AMiE Update 5

Robert Piggott, the BBC Religious Correspondent, got it about right on Saturday on Radio 4. In his piece on the Today Programme he commented that, in launching the AMiE, conservative evangelicals had parked their tanks on the front lawn of Lambeth Palace.

It’s obviously the case that the establishing of this new mission society is seen by some as unnecessarily provocative. Even by some of those who are orthodox on the issue of human sexuality. But it’s worth asking why some evangelicals thought that such a drastic move was necessary. A ‘conversation’ is supposed to be taking place between, if I may simplify, the liberal revisionists and the evangelical reformers. But clearly one side doesn’t feel that they’re being listened to. They are now, I’ll wager.

Friends within the Church of England (people who I respect, whose company I enjoy and with whom I share some similar doctrinal positions) profoundly disagree with what’s taken place. They may, as Piggott suggests, find it temperamentally easier to compromise. But it’s surely not as simple as that. The concerns expressed on the Fulcrum website are to do with an approach to negotiation and political action within our Denomination.  Those represented by the wonderfully named ‘moderate’ evangelical group are unhappy with the approach of the more ‘radical’ AMiE. They think that the current action is precipitate and fundamentally inappropriate. But for people like me, the presenting issue (though perhaps unpopular and unwelcome) really matters. People’s eternal salvation is at stake. And sometimes that calls for drastic action. Like tanks. On the front lawn. At Lambeth. To my mind, it’s been along time coming.

Let me explain what I mean. In 1 Corinthians 6 The Apostle Paul teaches that the issue of homosexual activity is a salvation issue. People engaged in habitual, unrepentant same sex sexual activity (or greed or drunkenness for that matter) will not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s what the Bible says. I want to believe and live by the Bible. And I want to run churches that do the same. I belong to a denomination that’s supposed to be all about that. And so I don’t reinvent what I don’t liek or our society finds unpalatable. But some think that they can. But Paul is teaching the consistent New Testament position, that there is no salvation apart from receiving Christ as Lord. We cannot, surely, allow churches to go on reassuring sinners (like me) that our sin doesn’t matter. It does. What God thinks of it is made clear by Jesus’ death on the cross. It is unholy and worthy of His judgment. He’s judged it; in Christ. Get in! But He now calls me to turn from that which provoked His righteous anger. And so we are to repent of it, whatever it is. And that includes homosexual sexual sin. And greed. But we now have a de facto institutional approach to homosexuality that’s driven more by our cultural context than by the biblical teaching. And that’s not right.

I simply cannot see how we can think that it’s a good idea to two adjacent parishes, both belonging to the Church of England, yet teaching opposite things on this issue. Think about it for a moment. If someone who struggled with same sex attraction came to an evangelical church, I hope that they’d be reassured that the full resources of the church would be thrown behind them to help resist temptation and live a godly life for Christ. But a liberal church might simply empathise with their predicament but tell them that they are free to act on their same sex attraction and pursue a homosexual sexual relationship. One church calls them to fight sin and live in holines. The other church reassures them that what some call sin is really holiness. One church preaches forgiveness of sins through Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the transformation of life through the power of the Spirit. The other one sanctifies sin and imperils their salvation. We simply cannot co-exist. Can we?

Anyway, back to Radio 4. Paul Perkin continues to state the problem well and was, apparently, fairly reported. But it’s extraordinary that an hour-long interview should be edited down to three 10 second segments. I’m sure it was the same for Stephen Kurht and Giles Goddard. I wouldn’t mind hearing the whole interviews some time. But you can listen to the four-minute segment here.

5 thoughts on “AMiE Update 5

  1. Phil Green July 14, 2011 / 5:15 pm

    Richard.

    We are due to chat some time but I cannot let this piece go by without some form of response.

    As for “parking your tanks on the lawn”…well isn’t what those within the reformed evangelical Anglican tradition have been doing for as long as they have drawn breath? They are never happy unless they are heresy hunting or declaiming or attacking somebody or other within the church or indeed their own fraternity.

