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Anglican Angst over Homosexuality Continues to Underscore Divisions

By David W. Virtue, DD
December 25, 2020

FEW would deny that 2020 was one of the worst years in the life of the present-day Church. The Anglican Communion was hit hard with more confusion over homosexual practice, with the Archbishop of Canterbury showing no leadership but continued capitulation over the issue. Annus horribilis might be the best description - it was a year for the ages.

The push for the full acceptance of homosexuality across the communion plus the advent of COVID defined our lives and fears; the way we worshipped along with how often we could see friends, family and relations. Families were torn apart and for those living alone or in care facilities, it was made even worse by the fact that they could not see even their loved ones. Family members died alone in nursing homes; travel was restricted and much more. Political alliances seemed to define us more than we could have thought possible. Friendships were broken over what people thought of President Donald Trump. I have seen nothing like this in more than half a century of reporting. For some it seemed believing in Trump was right up there with believing in Jesus, and for some seemed to surpass it. Words like "hate" and "socialism" took on a whole new meaning and definition. As one blogger noted, "In 2020, theological unity took a back seat to political partisanship."

At this time of writing, events have still not fully played out. While many believe the end is in sight, many believe that it is far from over. There are whispers of civil war. The country could shut down, while the faith of many did.

It was a hard year for everyone. As C.S. Lewis put it, "...pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Are we listening and heeding His voice?

1.COVID AND THE CHURCHES. Nothing so defined 2020 than the appearance on the scene of COVID-19. It profoundly affected all our lives and for Christians in particular and worship, it was a game changer. Worldwide 1.73 million died, with 326,000 dying in America with that figure climbing daily.Church doors closed, holy communion was denied to millions of Christians, our world briefly fell apart. A new word came into our vocabulary- zoom - it was a collective way for all of us to meet - virtually. Wherever we were, it really didn't matter, On Sunday morning we could tune in to a morning service on our iPads or laptops and experience online worship. If it felt weird and disconnected, the reason is, it probably was. Somehow though, we learned to live with it. Several pastors took umbridge and said it was about religious freedom. It was not. No one said we could not worship; it was not about if we could worship but how. A number of religious leaders died of COVID-19, perhaps thinking they were invincible. What we don't know is what the church will look like once we come out the other side of this coronavirus.

2.The 2020 Religion News Association named George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as the top religion newsmakers of the year! Their killings by police officers sparked worldwide protests against racial injustice and turned them into iconic images of the Black Lives Matter movement, which received passionate support from many religious activists.

3.President-elect Joe Biden, who will become the second Catholic president in U.S. history when he is inaugurated on January 20, 2021, was the newsmaker runner-up. He got big assists from the religious left -- especially Black Christians -- and secular voters. Biden cited Catholic social doctrine for many policy views, but bishops decried his support for legal abortion.

4) Amy Coney Barrett, whose background in Catholic and charismatic circles draws scrutiny, joins an expanded conservative majority on the Supreme Court. after replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dies at 87 and whose liberal Jewish values shaped her views.

5) Police, using tear gas, drive anti-racism protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, clearing way for President Trump to pose for a controversial photo with a Bible at historic St. John's Church. Episcopal and other faith leaders express outrage.

6) White evangelicals and other religious conservatives again voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, despite some vocal dissent. Protestants fuel his gains among Hispanic voters. Some religious supporters echo his denials of the election results.

7) Dozens of nations decried what they term widespread human-rights abuses by China against predominately Muslim Uighurs and others in Xinjiang region, many in detention camps. New U.S. law authorizes sanctions against Chinese officials deemed complicit.

8) A Vatican investigation into defrocked ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick found that bishops, cardinals and popes failed to heed reports of his sexual misconduct. Debate ensues over the legacy of sainted Pope John Paul II, who promoted him to cardinal.

9) Pandemic-related limits on worship gatherings spur protests and defiance by Hasidic Jewish groups and evangelicals led by pastor John MacArthur and musician Sean Feucht. Supreme Court backs Catholic and Jewish groups' challenge to New York's limits.

