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How Archbishop Justin Welby Could Save the Anglican Communion

How Archbishop Justin Welby Could Save the Anglican Communion

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
November 22, 2014

It has now apparently dawned on the Archbishop of Canterbury that, despite his grand reconciliation attempts, continued talk of Indaba, and his high hopes for unity, that the Anglican Communion is fractured beyond reasonable hope of repair.

He as much as said so in his presidential address to the recent Church of England Synod. Stressing his constant themes of unity and reconciliation, the Archbishop said groups within the Church of England have the power to prevail with their own particular views. Without naming names he, of course, referenced REFORM and other evangelical groups at odds with him over his tepid acceptance of homosexuality (in the name of a rapidly changing culture) and women bishops eschewed by Anglo Catholics, and some, if not most evangelicals.

On the future of the Communion, Welby observed that he has not called a Primates' Meeting because he feels it is necessary for the Anglican Communion to develop a collegial model of leadership. "If the majority view of the Primates is that such a meeting would be a good thing, one will be called in response." He noted that the "agenda for that meeting will not be set centrally, but from around the Primates of the Communion."

Welby said the Primates' meeting (if one is called) is to decide if there will be another Lambeth Conference. "It is certainly achievable, but the decision is better made together carefully, than in haste to meet an artificial deadline of a year ending in 8."

Welby further called into question the validity of the Instruments of Communion saying that in the 21st century -- a post-colonial world - with the majority of its members in the Global South, the role of the Instruments of Communion, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, are now in question. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be very different from the past.

So the Archbishop of Canterbury has laid the foundation for a more formal schism without actually saying he either wanted or sought one.

So the question that must now be asked is this: Can the unity of the Anglican Communion be salvaged even at this 11th hour? Dr. Rowan Williams failed to make any progress and left frustrated, realizing that he could not make headway with Nigerian Primate Nicholas Okoh or even with the more benign Eliud Wabukala of Kenya.

Still it begs the question: Can an evangelical now sitting on the throne of Canterbury have a shot at moving the Communion forward and keeping it together? It should be remembered that Welby was brought in for two reasons: his skills in business as a reconciler and because he is an evangelical neither of which skills was found in his predecessor. Welby had broad appeal to a wider Anglican and non-Anglican constituency because of his evangelicalism including, it was hoped, to the Global South who were like unto himself...an evangelical.

High hopes were entertained that he could pull off what the scholarly Dr. Williams could not, or had failed to achieve through endless primatial gatherings.

To date, Welby's leadership has been lackluster. While he opposes gay marriage, he is warm to the idea of civil partnerships. He has successfully brokered in women bishops and beaten up on banking institutions over excessive interest rates on the poor. With the Global South, he has been less than impressive. He refused to recognize the influence of archbishops and bishops of GAFCON II and he said he will not recognize the ACNA as legitimate Anglicans, merely "ecumenical partners" which is not the same thing. He is considered theologically light and believes reconciliation is possible even across impossible divides.

Now that he has met with most of the primates of the Anglican Communion, he is not so sure reconciliation is possible; it may even be impossible.

So the question must be asked: Can anything be done to hold the Anglican Communion together.

The answer is "yes", if Welby is willing and prepared to admit the following:

1. That Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church has made statements about the resurrection of Christ and the Divinity of Christ that can only be construed as unorthodox and outside the orb of historic Christianity. If so, the archbishop must declare her a heretic based on the following Scriptures: 2 Peter 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Peter 2:1; Titus 3:10 and Gal 1:7. Anything less than that will not satisfy Global South Primates.

2. Recognize that Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada, whose advocacy of the blessing of same sex unions is a clear violation of traditional biblical understanding of marriage and is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Anglicans in the Communion.

3. Welby must publicly declare that the vast majority of the Episcopal House of Bishops are out of sync with the vast majority of the Anglican Communion. Their refusal to declare Bishop John Shelby Spong a heretic for his 12 Theses makes them complicit in his public heresies. Their public acceptance of a non-celibate homosexual in the person of Gene Robinson to the episcopacy and the later acceptance of a non-celibate lesbian to the episcopacy in the person of Mary Glasspool are also heretical acts.

4. Recognize the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the legitimate, orthodox expression of Anglicanism in North America (including the ANiC in Canada). Also, make it clear he does not care what the Anglican Consultative Council thinks.

5. Recognize that the Instruments of Unity are no longer relevant in a post-colonial Communion and that new relational "instruments" between provinces is now the way forward.

6. Say that he will no longer recognize the Anglican Communion Office (Anglican Consultative Council) in dealing with who is "in" or "out" of the Communion by simply ignoring them and moving that they be defunded.

