder how I could explain our present difficulties to St Augustine who came here to evangelise in 597. I think I would say that “just as you, blessed brother in Christ, are still struggling with the Arians, who are powerful in Eastern Europe at the moment, we are struggling with the new Arians. Just as you will overcome them by the 8th Century, we will too, by the power of the Spirit.
But our Arians have assaulted the apostolic faith not by a full on assault on the Holy Trinity, but by a sideways undermining of it. Jesus has become less than the 2nd person of the Trinity because he has been reduced by claiming he suffered from cultural ignorance; he is thought to be captive to a 1st century culture with its misogyny and restricted sexual ethics. Our heretics have decided that Jesus did not come to reveal the Father, because they have adopted a new secular and essentially Marxist idea, that gender is an oppressive cultural construct. And they join that idea to a second piece of Marxism, that ‘equality’ is the most important social value to strive after. The masculinity of the Father, and that of the Son, are for them unwelcome cultural constraints. The revelation of a hierarchy of glory inverted by love became an anathema to them, because they worship equality.
So they overthrew 2,000 years of apostolic teaching, and ordained women into the place of the Bishop and priest, the representatives of the risen Christ at the Eucharist, saying that gender was of no consequence in the narrative of salvation.
They relentlessly attacked St Paul for teaching us the mystery of the interdependence of man and women in a hierarchy of love and service.
As it happens this coincided with a secular assault on fatherhood. But being spiritually not very aware, they took some pride in joining forces with the secular gender wars, where feminists moved from defending the abuse of women to attacking the role of men. Astonishingly, instead of modeling their Christian femininity on Mary, and honouring the gift of joining in the privilege of co-creating in Motherhood, they repudiated their own motherhood. They joined forces with the feminists and supported the holocaust of abortion – mothers killing their own babies. 57 million in America. 7 million here. Many of the of the new so called Christian women priests describe themselves as feminists, assaulting the masculine and defending the right of women to murder their children.
This is of course was a turning away from the natural order of creation, – in just the way that St Paul described in his letter to the Romans. And you will guess what came next. With the increase of idolatry- the worshipping of the human will and appteties, human relations began to be twisted out of shape. It won’t surprise you that one form of narcissism led to another. The egalitarians attacked the creation ordinance of marriage where men and women come together in mutual dependence under God to create children, and celebrated instead the sterile coupling of men with men and women with women. And where faithful Christians stood up in the public market place to give witness to your Word, the new women priests and their supporters, for whom this sexual narcissism was part of their allegiance to egalitarianism, celebrated the jailing and fining of the faithful as the just punishment for what they called ‘bigotry’.
Your successor as Archbishop stood in the House of Lords to praise the couplings of the homosexuals. It didn’t matter to him that they were biologically sterile and pursued romantic and sexual values that Holy Scripture warned against. He claimed rather that were emotionally fruitful. He even chose to ignore the secular evidence that these relationships consisted of greater domestic violence between women partners, greater promiscuity between male partners and greater social instability for both.
And so the place where you brought the Gospel, and the Church that inherited the Gospel has betrayed not only you, not only those who held office after you, but the Christ in whose name you came. They give him nominal acknowledgement , of course- how could they not, but they deny His invitation to sexual purity and distort His representation of the Father, and prefer the teaching of social Marxism to obedience to the Gospels.
And I think St Augustine might then say, “but are there no orthodox bishops left you could turn to?”
And the answer would be “Yes, many. All round the world there are faithful Archbishops and bishops faithful to what Canterbury planted in their cultures and hearts. They are called the Global Anglican Fellowship.”
“So then” he would reply, “your question is not where, but when – you re-align your allegiance to my successors?”
And that is the question.
We have yet to hear what the Gafcon Primates decided after they met to pray and wait on the Holy Spirit in London this month.
Our cultural circumstances are very close to those in America. We know that where TEC pursued relativism and secularism, it found only spiritual and institutional corruption.
We know that under Archbishop Foley Beach the ACNA has continued to plant Churches, convert the lost and longing to the faith, and reconcile the catholic, evangelical and charismatic charisms. It has kept the historic and apostolic teaching about gender and sexuality. It has resisted the spirit of the age. It flourishes.
We know too that the General Synod of the Church of England has worked assiduously hard to contain and diminish the influence and convictions of those who have kept the orthodox faith.
