I wrote last week about the appointment of Rev Dr Sarah Macneil as the new Bishop of Grafton diocese in NSW, Australia. Not only is she due to be Australia’s first female diocesan, but far more troubling she is on the record as holding what many consider to be heterodox views on human sexuality and the atonement.

I wrote to Dr Macneil’s new diocese and sought clarification on these large questions. Did she stand by her views or was she now committed to the official position of the Anglican Church of Australia? You can read about the clear contrast between those two positions in my original piece.

Dr Macneil declined to give me any answer to the questions. I don’t really blame her; the contrast between her published views and those she would be required to uphold as a bishop were too stark. I wasn’t surprised to be blanked. What did surprise me, however, was the enormous interest shown in my piece. I got over 15,000 hits in 2 days on this story – far more than anything else I’d ever written. There was massive interest all over Australia once the simple facts of the matter were laid out. And it meant the story couldn’t be left alone.

Therefore, since writing the original piece I’ve turned my attention to the consecration process.

Grafton Diocese is in the NSW Province centered around Sydney. The Province contains the dioceses of Grafton, Newcastle, Bathurst, Armidale, the Riverina, Canberra & Goulbourn and the Archdiocese of Sydney. Normally the Archbishop of Sydney (currently Glenn Davies) would be expected to be lead consecrator by virtue of being Metropolitan but he has excused himself from the consecration on a matter of conscience (being opposed to the consecration of women). As Peter Jensen did before him, Davies has asked bishop of Canberra & Goulborn, Stuart Robinson, to lead in his place. Other diocesans from the Province would also be expected to participate.

Almost immediately after writing last week I got a flood of emails with many asking me how it was possible that someone who so openly opposed the official Anglican position could be consecrated as bishop. Given the level of interest in the story I viewed that question as valid and so passed it on to those NSW diocesans who would be expected to be there – Robinson of Canberra, Lewers of Armidale and Palmer of Bathurst. The dioceses of Newcastle and the Riverina are currently without a bishop. I asked the same questions of all three diocesans,

Given that it is established that Rev Dr Macneil is recorded as denying penal substitution (in contradiction of Article XXXI which is the official doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia) and has clearly suggested that “homosexuals in same-sex relationships” should be ordained in the Anglican church (in contradiction of the Bishops’ Protocol which she will be expected to endorse),

  1. Was the bishop aware that she held these views or views similar to them?
  2. Is the bishop still prepared to consecrate her given that she holds publicly-stated positions diametrically opposed to that of the Anglican Church of Australia and the House of Bishops on the key issues of the atonement and human sexuality?

The responses I got could not have been more different from each other. First to reply was Bishop Stuart Robinson of Canberra & Goulborn,

+Robinson

As with all ‘canonically fit’ bishops-elect who are presented for Consecration, Dr  Macneil  will be asked to publicly accede and subscribe to the creeds and other key biblical truths that underlay and frame the theological foundations of the Anglican Church. In addition, Bishop Sarah will , with her Episcopal colleagues within our Communion, observe the Australian bishop’s protocol in relation to the ordination of people in same-sex relationships.

Bishop Robinson’s position therefore is “it doesn’t matter what she wrote – I’ll take her word on what she says in the service of consecration”. What it fails to acknowledge, however, is that part of our problem in the Anglican church is that we have those who publicly claim to assent to those truths and yet personally do not believe them. The fear raised to me by many over the past week is that Dr Macneil may very well be such a person, indeed some have already expressed exactly that opinion about her to me from personal experience of working with her.

The next response I received was from Bishop Rick Lewers of Armidale. It is a comprehensive comment that does not shy away from addressing the key issues at stake.

+Lewers

Firstly I have to admit, to this point in time, to never having read anything written by Sarah on the subject of homosexuality or substitutionary atonement so I am hard pressed to make comment on her views.

In that context rather than risking a misrepresentation of Sarah’s views I think it better if I offer my own.

My own position on the issue of substitutionary atonement is that to deny penal substitutionary atonement would be to reject a plain reading of the Scriptures which I believe would seriously impoverish the richness of the atoning work of Christ and its comfort for every believer.

