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By David W. Virtue in Europe
December 31, 2017

2017 has mercifully come to an end with a communion sadly more divided now than it was under Rowan Williams.

Archbishop Justin Welby has failed miserably to reconcile polarizing forces, with one side determined to keep the communion on the doctrinal straight and narrow while the other side is determined to push progressive views on sexuality that will inevitably lead to schism. His inability to hold divergent forces together despite his secular reconciling skills, (which to some degree got him the job,) has proven less than adequate, perhaps even disastrous.

Within his own Church of England, Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic forces are challenging his leadership paradigm and they are determined to maintain doctrinal orthodoxy or face him with the possibility of schism. Bishop Rod Thomas, a man Welby laid hands on to meet the ecclesiastical needs of evangelicals, said as much on a radio show debate challenging arch lesbian Jayne Ozanne over sexuality issues. Speaking on a late night BBC analysis show Bishop Thomas said: "Whereas with women bishops we decided as part of the negotiations that it was not one that ought to cause disunity, it ought to be one where we could agree to disagree, the issue of sexuality is different. The Bible's teachings on sexuality seem to be so clear and therefore it becomes a primary and not a secondary issue.

"Because it's a primary issue it's got the capacity to split the church."

Evangelicals could have lived with women bishops, but pansexuality is a bridge too far, as Scripture expressly forbids it, but it would seem that the CofE is determined to follow its American counterparts in trying to make the case. The CofE is oblivious, apparently, to what has happened to the Episcopal Church that ultimately spawned the Anglican Church in North America.

The harder Welby tries to reconcile the irreconcilable, the more his church fragments with new bishops like Gavin Ashenden, AMiE, and the biggest black-eye of all, the birth of GAFCON-UK. This movement poses a direct challenge to Welby's leadership as it puts him in direct face to face conflict with GAFCON chairman and Nigerian archbishop, Nicholas Okoh, whose powerful presence Welby can no more ignore than Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

In reality, Okoh owns the communion not Welby, with more than 75 percent of the Anglican Communion loyal to GAFCON. A gathering of orthodox primates and their followers will meet in June in Jerusalem. That meeting may well challenge Welby's leadership and put the finishing touches on the communion as we know it. We shall see.

The GAFCON chairman in his recent New Year letter accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of "redefining the Anglican Communion" by recognizing whatever churches he personally recognizes, which, of course, does not include the ACNA, which GAFCON does recognize.

Okoh went on to opine that there are worrying signs that the Mother Church of the Communion is itself unable to clearly and unambiguously uphold apostolic faith and order, judging by the words of some of its leaders.

The Nigerian primate said GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem will be a wonderful opportunity to take another step along the road of renewing the Anglican Communion so that it is fit for the purposes of the gospel in every culture and nation.

It could be a defining moment in the long history of the Anglican communion. One giant CofE supporter of GAFCON is former Rochester Bishop, Michael Nazir Ali, a brilliant Pakistani bishop who should have, by any logic, been the next Archbishop of Canterbury, but political forces were arrayed against him.

He was the last best hope for the CofE; Welby might simply be its last. Welby has revealed himself to be a lightweight theologically, a pseudo evangelical, a poseur who will be remembered for his hand wringing waffle over sodomy, his faux reconciliation attempts to keep the Anglican Communion together, even as the African, Asian and South American Archbishops shrug him off and move past him. Even with church state ties, the Gadarene slide towards schism in the C of E seems inevitable. We have seen this all before. History is just repeating itself.

The year ended badly for Welby. He took it in the neck from the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who attacked Welby for the "shocking" and "quite unjust" demand in June that Carey resign an honorary position in the Church of England over his handling of a high-profile sexual abuse case.

In a Christmas round-robin letter, Lord Carey, now 82, told friends of the shocking insistence by the archbishop that he should stand down from ministry "for a season" for mistakes he believes were made 24 years ago when bishop Peter Ball abused young potential priests. Welby's decision is quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such, he wrote.

The final humiliation came from the only surviving relative of the late Bishop George Bell, who said Welby "should resign" over allegations that Bell abused a young woman over 50 years ago when he was Bishop of Chichester.

An independent inquiry criticized the Church over its handling of child abuse allegations made against Bell after his death, and said the Church was too quick to accept the claims "without serious investigation or inquiry".

Barbara Whitley, 93, said she wanted the reputation of her uncle restored and for Welby to step down. It didn't happen of course.

All of this calls into question Welby's leadership of the Communion. He has little respect except from liberals, and the pansexual lobby of Jayne Ozanne and Colin Coward of Changing Attitude are far from happy at his dithering over openly homosexual priests and same-sex marriage. Welby has made more enemies than friends over the course of the year. Perhaps it is time for him to go. Rowan Williams certainly got the message and left eight years before he had to. Welby cannot square the circle over sodomy, orthodox Anglicans will not let him.


The American Episcopal Church continued its decline in 2017 despite a charismatic presiding bishop who promised a new direction for the Church, which he captured in the hope of the Jesus Movement. To date, this has not materialized despite revival meetings being held around the country. Curry's constant call to fight racism against unknown racists and his riff against white privilege, when 98 percent of the church happens to be white and who pay the Church's bills, is a bit like a street beggar announcing before his death that he planned to leave his tin cup to the Salvation Army for future generations that might need it. This is the wisdom behind the millions spent on lawsuits for properties. The Pyrrhic victory over church properties has only emptied the coffers of the Church.

The battle raging in the Episcopal Church now is how to spend the remaining spoils as congregations age and die, diocesan budgets wither, and more than half the church's 6,700 pulpits are inhabited by men and women who no longer draw a salary.

House of Deputies President, Gay Jennings, recently admitted that the Episcopal church is on the ropes with declining numbers and vanishing income.

Meantime, a battle is waging online by liberal Episcopalians who have begun to see the writing on the wall, that perhaps General Conventions, that currently cost the Church some $40 million, should be bagged in favor of less costly cyber communications. Progressives realize that mathematics cannot be fudged, even if doctrine and morals can be. One plus one will never equal three, as hard as the Church might want it to be.

On the plus side of the ecclesiastical ledger, Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic dioceses and parishes of the ACNA will continue to grow as they wrestle with a growing secular culture and Nones who know not the Lord. The ACNA has the field virtually to itself, all it has to do is figure out how to harvest it. No small matter. They have their work cut out for them. It is an uphill battle for sure, but if they persist, they will win. We and they have an unchangeable gospel -- Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and that changeless message will go on being announced even in the face of its cultured despizers. To God be the glory.

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We wish all of VOL's readers in 170 countries, God's richest blessing on your ministries and endeavors in 2018. Jesus is Lord.

Warmly in Christ,


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