jQuery Slider

You are here


Contending for Anglicanism 1993-2018

By Stephen Noll
Anglican House, 374pp 2018 $19.50

Reviewed by David W. Virtue, DD
April 10, 2018

For 25 years, Dr. Stephen Noll, one of the Anglican Communion's preeminent Anglican theologians, has observed, studied and written on the contentious issues facing the Anglican Communion.

It has been no small task. He has traveled the world listening to the concerns of Global South Primates as they have witnessed the erosion of the faith by Western Anglicans that brought them salvation. Now the Global South Primates watch with sadness, fear and some anger at the betrayal they now experience at the hands of those they once trusted to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Noll begins, "Since the 1960s, the Episcopal Church and other Western churches have been undermining the road, removing the ancient paving stones, and leaving behind huge potholes for people to stumble into. Three of those paving stones are the authority of the Bible, the divine institution of marriage, and the doctrine and discipline of the church.

The book breaks out into three sections. The first section identifies the three essential doctrines that precipitated the crisis of Anglican identity. The second section describes the two historic conferences in contemporary Anglican history -- the 1998 Lambeth Conference and the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem -- the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality that emerged from Lambeth and the Jerusalem Statement and declaration. Section three examines the after-effects of the "sea change" in the Anglican Communion which includes the reform of the Communion governance, including the role of Canterbury; the realignment of the Global South and GAFCON movement and the call to the church to contend for the faith as she awaits Jesus' coming in glory.

Taking God at His Word, the primacy of Scripture is the foundation stone of Noll's book. Without it the Church cannot move forward. Noll argues that literal sense remains the mostly credible approach to interpreting the Bible. Only in the light of its referentiality, purposiveness, and clarity can scripture function as prime authority in the church. "In accordance with Jesus' teaching that 'man cannot serve two masters,' approaches that treat scripture as one authority among others inevitably end up granting autonomy to the individual conscience or the collective of the church."

Two Sexes, One Flesh essay is the hub of the book and what ultimately consumes both the writer and the Communion. God has spoken definitively about marriage between a man and a woman. With the state and the Church both having a role and stake in maintaining marriage as a two-sexes-in-one-flesh union of man and woman. "The sexual revolution's assault on the barricades of tradition includes an attack on the justice of marriage. Liberationists, he contends, accuse marriage of being unjust because it does not include same-sex partners. They claim to find in the natural rights tradition a "right to marry," which if translated into law, would force all states to put same-sex marriage on an equal footing with traditional marriage, thus diluting or dissolving marriage as the preferred unit of society."

For 2,000 years Christians have been declaring: "those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder." The Church has no authority to put asunder the sacrament of marriage as instituted by the Lord -- either by revising the marriage rite to include same-sex pairs or by devising some quasi-marital sacred rite alongside it.

"I believe that God is refining his Church and the institution of marriage by means of this present identity crisis. This refining must involve our repentance, which includes thinking more deeply about the true meaning of marriage."

The book carries readers through the various stages of the communion's journey from Lambeth 1998 and the "sea changes" that followed from Resolution 1:10 to the formation of GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration dealing in turn with the Windsor Report.

Noll concludes his book with this; "The promotion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a blatant attack on God's design in creation and redemption...it is the normalizing of homosexuality that is the offence; the Church needs to minister God's love to all people, including those struggling with homosexual desires. The repudiation of the biblical norms by Anglican churches in North America has led to the breakup of the Anglican Communion, and all the equivocations from Canterbury will not put humpty Dumpty back together again."

This book is must reading for every thoughtful Anglican concerned with the trajectory of the Anglican Communion. As GAFCON III approaches later this year and the Lambeth Conference in 2020, this book should be the received text for every bishop who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

A print version is now available from Anglican Liturgy Press and can be purchased here:
It is also listed on Amazon for Pre-order by June 2. A kindle version will also be available.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top