Secondly on the issue of the ordination of homosexuals I offer the following. While we must value the lives of every individual irrespective of lifestyle and must show due care and compassion for all people the Bible makes clear that homosexuality is sinful. It remains the responsibility of all Christians and especially those called to ordination in the Anglican Church to defend the will of God as expressed in the Word of God and where ever sin is found to call people to repentance. That being the case I believe that the church would be in grave error to proceed with the ordination of a practising homosexual as this would be evidence of a clear breach of God’s will for people’s lives. To act in this way would be a departure from Anglicanism as it is expressed in its articles and creeds. At this time such an action would also be in breach of the Australian Bishops’ Protocols and any such action would seriously disrupt the Australian Anglican Communion and be very disturbing for all who cherish the holy Scriptures.

At this time my reason for not going to Sarah’s consecration is an issue of conscience for me over the question of the ordination of women, their role in leadership in the Church and in particular the leadership of a diocese. I have discussed this with Sarah and with grace she has accepted this decision and understand my position while not agreeing with me. I expect that we will share a respectful, while at time contrary relationship and consistent with my own Consecration promises I will extend the love of Christ to her at all times.

So +Lewers is unafraid to take a clear stance on the questions. Those that know him would not be surprised, he has long been respected for holding and expressing clear Biblical convictions and on this matter he has spoken incredibly clearly. He describes the documented views of Dr Macneil as “to reject a plain reading of the Scriptures” and “a clear breach of God’s will for people’s lives”. Most tellingly he describes the actions proposed by Dr Macneil in her sermon of March of this year as “a departure from Anglicanism as it is expressed in its articles and creeds”.

For clarity, a diocesan bishop in a neighbouring diocese describes the actions proposed by Dr Macneil in a sermon earlier this very same year as a departure from the very same truths and Biblical foundations that Macneil will say that she affirms when consecrated by bishop Robinson and others.

But some diocesans think very differently. Bishop Ian Palmer of Bathurst was the last to send a response,

+Palmer

I have worked closely with Bishop elect Sarah Macneil when we were Archdeacons together in the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn and I warmly welcome the opportunity of working with her again as Diocesan Bishops in the Province of NSW.
Regarding the two questions you ask:
Most important, the matters you take issue with are not first order matters of Christian faith and teaching. So I think that you are mischievous in raising them to centre stage when there is much to affirm about Sarah’s ministry in the cause of the Gospel. You will plant in people’s minds a negative impression of Sarah which is neither true to her nor honouring of the Lord she serves. You will divide rather than build up the Body of Christ and this is clearly contrary to the Scriptures.

Secondly the consecrating Bishop (the Rt Revd Stuart Robinson) tells me that he has been assured by the Revd Dr Sarah Macneil that she can and will answer in the affirmative all the questions she is asked in the Consecration Service. This is consistent with my experience of working with Sarah.

Thirdly I have not seen the wider context of the short excerpts you quote so I will not comment on them.

However, fourthly, I will comment that you are wrong. Penal substitution is not necessarily taught in Article XXXI. The use of the word “satisfaction” (twice in that Article) and again the the Service of Holy Communion (1552 and 1662) owes more to the Feudal concept of “honour” (Anselm) than it does to a forensic understanding. The Scriptures affirm that “Christ died for our sins” and that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”. There are a number of different images used in the NT to illuminate the Work of Christ on the cross of which the image of the law courts is just one. The Doctrine Commission has recently published a book on the Atonement (“Christ died for our sins” ed Michael Stead, Barton Books September 2013) in order to stimulate debate and deepen our faith.

Palmer’s answer is interesting, not least in it’s clear contrast to Lewers’. First, notably, he describes the issues as “not first order matters”. I was personally taken aback to hear the atonement described as “not a first order matter”. Others might also note that matters of sexual ethics are rapidly also becoming key questions in the life of the church. I have heard not a small number of key Anglican leaders here in Australia make it clear that this is a matter over which division will surely come. And that warning has already been clearly expressed within the House of Bishops.

Palmer also shares Robinson’s view that Macneil’s affirmations are sufficient. Readers may differ. One leader I spoke to this week said to me “if you can believe she’s changed her mind so massively between this year and the next then you’re more generous than I could hope to be”.
I’d also take issue with Palmer’s suggestion that the language of “satisfaction” is feudal in origin, referring to “honour”. First, the BCP makes quite clear how it considers Christ’s death on the cross as

(by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world (Prayer of Consecration, Lord’s Supper)

The language of “one” and “once offered” is drawn directly from the Letter to the Hebrews (e.g. Heb. 10:10-14) where Christ’s death is presented to us as the perfect fulfilment of the penal substitutionary sacrifices of the Levitical cultus.

