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Anglican Archbishop Davies is a Model of Convictional Courage

Anglican Archbishop Davies is a Model of Convictional Courage
Sydney Archbishop challenges Anglicans to hold fast to the Biblical view of marriage or leave the Anglcian Church

Oct. 18, 2019

An amazing article appeared in The Guardian, but it comes from Australia. The headline, "I'm gay, married, and not leaving my church." Joel Hollier is the author of the article. The subhead of the article, "For years I believed and taught the same thing as the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, buying into the false narrative of 'gay v God.'"

At the end of the piece, he is identified as a University of Sydney PhD candidate, a Sydney Anglican, and a former pastor. He's also the author of a book entitledA Place at His Table: A Biblical Exploration of Faith, Sexuality, and the Kingdom of God.But the big point behind this is that Mr. Hollier doesn't believe that God has a negative view of homosexuality, and his book is an experiment, like so many others, in getting around the Bible's clear teachings on the ordering of sexuality and the definition of marriage, even the definition of sin.

But the catalyst for our interest in this particular story is the fact that we're looking at an article that appeared in a London newspaper written by a man identified as a former Australian pastor complaining even in the first paragraph about the presidential address recently given by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies. Indeed the Archbishop of Sydney did address same-sex marriage, and he did address homosexuality; and Mr. Hollier is complaining that he did so still believing that homosexual behavior is a sin and that same-sex marriage is unbiblical.

Hollier wrote, "It's safe to say that Davies is in many ways acting defensively and out of fear. His interpretation of Scripture has him believing that to bless same-sex marriage is to bless sin, with sin being the very thing that separates humanity from God. The stakes are high. He fears the barrage that has led to an unprecedented acceptance of same-sex marriage in the very pews he is trying to protect. His team is, by many counts, losing." Fascinatingly, Hollier goes on,"Davies is not acting in isolation, nor is he entirely unreasonable. In fact, he is acting wholly consistent within his belief system. "I should know," he says, " I believed and taught the same thing for years, during which time I deeply lamented the headway that LGBTQIA+ affirming leaders were making, distorting the purity of the church. I believed," he writes, " in every way, that my condemnations came from a place of love." But then he goes on to say, "I had bought into the false narrative of 'gay versus God.'"

Now, that's a very interesting argument, and as I said, it's interesting that it appears in a London newspaper about an address given by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. But the point is that here you have a former pastor complaining that his current Archbishop still believes, still believes, that the Bible reveals homosexuality to be a sin, and sin separates sinful humanity from God, and that Christ is the only answer to our sin and that the Bible's clear teachings and commandments concerning sin and righteousness still prevail.

It's also fascinating that this man who complains about his Archbishop's beliefs recognizes that he is not being unreasonable, and furthermore, that the Archbishop, "Is acting wholly consistent within his belief system." Indeed the Archbishop is, and in effect what Mr. Hollier is saying is that he and his Archbishop hold to entirely contradictory understandings of the nature and character of God, of the nature and inspiration and authority of scripture, of the definition of sin, of the rightful understanding of marriage, of the right ordering of humanity in terms of sexuality and gender.

At the very least, we need to understand that we're not just talking here about an ethical disagreement. We're not even merely talking about two different models of theology. We're talking about two different theologies, ultimately even about two different understandings of God. But Joel Hollier has written this article to complain that his Archbishop there in Sydney still holds to such a biblical theology. This made me turn to look at the presidential address given at the 51st Senate of the Diocese of Sydney there in Australia by the Archbishop, the Most Reverend Dr. Glenn N. Davies. What exactly did he say?

The Archbishop appears first to raise the issue of homosexuality as he laments a decision made six weeks previously by the Diocese of Wangaratta. The bottom line is that that diocese adopted a new regulation for marriage that basically facilitates the recognition of same-sex marriage within the diocese. Soberly, the Archbishop then said this in his presidential address: "The more serious breach of fellowship within the Anglican Church of Australia is the explicit and cavalier endorsement of same-sex marriages, which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ." He goes on to point to the current law of the church that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, an exclusive and permanent union 'forsaking all others...till death us do part.'"

But then, courageously, the Archbishop of Sydney went on to say, and I quote, "Yet our view of marriage is not a popular one in Australia, nor is it consistent," he pointed out, with the current marriage law in Australia that recently authorized same sex marriage. He says, "Nonetheless, God's intention for marriage has not changed. We honour him when we abide by his instruction. We cannot bless same- sex marriages for the simple reason that we cannot bless sin."

He traced the rebellious actions in the Wangaratta Synod, and then he continued in his address, "Friends, we have entered treacherous waters. I fear," he said, "for the stability of the Anglican Church of Australia. These developments," he said, "have the potential to fracture our fellowship and impair our communion. I have stated this on numerous occasions at the annual National Bishops' Conference, but sadly to little effect." The Archbishop then cited Scripture, the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:2-5: "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."

The Archbishop then reminded the Senate gathered, "Next year the General Synod will meet in a special session to confer on the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage. It has been planned," he says, "by the General Synod Standing Committee as a consultation, with no opportunity for making decisions." He then says, "However, the time has come to take action and make decisions, and these recent events have made it all the more imperative to do so. The General Synod," he said, "must make a clear statement about the teaching of the Bible on the sanctity of sex within the marriage bond of a man and a woman, so that marriage is held in honour among all and the marriage bed is not defiled (Hebrews 13:4)."

"My own view"--this is stunning language coming from an Archbishop--"My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views -- but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world."

I can only say that I pray for the day that the average evangelical pastor in the United States of America would summon the courage to speak as courageously as the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney on these central and unavoidable issues that are necessary to our understanding of sin and sexuality, but also to gospel and church. Within the worldwide Anglican communion, the Sydney Anglicans by tradition are either loved or hated. It is because of their deep evangelicalism tradition that shows up so much that all you have to do in Anglican circles worldwide is say Sydney, Anglican, and everyone understands. The liberals go crazy, and the evangelicals are encouraged.

But it's also important that we note the sober explanation given by the Archbishop as he is seeking to pastor his own people. He speaks of the fact, candidly, that the biblical view of marriage is not the popular view. In Australia right now and in the United States, it's not even the view that is ensconced in the definition of marriage in law. It is not going to be popular, and those who hold to biblical truth are likely to be even more and more marginalized in society.

But honestly, the most refreshing part of his argument to me is the fact that he had the courage to say if you disagree with the doctrine of this church established in Scripture, then leave. Do not try to liberalize this church at the expense of the authority of Scripture and the power of the gospel. Instead, leave us and join some communion that agrees with you. In this address and in the controversy that surrounds that, we clearly see an Archbishop speaking out of heartbreak, but also, we need to note, out of courage.

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