Samuel Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce, nails it…

Samuel_Wilberforce_by_George_Richmond
Now the question for us at this moment is not, Are these doctrines true, but, Are they the doctrines of the Church of England? If they are, you cannot as an honest man eat the bread offered for her ministers and teach otherwise.

your sub scription is a pledge that as a teacher you will simply and earnestly teach as She teaches and not as the Puritans teach. I am bound therefore to tell you that /, as a conscientious man, could not hold a commission to teach on the terms you us. hold yours, and teach as this declaration teaches.

Let me then call, as in God’s sight, your rrfost earnest attention to the question.

If your view of truth is not the view of the Church of England formularies you have subscribed, you cannot, with out an implied falsehood, which must put your soul in peril, bear the commission of a teacher in her communion.

Of course, I am well aware you may say, ‘ Others do so; * but, my dear sir, will such a plea hold before the judgment seat of Christ?

(cited from The Life of the Right Reverend Samuel Wilberforce)

Now one thing ought to be noted; Wilberforce writes this in relation to the question of baptismal regeneration where a clergyman has taught what Wilberforce considers to be a Puritan position and at odds with the Book of Common Prayer. On this doctrinal matter I think he’s wrong (and Gorham vs Exeter goes my way, I’d argue). But that doesn’t diminish the weight of Wilberforce’s argument – if you know what the church (that pays your stipend and gives you your reputation and who’s doctrine your promised to uphold) teaches and you teach against it irrespective of whether you are correct in the matter of doctrine or not, well then you have no integrity and are enacting falsehoods in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I know a number of men who have gone through seminary as Anglican candidates and yet, as ordination approached, realised that they could not in good conscience make the vows of ordination with respect to certain doctrines. So, in integrity, they sought ordination in another body that was more consistent with their sincerely held beliefs.

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4 comments on “Eating and Teaching with Integrity

  1. If Reformed Anglican clergy are going to point the finger at Revisionist Anglican clergy for making oaths to comply with doctrines that they don’t intend on believing or fail to keep, I think in all honesty David we need to have a good hard look at ourselves in regards to the fact the growth of ‘Generic Evangelicalism’ and the dumbing down of Anglican distinctives (Anglo-lite) means that in practice we are making oaths to comply with liturgies that we don’t intend to keep and/or fail to keep.

    Of course doctrine is more important, or as I said previously substance matters more than the form, however form still matters.

    So where does the pressure come from? I can think of 8 things and they are all linked:
    1. Generic Evangelicalism
    2. Peer Pressure (fear of other clergy)
    3. Pragmatism
    4. Some boomer clergy
    5. Fear of formality
    6. Fear of being seen as Catholic
    7. Doing the thinking for the non-churched for them (fear that unbelievers will be turned off)
    8. The Church Growth movement

    I recently read a lecture that +Paul Barnett gave at the 2013 Public lecture in Ridley and he made an observation I found rather concerning:
    “The situation today is that many evangelicals would regard even a modern Prayer Book Service as “high church” rather than what it truly is, simply Anglican”.

    +Barnett is right and he is wrong. I think he is right on what he is saying, but wrong on the timing. It is not a situation that is happening today, as if it has only just started. It started when us Gen-Xers were teenagers.

    Back in 1998 (when I was 22) my wife and I left Sydney (and a great Anglican Church in Sydney) and went to an Anglican Church in the upper blue mountains and to my shame I wrote the church off as being “High Church”) and it was simply a standard 2nd Order 1978 Communion Service. This is because what was modelled to me all of my Christian life as a teenager was an Anglicanism that was not Anglican in the classical, historical sense but was Generic Evangelicalism with the name Anglican.

    It is painful to make this observation above, but I keep thinking about the saying about people in glass houses. If we are strident in our opposition to Revisionists, we must look at ourselves too.

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