More than that, just because Anselm used the word “satisfaction” in a particular way does not mean that is the usage in the Articles. As Dan Saunders points out in his analysis of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo(my emphasis)

Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo (CDH) provides a satisfaction theory of the atonement.
The concept of satisfaction has tainted Latin theology from the time of its introduction by Tertullian. In Anselm it makes a foray into Medieval atonement theory where it is then adopted and confused by ecclesiastical indulgence and penitential systems. It was left to the Reformers to instill new meaning into the word and place it firmly within a scriptural context of penal substitution by way of sacrificial ransom.

And drawing on the work of Foley he notes by citation.

‘the Reformers taught that our Lord’s sufferings were penal, and Anselm expressly distinguishes between punishment and satisfaction … satisfaction was instead of punishment; but they transformed it into satisfaction by punishment’. (from G. C. Foley, Anselm’s Theory of the Atonement (London: Longmans Green and Co, 1909), p. 219)

Behind these discussions what is rapidly becoming clear is that Dr Macneil’s appointment may very well become the public crystallisation of profound differences that already exist in the Anglican Church of Australia, not least in the House of Bishops itself.

A recent comment on davidould.net by retired bishop David Mulready (formerly of NW Australia) sums the differences up well,

…these two views Sarah McNeill represents (pro-’gay’ marriage & rubbishing the Biblical view of the Atonement) are widely held around the Australian Church. We need to persevere in God’s revealed truth and be prepared to speak up. Many more liberal women (& male) Bishops will follow Sarah.

To consecrate Macneil now would be to legitimise the clear difference between her recently published views and those she will promise she believes and will uphold. Anglicans in Grafton are naturally concerned about this discrepancy and I understand that there are discussions going on in the diocese. Perhaps Dr Macneil will be able to answer to her own future diocesan members questions she has so far declined to address? Either way, the growing differences in the Australian church (and the Church of England is in a similar state) will continue to be raised as more liberal candidates are put forward for key appointments.

This growing receptionism, the consistent legitimisation of heterodox views (or simply ignoring them in the face of (at times incredible) affirmations of orthodoxy) is not a new thing for Anglicans. It’s the story of the decline of TEC which eventually resulted in many, many Anglicans leaving what became an apostate province. Will Australian Anglicans learn from their American friends? A source very close to the leadership of the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) had this to say to me,

The hard truth is that, orthodox Anglicans seem to be particularly susceptible to denial and wishful thinking. One of the reasons revisionist activists were able to take over the levers of power in the Episcopal Church, was the conflict-averse complacency of the orthodox. Vigilance and action are required not just at the ‘big’ moments, but in all the seemingly small decisions that are taken in parishes and committees. In the United States the watershed moments that made the news cycle were usually just the late symptoms of a lack of discipline and a theological slide that began years prior.

The boxer Sugar Ray Robinson famously commented on his career and retirement, “You always say, ‘I’ll quit when I start to slide.’ Then one morning you wake up and realize you done slid.”

Many orthodox Anglicans tell themselves that they will stand up and take action in their part of the church before the situation slides too far into heresy, only to wake up one day to discover it’s too late. Although there were a number of notable exceptions in the United States, this pattern repeated itself diocese by diocese. By the time the orthodox got serious, the balance of power had already shifted. If there is a lesson to be learned in Australia and England, provinces that seem to be repeating all the same mistakes that led to the downfall of the Episcopal Church, it is that action has to be taken much earlier than most folks realize.

“Action has to be taken much earlier than most folks realize”. Many of my Australian readers have communicated to me this past week that they believe that time is now.

72 comments on “Grafton Appointment Exposes Massive Differences in the Anglican Church in Australia

  1. I agree that denying penal substitution and endorsing same-sex marriage are contrary to God’s word and therefore makes someone unfit to lead in the Anglican Church.

    That said, I think Stuart Robinson’s position is tenable. He sees that the affirmation she gives at consecration should be taken with utmost seriousness. The question is what to do if she blatantly lies and upholds her previous position, contrary to the assent she gives.

    • hi Phill. Got a lot of sympathy for that position. I think the counter-argument many will raise is that there comes a point where the assurances made are clearly false when the opposite view has been held so clearly and so recently. That is, of course, a difficult judgement call.

      • There is also the issue that once someone is consecrated a bishop, it is much harder to take action regarding false teaching or contravening agreements. For example, Bishop John McIntyre of Gippsland openly appointed a minister in a homosexual relationship to a parish in his diocese in contravention of the Faithfulness In Service document. There was controversy, but the only action taken was the bishops tightened up the rules via a new protocol.
        Our dioceses are so independent, the bishop’s authority so absolute and our commitment to church discipline so weak, that seemingly nothing can be done unless there is a criminal issue like abuse or fraud.
        I also have great sympathy for Bishop Stuart’s position, but we have seen so many bishops elsewhere break their consecration vows that we ought to have an additional mechanism for the consecrating bishops to review the teaching and lifestyle of a bishop-elect in addition to their consecration vows.

