The Anglican Debate Sharpens: Lessons for the Whole Church
- Friday, March 11, 2005
Liberals in the Anglican Communion were outraged by the Primates' action. Writing in The Observer, Will Hutton argued that the "genius of the Anglican Church has been the depth of its embedded tolerance." Expressing the most latitudinarian and broad-church concepts, Hutton argued that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion should "include and tolerate us all."
Hutton points to the growing influence of evangelicals in the Anglican Communion, blaming conservatives in Great Britain and North America, and Anglican bishops throughout Africa, for bringing the church to this point of crisis. Hutton sides with the liberals, and dismisses evangelical concerns as simply outmoded and oppressive. As Hutton sees it, Archbishop Rowan Williams should confront the conservatives and support the American and Canadian churches.
Dr. George Carey, Williams' immediate predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury, told an American newspaper that he would prefer that the Anglican Communion would take a more "pragmatic" approach. Carey, identified as an evangelical upon election, disappointed conservatives during his tenure as head of the Anglican Communion, and his weak leadership largely opened the door for the chaos that his church now confronts.
That said, Carey's comments are particularly instructive--in all the wrong ways: "A more pragmatic approach would say at the moment it is clear [that] to ordain practicing homosexuals would divide the church greatly, so let's wait and see. In a way I take the pragmatic approach on this . . . we simply have to wait and see how the Holy Spirit is going to lead the Church in this . . . we must keep in step . . . otherwise we'll become just a small sect."
Taken alone, that statement should serve as sufficient explanation for how the Anglican Communion got into this trouble in the first place. When one of its leaders, who proudly wears the label evangelical, announces that his church should "wait and see" if the Holy Spirit will contradict Scripture, that church is in big trouble.
Observers will be watching the American and Canadian churches closely in order to gauge their responses and evaluate future actions. The two churches have been summoned to explain their actions before other Anglican bishops scheduled to meet later this year. If their most recent comments are any indication, the North American leaders show no desire for compromise, much less repentance. Inevitably, the question almost sure to face the Anglican Communion is the very issue awkwardly raised by George Carey. Will Anglicans settle for pragmatism over principle? The brave souls fighting for biblical authority and Christian truth deserve our prayer and encouragement.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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