The spiritual health of the Church of England is a matter of discernment. But since its character as an established Church acts as a kind of chaplaincy to a determinedly secular society, how long can it survive in that role and retain its fidelity to the Gospels? Instinctively, those who place public prestige before obedience to the faith of the saints and the martyrs, will of course adapt their ethics to make them congenial to the culture on whose pleasure they wait. And so they have:– feminism has reconfigured the Church and secularism has redefined marriage – and the leaders of the C of E welcome both.
In a recent BBC radio programme, a leading voice for Anglican feminism, complained about the repressive patriarchal structures of the Church. They inhibited her being both a mother and a parish priest. She called upon the Church to redefine its expectations of parish clergy, so they could be mothers as well. The possibility that a priest ought to be the father in God to a parish full time, over years of service, was foreign to her feminist priorities. So the Church was supposed to adapt its pastoral practice to her demands to be both a woman ‘priest’ and a mother.
What might the leaders of the Global Anglican Fellowship do?
They might establish the parallel jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in England (or/and Europe). ACE.
They would provide bishops who held the orthodox faith of the Church to those Anglicans who had refused to bow the knee to the new Baal of egalitarianism. These bishops would care for their clergy and confirm their people – not into the Church of England, but into the orthodox Anglicanism of the majority of worldwide Anglicans.
In America, where the legal issues of who held the rights to the property of the Churches, 7 million dollars has been spend by TEC grabbing back churches where they could – ejecting their faithful congregations, and in some cases, selling them on as mosques.
In England, where the legal issues are very different, the orthodox clergy and people who give their allegiance to ACE will remain quietly in their livings, continue to pay their voluntary quotas to cover their stipends, but to withdraw anything more than that in protest against the imposition of the new heterodoxy.
The financial health of the Church of England, unlike its spiritual health is a matter of fact, not discernment. It is a matter of accounts and demographics. The average age of congregations is now 65. Many dioceses are close to cash flow failure. The Diocese of Truro, its bishop laments, has less than 5 years viability ahead of it. A diocese in the middle of England recently took out a bank loan to pay its stipends for the current month. The Diocese of Southwark is kept afloat only by evangelicals who astonishingly have not yet lost faith with a hierarchy that continually appoints gay clergy in partnerships to prominent positions of responsibility.
In the General Synod of July 2008 the progressive majority implacably refused the pleadings of the evangelical and catholic laity (mainly women as it happened) to be allowed to remain in the C of E with guaranteed orthodox episcopal oversight. The Catholics were given a fragile deal that depends on ‘trust’ and there is still no bishop whose view of gender mirrors that of the Apostle Paul amongst the evangelicals; and when finally one is announced, his hands will be tied by the concept of collegial responsibility to his heterodox colleagues.
Very well then, let the Anglican Primates give the orthodox Anglican faithful the orthodox bishops the General Synod refused to give. Let the clergy remain in their parishes for the next 5-7 years at least. And when the biblically and apostolically faithful congregations and clergy give their money to support their new bishops, and promote orthodox Anglicanism instead, it will not to come as much of a surprise.
As the structures of the C of E collapse under the pressure of aging and bankruptcy, those who have kept the faith can offer to ease the crumbling diocesan finances by taking 100 year leases on their parish Churches.
Why now? When I came back to Christ in the mid 1970’s and discovered to my surprise that the Holy Spirit was calling me to be a priest, I was enthused and inspired by the slow quiet beginnings of a charismatic renewal that appeared to be able to bring together both the evangelical and the catholic streams of the Church to re-evangelise the nation and to refresh and renew the Body of Christ.
In the last 40 years, what has happened instead, is that the Church of England turned its back on the Spirit and the Scriptures and gave herself to the new secularism. It has preferred egalitarianism to evangelism; it has chosen the struggle for gender parity to the struggle for the Gospel purity.
I had hoped that we might continue the struggle to renew and revive her, but the moment she reconfigured the apostolic structure of the episcopate to appease the demands for a Church that reflects social Marxism in preference to the patterns of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the game was up. The next domino to fall will be the acceptance and then the promotion of gay marriage.
It is time for that revivified Anglicanism the Holy Spirit sought to give birth to 40 years ago, as he constantly brings an obedient Church to new birth. But the birth can only take place in conformity to the Scripture and faithful tradition; and it needs orthodox bishops.
Gafcon Primates – over to you.
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