  2. If it has got to the point that someone who preaches doctrine that is clearly opposed to Scripture, or who in their teaching denies Scriptural doctrine — and especially on such a central matter as the atonement — that if such a person is even being considered as a potential bishop, then it seems to me that the time for action to be taken was a generation ago.

    How is a person with such views even in church leadership at all? Why was their Bishop prepared to ordain them into their _current_ role? If they knew these views were held, but considered them suitable for appointment, then what does that say about how important they consider orthodoxy to be?

    And what about the seminary or Bible college that taught them? Do we not need to be asking serious questions about their doctrine and their view of Scripture, or why a church that professes to hold certain key doctrines is willing to ‘accredit’ seminaries that teach the opposite?

  3. @ Andrew Reid, I agree, I think that what happened in Gippsland with Bishop McIntyre clearly shows that if you hold these views you are likely to act upon them. Bishop Palmer’s comment that you are causing division within the Body of the Church rather than building up is a common accusation made against anyone who tries to highlight heresy. It is regularly used against those who try to teach against things like the New Apostolic Reformation and Prosperity Gospel too along with the ‘thou shall not judge’ attitude. Sarah Macneil may very well answer in the affirmative at her consecration service however so did Bishop McIntryre. I think there will always be an element of doubt with how she will carry out this role. It is a bit like 2 people being engaged and one says that they don’t have an issue with adultery however will still take their vows at the alter during the wedding ceremony.

  4. As one who once lived and then ministered in Grafton Diocese, I share the concerns for its future direction.

    It will be interesting to see what difference the Pilling Report from the UK makes to all of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if John McIntyre is eventually joined by one or two others in their willingness to openly declare their support for same sex relations, ordination etc. But Sarah’s previously open and unambiguous statements make one wonder how she can in clear conscience conform to the united voice of the Aust bishops. I fear John Reid is correct – she will soon speak out and nothing can be done.

    On the question of the atonement, I venture to suggest that of even greater concern is her apparent view that the death and resurrection of Jesus are not central to God’s means of bringing forgiveness, restoration and hope to a fallen world. And it is very difficult to remove sacrifice ad atonement theology from Luke’s two books. After all, it is the Lukan/Pauline expansion of the bread words at the Last Supper that tell us that Jesus’ body was ‘given for you’. And on the Emmaus road, the ‘Stranger’ reminds Clopas and the other that it was divinely ordained that ‘the Messiah must suffer’. Her comments on Luke’s theology remind me somewhat of Bp Spong.

  5. David, thanks for your clarity in pulling together the threads!

    This article leaves me inspired to do something, but I’m not sure what the best course of action might be? What are the options for what to do, for both lay and ordained?

    • hi Rog,

      I reckon there’s a number of options.

      First we need to encourage bishops that we know to do the right thing. We’ll all have to work out what that right thing is for ourselves.

      Second, pray for a good outcome to this.

      Third, pray for those in Grafton (and other places) who feel disenfranchised by bishops and other leaders who don’t seem to be capable of upholding basic orthodoxy.

      Lots more stuff, I’m sure – any suggestions anyone?

      • My clear suggestion for all those Anglicans disaffected with heterodoxy in Australia and also New Zealand, join together and form the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – Oceania, with a view to this becoming a new recognised province by GAFCON and GFCA ASAP. This page is already up on Facebook.

      • It is my clear thought that we should appreciate the deepening gravity of sin into which the Anglican church descends. Bishop Robinson is further equipping this descent, a handiwork with satan as the lies of the evil one are officially blessed. Stuart is a long and fine friend, but surely he needs to be approached by many and counselled to have no part of that which permits sulfur fumes to waft ever more widely. I must ask who can see mene, mene, tekel, parsin upon the Hawkesbury sandstone walls of Oz Anglicanism?

  6. What a sexist view you have of women david ould. In normal society you would be taken to court or the equal oportinuity tribunal.

    • Maybe I have misread what David has written. I understood him to be concerned about the theological qualifications of someone who does not believe Jesus’ death has any meaning and supports gay ordination, contrary to scripture. Have I missed something?

    • I believe in ‘normal society’ it would be expected that you would have the courtesy to substantiate this accusation … or to retract it.