10). RAVI ZACHARIAS AND JERRY FALWELL Jr. The year saw several major scandals erupt that shook evangelical Christians to the core. If the Roman Catholic Church had its Jean Vanier, then evangelicals and fundamentalists saw two significant leaders take serious moral falls. Jerry Falwell, Jr. was caught with his hand around the waist of a half-clad pregnant woman. The photo went viral and then came more news that a pool boy had participated in sex with Falwell's wife while he watched. Voyeurism was a new twist on adultery apparently. Falwell was forced to resign as president of Liberty University, an institution his father founded. He later sued the university, pleading he was the victim of political retribution. Later he withdrew the lawsuit.

The evangelical world was further rocked when it was disclosed that allegations of sexual misconduct were made against well-known and respected Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. He died several months before it was disclosed that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with two women in a massage spa he owned, along with misleading statements about his qualifications and his dubious apologetics methodology. RZIM leaders issued a statement saying they are "heartbroken" and will tell all after a thorough examination is made of all the allegations. Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz also resigned following revelations of adultery.


News stories that did not make the Top 10 but rankled Anglican sensibilities.

J.I. PACKER DIES. A great Anglican died this year. Dr. Packer was 93. I had interviewed him over the years and always found his mind keen and his thoughts insightful and lucid. His voluminous output of books and sermons marked him out as a theologian we will never forget. In his eighties he challenged the Anglican Church of Canada over homosexuality and walked out with a contingent of faithful evangelical Anglicans to start over, unafraid to begin a new chapter in his own life. He will be remembered for his many sermons and books.

ALBANY BISHOP WILLIAM LOVE was shown the ecclesiastical door for his failure to approve of homosexual marriage. A hearing found him guilty of violating a General Convention church resolution and he agreed to leave the diocese. Watch for pronouncements on his future next year. The actions of TEC brought out the former bishop of Central Florida, John W. Howe who declared that he was leaving TEC and would join the ACNA. "TEC has now clearly redefined not only marriage, but what it is to be a Bishop, and what it is to be a Diocese."

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH continued to decline in absolute numbers. An episcopal professor opined that "the overall picture is dire". He said the picture is not one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly. "At the present rate, there will be no one in worship by around 2050 in the entire denomination."

PROPERTY LAWSUITS continued to rankle TEC in two dioceses -- Ft. Worth and South Carolina, with no apparent end in sight. Millions of dollars' worth of properties is at stake. The legal battle will continue into next year.

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND raised the stakes over full on approval of homosexual marriage, initially with civil unions. A 'Living in Love and Faith' "reconciliation" report, which virtually gave the green light to such liaisons, brought forth a theological and ecclesiastical tsunami with a group of homosexuals and lesbians blasting the report saying they would leave the Church if homosexual marriage is not fully embraced by the Church. The wave of anger is a colossal setback for the Church of England, which has been trying to navigate the sexual waters of compromise with the LLF report.

AUSTRALIAN EVANGELICAL ANGLICANS issued an ultimatum to the Anglican Church of Australia, threatening to "disaffiliate" from them in response to the national church's legal approval over blessing services for civil same sex marriages. They say they will set up "alternative oversight" under GAFCON for Anglicans who want out, and they have released a statement called "Commitment 2020".

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN WALES bishops issued a draft Bill on same-sex blessings offering proposals to authorize such formal blessings in church of same-sex partnerships and marriages. A draft Bill that would permit the blessing in parish churches of same-sex couples after a civil partnership or civil wedding has been circulated to members of the Church's Governing Body ahead of a debate in April. Their argument is with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries. They believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated.

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA, already well over 130,000 strong with over 1,000 parishes continued to grow. New churches were planted in the US, Canada and Mexico and there is every indication that they will continue to expand and grow in 2021.

GAFCON AND THE GLOBAL SOUTH continued to grow, expand and thrive even as Western Anglicanism continued to decline. An example is The Anglican Church of Nigeria. In 1999, the province had 71 dioceses. Today the Church has 159 dioceses in 14 internal provinces.

TEC along with all the mainline churches continued their decline this year with the United Methodist Church formally splitting over homosexual marriage and ordination. Later in the year, liberal Methodists announced the formation of a new Methodist denomination.

The twin realities of COVID-19 and revisionism (progressivist) theology and churchmanship will likely see the demise of mainline denominations over the next two decades. Evangelical churches large and small will continue to give birth and grow albeit slowly as there is no blueprint about how this might be achieved in a time of COVID.


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