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Where will the new Anglican jurisdiction lead?

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In this piece, Christian Concern's Communications Officer, Camilla Olim, discusses the news that some Church of England parishes are preparing for a possible schism.

This week, the Telegraph reported that several parishes are preparing for what could eventually be a formal split from the Church of England, over growing concerns about the diluting of its teaching on marriage and other core biblical beliefs, including the authority of Scripture.

Although those organising the initiative have stated they do not wish to leave the Church of England and have no immediate plans to break away, it is entirely possible that this will be the outcome.  

Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden illustrated on Archbishop Cranmer’s website that there are some cases where leaving the metaphorical ‘house’ is vital for survival, because compromise is so pervasive that it has damaged its very foundations. 

At the Greenbelt festival last weekend, the Archbishop of Canterbury told an audience that he is “consumed with horror” at the way LGBT people have been treated in the church. But the questions he needs to answer are whether those in same-sex relationships are treated well, by being told that God blesses their same-sex relationship? Or whether it is loving to allow them to continue a lifestyle that does not honour God and separates us from intimacy with Him?

When asked when, if ever, the Church of England would bless civil partnerships, the Archbishop replied: "I don't have a good answer to it. If we were the only Church here and [there were] no other Churches, and if division didn't matter it would be much easier to answer".

But there is only one Church, which is the global body of true believers. If the Archbishop is speaking on behalf of this Church, the answer should be easy. Jesus Himself made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. (Matthew 19:4-6). 

What he said next is also important to highlight. Christian Today’s report states:

[Archbishop Welby] said "we have to find a way to love and embrace everyone who loves Jesus Christ" but he added that this included people who feel – or come from societies which believe – that same-sex relationships are "deeply, deeply wrong".

We don’t know if the Archbishop himself used the term “feel” here, but it suggests that he believes there is no objective answer to the issue of sexuality. 

Bizarrely, it also seemingly exhorts those who reject Scripture on the topic of marriage, to love those who uphold it. Surely it should be the other way around? This symptom of moral relativism runs rife throughout the Church. Society can hardly be criticised when the established church is so confused and adheres to such a relativistic understanding. 

The Church of England’s views on sexuality are simply a manifestation of the humanism that has crept into the Church (this applies to other denominations as well). If a remnant of the Anglican church eventually decides on a schism – and this may be the direction the Lord is leading them - then humanism in the departing remnant must be truly pulled out at the roots for real flourishing to take place. 

Humanism, as well as denominationalism, are indications that we do not know who we truly are in Christ. Justin Welby voted against same-sex ‘marriage’ in 2013, but he has wavered repeatedly when it comes to discussing the issue in public, and has also expressed support for civil partnerships. Regardless of our denomination, we must be confident in our identity as sons and daughters of the Living God, if we are to unashamedly speak the truth. 

In Revelation 3 Jesus told the church in Sardis: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

We desperately need the Holy Spirit to breathe on His Church in the UK with a conviction that leads to a deep repentance for where we have compromised on the truth, and lacked grace and compassion (John 1:17). We need Him to shake us where we have become complacent and calloused in our hearts.

Mostly, we need Him to stir in us more hunger for Him in our individual lives. 

The Church of England, and certainly the Church in England, must become truly the Church of Jesus, and act accordingly, including reviewing all doctrine and practices, as well as dealing properly with the sins of the fathers and those of today. 

Is our priority to seek first His Kingdom? The Lord calls His children to an incredible inheritance – to be sons and heirs of Christ. Do we as the Church truly believe this? If we uphold God’s Word on issues like marriage, then it should surely follow that we believe what the Bible tells us about our mandate as believers. 

Jesus continues in Revelation 3: "Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming soon. In the first century after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, His followers understood the urgency of this. Nearly 2000 years later we have lost this sense of urgency, though His return is clearly much closer now than then. Jesus will come back for a pure and spotless Bride – are we ready? Is the Church going about the Father’s business? 

Only a deep and sure sense of our identity will both uphold truth -  without compromise - and create genuine interdenominational unity. If we identify ourselves primarily as ‘Anglican’, ‘Baptist’, ‘Evangelical’, ‘Catholic’, ‘Charismatic’ or ‘Reformed’ or whatever, then we are selling ourselves short and missing God’s best for us. Out of identity also comes faith to believe that we have the authority to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth. 

When was the last time we saw a blind man see or a lame man walk? (Matthew 11:5). In the affluent and humanistic West, it is much rarer than in other parts of the world. Yet in the name of Jesus, we have been given authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons (Matthew 10:8). We are called to make disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) 

Romans 8:19 says, "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed." Let us pray for fresh revelation of our identity in Christ. 

Let us pray, too, that those considering this schism, and believers across the UK, would be empowered by the Spirit to walk out the gospel in word and deed.

And let us pray that the Church becomes known for a true reflection of Christ and a radical counterculture. 

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