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Incoming Archbishop of York Argues the Church Will Lose Evangelistic Credibility If It Holds to the Biblical Teachings on Sexuality

Incoming Archbishop of York Argues the Church Will Lose Evangelistic Credibility If It Holds to the Biblical Teachings on Sexuality
An Argument That Won't Go Away

The Briefing
Feb. 10, 2020

I want to consider what is causing great concern amongst the evangelicals who remain in the Church of England and this is the fact that there is going to be a new Archbishop of York. Archbishop John Sentamu is retiring and he is to be followed by a new Archbishop who is currently the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell. Stephen Cottrell was even before that the Bishop of Reading and he is, if anything, likely to encourage a rather radical shift in the Church of England on matters of human sexuality.

The newspaper, Evangelicals Now in Great Britain, a much respected evangelical news source ran an article by Ruth Woodcroft in which she reports, "On 17 December the deeply controversial appointment of Stephen Cottrell as Archbishop of York was announced." She goes on to say that in the press release there were carefully selected quotes that made him sound evangelical, saying things like, 'What binds us together is our faith in Jesus Christ.'" However, as Woodcraft goes on to report, the same bishop had expressed views "that are at odds with the traditional teachings of the church and more importantly with the Bible." Well, in her extensive news report, she makes very clear that that is certainly not an overstatement.

But from our perspective, the most important issue here is the language used by the incoming Archbishop of York concerning why the church must change its position on human sexuality and join the revolution. He said this, "Same sex relationships and same sex marriage are not only considered normal," he means in the society, "but positively taught and encouraged in many homes and schools as a social good. It would be particularly foolish," he said, "for us to ignore the missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country is deemed morally unacceptable by the church."

Well, notice that moral argument. He says, "If the church holds to a position that is contrary to what many people in the society believe is actually moral, then the church is going to impair its evangelism if it holds to that position." It's actually the most amazing and straightforwardly candid statement coming from a bishop and now to be archbishop of the Church of England, that the Church of England has to find its moral authority in England, not in the Word of God and not in even the tradition of the Church of England, not certainly in Scripture, but rather it has to be found in the moral consensus of the British people.

That moral consensus in Britain is now progressive, liberal on the issues of sexual morality. And here's the really insidious part of his argument: he argues here explicitly that the church will damage its evangelism by holding to the Bible's clear teachings on human sexuality.

Now, what we need to note is that that was exactly the argument made in the early 20th century by the theological liberals in this country who said the virgin birth is an obstacle to evangelism. The bodily resurrection of Christ is an obstacle to evangelism. You get rid of those odious doctrines and people will come to Christ. But of course the Christ they come to is neither virgin born nor raised from the dead, which means as the apostle Paul makes clear, he can't save.

David Baker in an insightful column inside the newspaper Evangelicals Now, the same edition, quoted Melvin Tinker as stating that the new archbishop of York "combines the worst of two theological worlds, the authoritarianism of Catholicism and the subjectivism of liberalism." The reference to Catholicism there has to do with the fact that the incoming archbishop of York is a member of the society of Catholic priests. He's also a member of the group known as Affirming Catholicism. That means he is a leader in the Anglo-Catholic branch of the Church of England. That is the branch that is most resistant to the reformation and most friendly to the Roman Catholic Church.

In this case, they argue that the Church of England should be considered a part of Catholicism. But please listener, pay attention to this argument made by the incoming Anglican Archbishop of York who is arguing that the church is going to lose its opening for evangelism if it holds to biblical Christianity. Watch that argument closely because it didn't actually start in York and it certainly won't end there.

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