  7. I would have thought the word “propitiation” would be a bigger stumbling block.
    Looks like Palmer is misdirecting a bit by concentrating only on the word “satisfaction”
    instead of “perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction”.

  8. On a different matter [slightly] Ihave begun to wonder recently if the doctrine of penal substitution makes much sense in a society where the death penalty has been abolished. Today Jesus could not be executed.

    • Yet, Owen, when we want to kill people we declare war. The deaths of the Osama bin Ladens of this world is ‘justified’, and the deaths of our guys are referred to as ‘sacrifices’. Remembrance Day was less than a month a go. Lest we Forget? Our society has the building blocks to understand PSA.

  9. Others have commented on the main issues you raise here David, but I would like to focus more on the Sugar Ray Robinson quote of waking up one morning and realizing that “you done slid”.
    This lesson is also highlighted by the old story of the frog in the kettle.

    Unlike your North American friend David, I don’t know of any Anglicans who tell themselves that they will take action before the Church slides too far into heresy. In fact, I know very few who seem to care about the slide at all, let alone try and do something about it.

    And why should they when their leaders are so divided?
    Confusion is reigning in the pews as the Bible gets a hammering in the press by SSU advocates. The Devil is doing his best work in this regard.

    Your friend says that the lesson to be learned is that action has to be taken much earlier than most folks realize; and your readers have communicated that they believe the time to act is now.

    Well, I hate to be a wet blanket, but the time to act was at least 9-10 years ago, if not earlier!
    To continue the metaphors – it would seem that the ship has sailed, the horse has bolted, the train’s left the station, they’ve flown the coop, etc……except for one thing:

    4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
    5 He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
    6 “I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain. (Psalm 2:4-6)

  10. David, I did not suggest that the Atonement or the Work of Christ on the Cross is a second order issue. The Person of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus and other Credal statements are first order issues.
    That Jesus died to take away the sin of the world is a first order issue; what is not a first order issue is a particular way of describing the achievement of Christ on the Cross, let alone exalting just one of the Scriptural ways of telling what Jesus has done as the only way to speak of it.
    That Christ died for me (and for the sins of the whole world) and apart from him there is no salvation, is not in question for me. That is the good news. Through his death I am redeemed (Market Place image), reconciled to God (family image), rescued from the power of sin (military image), I know that he died in my place (sacrifice and substitution)… and there are other ways that the NT speaks of the work of Christ.

    • But does Dr. Macneil allow for any hint of the substance of Article XXXI, given her preaching that

      “This rather mechanistic and grim understanding of atonement, prevalent not so very far from here, was not part of early Christian thought and clearly not part of Luke’s thought world. Nor does Luke regard Jesus’ death as a sacrifice or as an expiation for sin. His focus is more on Jesus’ life and on the wholeness that is brought to humanity through contact with the suffering Messiah.”

      Can Dr. Macneil affirm any of the examples you give of what Christ accomplishes for us through his death on the cross?

    • And are all those images essential? Suppose someone were to reject the family image, would he or she be regarded as orthodox? lf someone said, “I believe Jesus died for me, but I reject the doctrine of adoption,” could we consecrate that person as a bishop? And if not, why would the doctrine of penal substitution be up for grabs?

  11. Bishop Ian, thank you for coming and commenting here.

    I’m afraid I have to confess to being slightly confused since your original statement said,

    Most important, the matters you take issue with are not first order matters of Christian faith and teaching.

    If, of course, you mean to say that affirming Penal Substitution is not a first order matter then that would be a topic of some debate for our readers.

    Bishop Rick Lewers was quite clear in his statement,

    My own position on the issue of substitutionary atonement is that to deny penal substitutionary atonement would be to reject a plain reading of the Scriptures which I believe would seriously impoverish the richness of the atoning work of Christ and its comfort for every believer.

    To many of our readers that certainly looks “first order” but you clearly differ. Hence the title of this piece – there are massive differences being exposed over this matter and the enormous level of interest these pieces are receiving is an indication of how seriously many are taking this.

    • Bishop Peter Stuart of Newcastle Diocese took an interesting stand, “sitting on the fence”, recently invoking the old Lambeth defence of Gamaliel in refusing to discipline Revd Rod Bower against his Progressive Christianity teachings, which have included denying the Resurrection of the Body of Christ, denying the Ascension, and denying the Virgin Birth. For the Bishop, both views of the Resurrection, both traditional Orthodoxy, and Progressive, are equally acceptable. Clearly for this Bishop as well, one’s view of PSA is secondary.

