Presiding Bishop has no Business Apologizing for Slave Trade
Archbishop of Canterbury seeks absolution for Reformation
By David W. Virtue, DD
January 23, 2017
When I was a kid I was taught, rightly, that if I offended my neighbor in any way like (accidentally) kicking a ball through his front window, then I needed to go apologize and, if necessary, pay the cost of the window repair. I did, in fact, kick the ball through his window, I did apologize and I never did it again. My mother also apologized for not watching out for where I was playing and where I was kicking the ball.
That was it. A two-generational apology, but only one committed the crime if you will: me.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is in Ghana this week leading a reconciliation pilgrimage to Ghana and apologizing for the trans-Atlantic slave trade going back to the Seventeenth Century. He is telling anyone who will listen that his new understanding of Episcopal evangelism will address "systemic, structural racism as a church."
It is interesting that no one seems to be able to identify what "systemic or structural racism" is in the Church as no one has confessed to being racist, and Curry himself, cannot or will not, identify who these racists are! What exactly is structural racism? What does it look like and who holds the key to unlocking and identifying this kind of racism...and why have we not heard about it before under previous presiding bishops? Have they been secretly colluding with racists that we did not know about all these years?
So, the Church, (meaning pew-sitting Episcopalians) will now pray and repent for things they never personally did and for sins they have never committed. It is ironic that his predecessor, Katharine Jefferts Schori, never saw this as a great threat to the church, but then she wasn't black, which might explain her silence.
The truth is you cannot apologize for what you have not personally done or for what Christians may have done in the past. You may regret it, but you cannot apologize or repent of someone else's sins. Generational sin is by definition familial, not social.
What the Presiding Bishop is advocating is theological and ecclesiastical hokum.
Curry cannot and should not be apologizing for the slave trade; he wasn't around at the time and there is no way that his apology has any meaning. Perhaps he can express his regrets that it happened, but that is a far cry from "repenting" of actions that neither he nor any of the House of Bishops committed...nor any living Episcopalian.
Modern day Episcopalians had no control over what was done three centuries ago and by linking his understanding of evangelism with racism and white privilege, he is only making a mockery of evangelism and himself, and worse, creating false guilt. He wants whites to feel guilty for just being white and he continues to link evangelism to racism and white privilege.
That dog won't hunt, even in the north, never mind the south.
It would be more appropriate if he and the HOB and the Episcopal Church repented of their actions for ordaining a known homosexual to the episcopacy, an action and behavior specifically proscribed by Scripture and then ask the Church to repent for tearing apart the Anglican Communion because it has endorsed a behavior that Scripture gives no support to or for.
Now that would be real repentance.
Perhaps TEC and its leaders should ask Ms. Katherine Ragsdale, former Dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Massachusetts, to repent for stating that "abortion is a blessing and our job is not done." Now THAT is something worth repenting for. Taking the lives of innocent, unborn babies because it happens to be inconvenient and doesn't fit with one's lifestyle is hardly a reason for having an abortion. Regrettably, you won't hear anything from the Presiding Bishop about that.
What about repenting for spending some $60 million on lawsuits for properties when that money could have been spent on mission, you know mission that involves real evangelism, discipleship and church planting.
Curry is asking the church to repent of all the wrong things, hardly unusual in a church which has had a series of bad presiding bishops and a history of doing the wrong thing.
Historical apologies are a largely futile modern obsession, and the longer ago the event, the more worthless the atonement.
Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu
Take the more recent case of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issuing a statement recalling "the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love".
After 500 years of schism, will the rift of the Reformation finally be healed, they ask? No. There were very real reasons for the schism out of which the Church of England was borne! Thomas Cranmer was martyred for his views on the faith, not transubstantiation.
Justin Welby and John Sentamu, said: "Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord. A legacy of mistrust and competition would then accompany the astonishing global spread of Christianity in the centuries that followed."
Is asking the Church of England to repent for the excesses of the Reformation, appropriate for people living in the 21st Century?
An apology is meaningful only when the victims are identifiable as a distinct group, continue to suffer harm and are causally connected to the past injustice. Who, on earth, are the current victims of the Reformation? The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster? Or the Polish and Filipino immigrants who now fill the pews of Roman churches in Britain and ensure their survival? Or is Welby, in keeping with his left-wing ideology of victimhood, canonizing a new caste of Reformation victims, write Kathy Gyngell and Jules Gomes.
"Does Welby not know the original meaning of the word apology? In the New Testament "apologia" is a speech in one's defense. St Peter uses this word when he writes to the suffering Christians to always be 'prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you' (1Peter 3:15). Christians, even when persecuted, were to offer an apologia and not an apology for their faith. "Wobbly" Welby is doing precisely the opposite."
Acknowledging the sins of our forefathers does not mean we repent for what they did. We are only personally responsible for our own sins. For example, a son cannot blame his father for his own sin, nor can a father blame his son. God will deal with each person on the merits of his own actions.
"In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:29--30).
Todd Pruitt, a PCA minister, writes, "I am not convinced that an overture of corporate repentance is the best way to address sins of racism. I am doubtful about the theological justification for corporate repentance--that sin is generational and therefore those who were not even born during the era of Jim Crow and segregation bear the taint of guilt. I do not see evidence of this sort of generational guilt in the Bible."
How am I guilty for sins of racism committed by others. The answer is that we are not.
The doctrine of sin in Scripture makes it abundantly clear that while each Christian is not personally responsible for Adam's sin, nevertheless the imputed guilt of Adam's sins has affected our lives, and disastrously so, but that does not mean we have to repent of something we have not done. If I practice racism (and I don't) then I must repent of my sin, but I cannot and should not repent of the sin of John Shelby Spong, who made racist statements at Lambeth 1998. He alone is responsible for that.
It is clear that Welby and Sentamu are virtually clueless on this fundamental essentials of the Christian faith and have no credibility theologically. As one blogger noted, they resemble a team of astronomers without a telescope. "It's impossible to adequately underrate them and they are a disgrace to Biblical Anglicanism - no historical or spiritual perspective comes into play."
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