7. Derecognize the Rev. Canon Philip Groves, facilitator of the Listening Process, which is basically a cover to broker homosexuality into the communion while making it clear that sharing the experiences of and listening to homosexual Christians will be met with calls to cease all homosexual activity, seek repentance and amendment of life as per Resolution 1:10.

8. Totally repudiate any notion that homosexual behavior is acceptable in the eyes of God, and declare the gospel that not only celibacy but change is possible and Christian therapy can aid in that change.

9. Recognize such ex-gay ministries as Pure Passion; Courage (Catholic); Evergreen (Mormon); Restored Hope Network, Exodus Youth, Homosexuals Anonymous, Inqueery, Jonah (Jewish), Love Won Out and PFOX as legitimate ministries of change for those who want to rid themselves of same sex attractions.

10. Acknowledge that men like David Kyle Foster, Joe Dallas, Bob Davies, Alan Medinger, Bob Ragan and many other former homosexuals have experienced legitimate change and healing and therefore cannot be sidelined or ignored. Add to the mix those people involved in the healing of the homosexual like Joseph Nicolosi, an American clinical psychologist, founder and director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, California, and a founder and former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Jeffrey Satinover an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and physicist and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of NARTH and Charles Socarides an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, physician, educator, and author who helped found NARTH as agents of change and men who have successfully argued that change is possible and should be consulted by homosexuals seeking to leave the homosexual lifestyle.

11. Recognize that Dr. Robert Gagnon's book The Bible and Homosexuality is the standard text repudiating any biblical claim for homosexual behavior and should be the textus receptus for all Anglican Christians on the subject.

12. Recognize that GAFCON and the Global South Primates are the upholders of orthodox (evangelical) Anglicanism and acknowledge them to be the true heirs of the gospel.

13. Recognize GAFCON/FCA as the legitimate structure in dealing with the Global South and ignore any bleatings that might come from liberal provinces over this stance.

14. Reject all forms of liberal, progressive, revisionist interpretations of Scripture that try to uphold homosexuality, or conversely diminish, deny or downgrade any fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith (like the resurrection), and declare such persons as heretical and cite those Scriptural passages that declare them to be so. Start with Bishop John Shelby Spong and his 12 Theses.

15. Declare the Covenant dead as well as all talk of Indaba as merely salves to try to save the Anglican Communion.

16. Allow those provinces and dioceses like Nigeria and its US counterpart CANA and, to whatever degree, the ACNA, to not recognize the orders of women either to the priesthood or episcopate and that they violate no canon of church or Scripture by doing so.

17. Recognize that the gospel of Jesus Christ understood primarily through Christ's atoning death and resurrection as the only basis for our salvation and that good works cannot now nor ever have the power to save.

18. Make clear good works, in whatever form they come in whether it is the Five Marks of Mission or Millennium Development Goals, flow from the gospel but are, in and of themselves, not the gospel and have no power to save for those who seek eternal life.

19. Understand that the gospel may in fact invite dissension and schism and be prepared for the fact that a number of provinces will disagree and may well separate from you and that you will accept that fact and are not prepared to compromise.

20. Recognize that the spiritual power of the Anglican Communion is now solidly based in Africa and that nothing is done without consultation of the Global South Primates.

21. Recognize that we live in post-colonial times and that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role will now be consultative rather than hierarchical.

22. If those provinces caught in the vortex of post-modern progressivism cannot extricate themselves from secularizing and modernist trends, then they, not the orthodox, be invited to leave.

23. That the Archbishop will only call to future Primates Councils those archbishops who are prepared to affirm the faith and gospel in clear and explicit terms without prevarication or crossed fingers.

24. Recognize that the center of spiritual gravity has moved from Canterbury to Nairobi or Abuja and that no decisions are made about the communion without consultation from the leaders of at least these two provinces.

25. That ALL primates declare Scripture to be the full and final revelation of God to mankind and that it be declared authoritative and the infallible rule of faith. That it is not on a par with the Koran or any other pseudo Scriptures like the Book of Mormon.

26. That the gospel is the only means of grace and favor whereby we are made righteous before a loving (but necessarily wrathful) God.

27. That the gospel must be carried to the ends of the earth and an opportunity for the Good News to be embraced by its cultured despisers, and that all mankind, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, skeptics, atheists and agnostics, are called upon to repent and embrace the one true and living God and Jesus Christ His only Son our Savior and Lord without equivocation.

28. Those provinces unwilling to embrace such an agenda should be invited to leave and form their own association much as those dioceses in the Episcopal Church have done following the departure of the main body of Anglicans to other jurisdictions.

I am indebted to a UK reader of this column who pointed me to the Augsburg Confession as coming closest to what is written here.

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