  12. One solution that would give Stuart Robinison’s position some teeth would be that he could ask Sarah to publicly repudiate her views on these matters and explain why her thinking on the atonement and human sexuality has changed to reflect an orthodox Anglican position.

    Stuart could make his participation in her consecration contingent on this happening.

    For me, this alone would dispel the very distinct image of Sarah making the promises at the consecration with her fingers crossed behind her back. However, the proof of the pudding would be in the eating as they say.

    Do I think this is likely? With God all things are possible.

    • Excellent suggestion Cameron. It is interesting that the Bishop-elect has so far refused to reply to David Ould’s approaches. What does the Bishop have to hide ?

  13. David. Considering that the Apostle Paul (The apostle to the Gentile Church) never taught the Gentile Church P.S.A in the way we have pierced it together.) And its teaching is not clearly taught in the NT within a systematic framework. Though I acknowledge its got a systematic validity.

    How can you say that PSA is a first order matter.. when it seems to a plain reading of Scripture that it was sufficient for the Apostles not to teach how the atonement works.. rather for them, they taught the atonement did work,

    • Sorry Craig, I don’t at all accept your premise. Paul speaks clearly about this on a number of occasions. For example in Romans 3 he speaks of Jesus as the “hilasterion” – a clear pointer to the substitutionary tabernacle and temple sacrifices ( in particular Yom Kippur). He speaks of Christ being made sin for us, of being cursed in our place etc etc.

        • I would argue that PSA is the bedrock on which any other valid theory of the atonement is built.

          Unless Christ has turned aside God’s wrath, where is the power in his victory? How does he redeem us unless the price has been paid? Of what use is moral influence if we are still destined to suffer the just penalty for our sins?

          Other theories may give us being degrees of insight into what Christ has accomplished, but without PSA underpinning them, they are little more than wishful thinking.

          • Morris’ article concludes: “So we need all the vivid concepts: redemption, propitiation, justification, and all the rest. And we need all the theories. Each draws attention to an important aspect of our salvation and we dare not surrender any.”

            What started this discussion was the observation that the incoming Bishop of Grafton /has/ apparently surrendered at least one of these views, and that, moreover — even if it isn’t laid out in bullet points in an appendix to Romans, or debated and pronounced on by one of the early Church Councils — it is still one of the official doctrines of the Anglican church

            How can denying the substitutionary atonement, which is undeniably taught in Scripture (even if you argue it’s not the only valid theory), be consistent with holding such a position?

            Sadly, Sarah Macneil is far from the first to be appointed aa Bishop while either denying orthodox views, or holding explicitly unorthodox ones. As I commented back near the start of the thread, the time for action was a generation ago (or more). Despite some pockets of excellence, I fear that the Anglican church as a whole has already passed the point of no return on this road.

            • The Councils met primarily over disputed matters. What you can conclude, then, is that the atonement was never disputed like the incarnation. What you can’t conclude is that it was not considered first order.

            • That’s nonsense, craig. There’s plenty of people who have demonstrated a robust understanding of PSA from the 2nd century on. Ovey/Sach etc. and others have more than covered this.

          • David. I do understand that. My point is that is disingenuous to say that anyone who struggles with PSA or holds to another theory of atonement, denies the atonement.

            As Bruce said, Romans 10:9 says nothing about having to understand how the atonement works.

            • No-one’s actually saying that, Craig. The issue here is that a prospective bishop is denying a clear Biblical teaching. And one that other bishops indicate is vital for Christian assurance

              • David. Does Scripture say that an understanding of PSA is vital for assurance?

                Also I can’t find that the articles actually mention PSA within them.

                And it does seem that within the various discussions around this Bishop that PSA is being held as a matter of first order concern.

          • David. What was I to make of your comment here.

            “No-one’s actually saying that, Craig. The issue here is that a prospective bishop is denying a clear Biblical teaching. And one that other bishops indicate is vital for Christian assurance”

            You said that other bishops indicate that PSA is vital for Christian assurance. Either it is, or it isn’t. I am getting confused.

          • Why this insistence on “First order” issues and what is the minimum set of beliefs you might reasonably expect a recent convert to give their assent?

            We are talking about a BISHOP here. Someone who is supposed to uphold and teach _all_ the doctrines of the church? Or have I fundamentally misunderstood the role of a Bishop?