    What you conveniently fail to mention is that the sights/targets have simply moved. What happened to the favoured targets of yesteryear…the Anglo-Catholic element within the Curch of England, who, let’s face it, in reality are far more Roman Catholic in practice and doctrine than many Roman Catholics now are! Do you seriously think that Hooker,Ryle, Calvin etc and all your heroes of old would ave cheered their 21st century contemporaries on as you forged your cosy alliance with Forward In Faith. Honestly!? Seriously!!? How strange that when a convenient cause such as the ordination of women to the Episcopate comes along all past differences are conveniently papered over and arms are linked to fight the common enemy within! Hooker, Calvin and Ryle will be turning in their graves at such a development…and well you know it!

    And with regards to tanks on the lawn, maybe there are others who will mobilbise their forces. I for one am seriously hoping that Wesleyan Arminian/charismatic ranks within the Anglican evangelical fraternity are more than happy to rise up and pick up the gauntlet that has been laid down. I have already said that I am deeply impressed by some of the work that Co-Mission are doing..sadly you appear to be less than gracious about what others have been doing for years. Please don’t forget that concerted conservative evangelical Anglican ministry amongst the poorer working classes is pretty much a recent contemporary innovation ,It has been a has been a long time coming. I suppose it is better late than never!

    But please do not give people the impression that it is what you Reformed classical evangelical Anglicans been all about for years. It is a fairly recent development but.us “moderate” (how paptronising a term is that) Arminian, charismatic Anglicans along with many many staunchly Anglo-Catholic parishes have been involved in sustained urban mission for years. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not threatened, and indeed I welcome the new kids on the block so to speak but a bit more mutual respect would be appreciated.

    “As for the homosexual issue…”I hope that they’d be reassured that the full resources of the church would be thrown behind them to help resist temptation and live a godly life for Christ.” hmmm..It saddens me to say it, but I am not as confident as you are that resources would be thrown behind them. I think they would be thrown at them…but that is something completely different altogether!

    I am not sure that there would be the true empathy, committment, energy and time given to disciple and walk closely alongside someone coming out of an actively gay background, and if they were to fall or slip back in any way I am not sure that the response would be overly compassionate, unlike if someone lied, or was greedy, or hypocritical or proud (still sins and areas which Jesus hated and was excoriating about in some of the gospel teaching). I think these failings and fallings are likely to be far more easily tolerated and forgiven and is certainly not focused on anywhere near as much in conservative eveangelical circles.

    Also, are you trying to tell me that such activity is not prevalent in the Anglo-Catholic/FIF camp? Honestly? Then why only the attack on “moderate evangelicals and liberals, by which I take it you mean “liberal” catholic wing of the Anglican church. Why are yous o willing to accept and embrace an FIF traditionalist who may be opposed to the ordination of women, yet remain silent about the area of homosexuality about which they might not be so “traditional” about? Is that an issue you are willing to honestly address?

    This might seem a strong response, but “parking tanks on the lawn” is hardly conciliatory so I hope you are OK about this response and I woiuld love to hear your thoughts on some of the issues I have raised.

    Best regards

    Phil

  2. Graham Smith July 18, 2011 / 7:27 am

    PMFJI, but there’s a world of difference between someone “struggling with homosexual feelings” (especially when that person is an adolescent or, for one reason or another, is experiencing similar chemical or hormonal changes in the body) and committed long-term same-sex relationships that have their ups and downs, just like every other marriage relationship.

    In the former situation, one hopes local churches would be supportive of the individual , whilst they work this through in their own way and at their own pace, in such a way as to avoid leaving them with a guilt complex. Sadly, this is not always the case; in my experience, some churches use the adolescent period to lay the foundations of a life-long guilt complex that can later be used as a mechanism for controlling the adult (google “tithing” and “health, wealth and prosperity gospel” for examples of this).

    In the latter case, one hopes both partners would be welcomed into the church family, just like any other couple. Again, this is sadly not the case, with some churches taking quite aggressive stances against all couples who have not been legally married. Prioritising cultural norms (actual or desired) over unconditional love is surely always wrong?

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