Monday, June 24, 2024
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The struggle for the C of E’s soul


JUSTIN Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and captain of the good ship Anglican, having steered on to the rocks, is bailing furiously in an attempt to stop the vessel from sinking. His officers meanwhile can give only one order: ‘Full steam ahead.’ Most of the deckhands have taken to the lifeboats or jumped into the icy water, deserting the sinking ship however they can. The tenacious few of the crew left aboard are frantically trying to persuade the officers to alter course and patch the leaks.

Despite the crying need of the great majority of Brits to hear the unvarnished gospel. despite the longing of those few continuing to attend services in the C of E for worship which connects with their lives rather than the concerns of the editors of the Guardian and Pink News, despite all the evidence of danger to the church, the officers keep on insisting: ‘Those aren’t rocks, it is clear calm water ahead.’

Things continue to get worse. The last census indicated that 46 per cent of the English population claimed to be Christian – fewer than half the population but still a considerable percentage. However, normal Sunday C of E attendance for all ages represents just 0.9 per cent of the population.

The officers are in a quandary: somehow ‘Pride Month’ celebrations in the parish church and a helter skelter in the cathedral just don’t seem to be having an evangelistic impact on the unchurched of England. Membership is in freefall. The future does not bode well. One in four congregations in 2017 did not have any children at worship services; will this have improved following Welby’s rigorously imposed church lockdown during covid? What more can the church leadership possibly do? If only there was some method of attracting people to Jesus.

The latest issue causing widespread debate is that of the Anglican evangelical mission body, the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS). It was founded with the ‘conviction that a primary calling of local churches is to enable those who are far from Christ to be reconciled to him, and that CPAS could help resource churches to that end’. This they have been doing with considerable success for nearly 200 years. Countless lives have been impacted by the work of CPAS in and with local churches. Unfortunately today they are the latest casualty in the war against the Bible being mounted by ‘progressive’ Christians.

The help CPAS has given and continues to give the church is as nothing compared to the offence they have caused the self-regarding woke ecclesiastics who ferociously guard their reputation in the C of E as leaders of progressive inclusiveness. The staff of CPAS had the temerity to align the organisation with the Evangelical Alliance’s (EA) statement on human sexuality. In particular it was CPAS’s endorsement of EA’s affirmation eight which caused the reaction. This states: ‘We welcome and support the work of those individuals and organisations who responsibly seek to help Christians who experience same-sex attraction as in conflict with their commitment to live in accordance with biblical teaching.’

This brought the predictable accusations of ‘homophobia’ and ‘hate’ from progressive Christians, plus the unfounded assertion that CPAS had endorsed conversion therapy. This despite the fact that affirmation eight goes on: ‘This help will involve counsel and pastoral support to live a chaste life and, as part of this process, some may seek and experience changes in the strength or direction of their same-sex attractions.’

When a comment appeared on social media the trustees of CPAS turned tail and had the offending endorsement deleted. This did nothing to calm things, rather, as always, it encouraged the progressives to go further. Christian progressives are no nicer than secular progressives, they are given to the same censorious and sometimes vicious attacks on those with the temerity to disagree with them. When they smelled blood in the water the cyber-bullies, those keyboard warriors of progressive Christianity, leapt into action to repel the insurrectionists and mutineers who insist on the Bible and 2,000 years of theology.

Like all elites, the ecclesiastical elites believe that they are moderate, sensible centrists, more informed and learned than those undereducated pew-fillers who disagree with them, especially those obscurantists who want to follow Scripture. One could almost hear the gasps of horror as the gospelphobic ecclesiastical elites thought of evangelical Christians having the temerity to adhere to biblical doctrines.

Rev Colin C Coward MBE, C of E priest and director of Changing Attitude, commenting in ‘Thinking Anglicans’ writes, ‘Friends in CPAS, your Biblical theology is homophobic and prejudiced and abusive of LGBTQIA+ people in church and society. I do not recognise your theology as Christian – Biblical maybe, but not Christian – not all Biblical theology is Christian.’

There we have the nub of the matter: our woke ecclesiastics want a theology which countenances the Word of God only when his Word agrees with what they want anyway. Scripture must appear before the bar of their desires and either conform or be found guilty and dismissed. When they say that evangelicals are a threat to the church what they really mean is that evangelicals are a threat to the ecclesiastical elites’ self-regarding rule of the church and their imposition of a modern non-biblical ideology on to the millennia-old theology of the church.

It was ever thus. Sir Thomas More complained that William Tyndale put concern for the Bible before the concern for the church. The Reformers, the Wesleys, whoever has prioritised Scripture over the ecclesiastical organisation, the church mandarins and their acolytes have turned on them.

The progressive ecclesiastic prioritises the normalisation of homosexuality, the evangelical Christian prioritises the truth of Scripture. Ultimately this is not a controversy about what people do in their bedrooms: it is a struggle for the soul of the church.

This article appears in A Grain of Sand and is republished by kind permission. 

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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