            I think this further evidences the hole into which Anglicanism has dug itself, and continues to dig vigorously. Once you divide doctrines into “core beliefs” and “secondary issues” you set a dangerous precedent, and, unless you /very clearly/ define the scope of what might or might not be classed as a secondary issue, you will find that over time, doctrines diffuse from the core outwards.

          • The GAFCON “Jerusalem Declaration” refers to secondary issues, so these already in people’s thinkings, but these can be thought of as issues outside of the 39 Articles. For example, the role of women in ordained ministry is not generally as a salvation issue, and hence is “secondary”. Various Bishops around the Communnion, and also around GAFCON have various views on this topic.

            But in general, you are right on the money, that Bishops should be in much more accord about the pure Gospel, They are not, and Anglicanism is indeed digging itself into a big big hole.

        • David. Yes Bishops do say many things. 🙂 I have no qualms about rebuking her regarding her views on sexuality. But, your article also censures her about the atonement.

          And that is the area I am asking for clarification about. So far you have no proven that we can censure her on her views of the atonement as I am yet to read any evidence she denies Romans 10:9.

          It does seem to me that your main concern regarding the atonement is that she doesn’t hold to the particular theory of PSA,

          Regarding the statement I quoted before about Christian assurance.. do you believe that only PSA gives Christians the assurance they are saved?

          • If the Bishop-elect fully supports her episcopal vows (yet to be made), she will baptise and confirm those according to the appropriate Rites. Whilst PSA is presumed, at least in broad concept, it is not specifically mentioned in any Anglican liturgy I am aware of, ever. But on the other hand, the phrase “Christ died for ME” comes to mind readily. Perhaps we are getting a little lost in the wood from the trees ? I believe and support PSA, But if someone says, Christ died for me, and I believe in Jesus and want to follow him, that is all I need to baptise.

            • Craig, you know you shift the goal posts so often that it would be nice once in a while if you gave the rest of us the time to even put them in the ground before you jump on to the next straw man or red herring

          • Simple answer to that one Craig. Romans 4:25 specifically shows the link between atonement (KJV “…who was delivered for our offences…”) with the resurrection belief Romans 10:9 (“…and was raised again, for our justification…”).

            See for a good summary on this …

            http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/westerlund_carl/Rom/Rom100_Ch10vs9_13.cfm

            You cannot divorce PSA from Romans 10:9, its just kind of all rolled up in one, by declaring Jesus is Lord but in particular believing in the resurrection, one automatically is acknowledging atonement as a stepping stone to justification, even if it is not specifically named and full understood … like the thief on the cross … he just relied on the KISS principle …

            Bishops, on the other hand, especially Diocesan Bishops, need to do much better and can rightly be expected to be in a far stronger belief system than the thief on the cross because of their studies and experience. So, a Bishop should advocate PSA to be made a Bishop, which is where David is voicing his concerns.

            It does indeed seem that should this Bishop be consecrated, she will very closely watched for what she says, and how she acts. She should also be prayed for, as indeed all Bishops should, for God’s blessings and wisdom.

            If the consecrating senior Bishop Robinson has examined the Bishop-elect and is prima-facie concluded that he is satisfied, it may be a matter of waiting, watching and praying for the new Bishop-elect.

            One thing for sure, is that it seems most unsatisfactory that the Bishop-elect refuses to engage is this most important debate. Its not a good look. Its a small target strategy, less for critics to aim at. I believe it it would be best for the Bishop-elect to be more forthcoming and engaging.

            • Thanks Bruce. Understanding PSA through Romans 4:25 depends on how that passage is translated.

              It could be translated “For our sins” or it could be translated “Because of our sins.”

              It’s easy to characterize those who don’t hold to PSA as being theological and bionically illiterate. (I’m not saying that is happening here,) Others who hold to a different understanding of the atonement – do have a robust theological understanding as to why they hold it.

        • Craig, I’m guessing you haven’t read God’s inspired Word through the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 15:3 …) a passage widely (systematically) and specifically supported across the NT?

      • What happens if this usage by Paul in Romans 3 of a “substitutionary tabernacle” is using Jewish Yom Kippur imagery on the surface to support the underlying pagan motif of a “Dying and Rising”God / King? Whose “substitutionary death” (celebrated each year at Yuletide) releases both his land and his subjects from a curse and lifts a blight from the land.

        It has also radically subverted the doctrine expressed in the TaNaK of Yeshua’s death as being an example of “Love as as trong as Death” and Yeshua’s claim to be able to raise himself from the dead. It also creates a split in the Trinity between Yeshua’s death and resurrection, on the presumed “atonement” basis of “Eloi Eloi lama sabbacthani”.

        In any case, here Paul shows complete ignorance of when Yeshua actually died: it was on Pesak (14 Nisan), not Yom Kippur (10 Tishri).

        Here we have a classic example of ex-post-facto revisioning in theology – working backwards from Anselm, and interpreting earlier material in the light of Anselm, and in a manner such as to create a supposedly “Biblical” doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.

        I suggest that we try this experiment – just a hypothetical, if you please: exclude Paul from being a supposedly “Biblical” authority, and then see the degree of difficulty in imposing the penal substitutionary atonement theory on non-Pauline NT literature. Use PaRDeS Jewishly (and without a retrospective Anselmian hermeneutic) and see if penal substitution easily fits?

  14. I think it would be true to say, that the repentant thief on the Cross, now with Christ in Paradise, knew Jesus was dying for him, when he said to Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom. I am not sure that we can say that for this person, on a death bed conversion situation, the intricasies of PSA are an essential first order belief … Romans 10:9 gives us first order beliefs.

  15. What does BCP Baptism Confirmation Liturgy ask ? I dont recall anything about PSA.

    This is what I see:

    In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
    To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him.
    Therefore I ask:
    Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
    I reject them.
    Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
    I renounce them.
    Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God
    and neighbour?
    I repent of them.
    Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
    I turn to Christ.
    Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
    I submit to Christ.
    Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
    I come to Christ.

    Christ claims you for his own.
    Receive the sign of his cross.
    The bishop may invite their sponsors to sign the candidates with the
    sign of the cross. When all the candidates for baptism have been signed,
    the bishop says to them
    Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
    All Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ
    against sin, the world and the devil,
    and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.
    May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness,
    restore in you the image of his glory,
    and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ.
    All Amen.
    Or, when there are no candidates for baptism, he may say
    May God, who has given you the desire to follow Christ,
    give you the strength to continue in the Way.
    All Amen.

    • “Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?… Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.”

      No, not a detailed statement of PSA. But reliance upon Christ as Saviour, placing faith in what he uniquely accomplished on the cross. Very far from “finding wholeness by interacting with God’s suffering servant” or whatever the vague language of the Macneil sermon put forth.

      The core issue keeps coming back to whether Christ is simply a good example (which plays inexorably into the argument that Jesus is just a myth or symbol) or whether he is the Saviour who has once and for all accomplished for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves.

    • That is an excellent question. However, even GAFCON and TJD allow for this to be a secondary issue. I do not see the ordaining of a woman to Priest or Bishop as a salvation issue per say.

      (That is, I can believe in PSA, sign TJD in all conscience, and be saved, even if I believe in consecrating women Bishops – some would argue that such a view is not a consistent approach to scripture … but women in authority in Anglicanism is a defendable position .. the human head of the Anglican Church is currently the Queen for example, who always wears a hat in Church 🙂 … )

      The main thrust of David’s concerns is the primacy of salvation level (first order) issues in the orthodoxy or otherwise of the theology of this Bishop-elect, so I believe the female ordination question is not for this debate.

      Two existing Bishops have already expressed their view by refusing to attend including ++Glenn

    • Romans 10:9 was not written when the penitent Thief on the Cross died. Nor was PSA, as best as we can tell, crystalised in the great clarity that we have today, with the benefit of Paul and two millenia of reflecting and meditating. Romans 10:9, confessing Jesus as Lord, and believing in one’s heart in the Resurrection, do in the end sum up and complete and fulfil PSA, sure. Thats already been pointed out in the post about Romans 4:25 and others …

  16. This discussion is getting a little silly. “What saith the Scriptures?”

    2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

    3 For what I received I passed on to you as of FIRST IMPORTANCE: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor, 15:2-4)

    • PSA: “…Christ dies for our sins .. was buried … was raised ” == FIRST IMPORTANCE … Amen … thank you Lord Jesus …thank you so much for all you have done for each of us … :Praise the Lord

  17. I think you are all being too smart for your own good. The woman is being handed a poisoned chalice – I mean!!!! – have you considered the history of the Grafton diocese?? From Shearman on, if not before? Why we still attended church there beats me! You seem to have lost sight of lovingkindness and where there is none of that I always wonder what spirit is actually operating. Since seeing the child abuse enquiry and the person who tried to bully me, I have had enough of Anglican worship and rejoice in my liberation. You are welcome to your theological deliberations – God is so much bigger than that and does indeed laugh while still loving you. Simplistic, I know, but nonetheless, true!

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the commenting rules