I thought it helpful just to stop and outline my motivation in writing about the current tensions in the Anglican Church in Australia and wider abroad. At times it can look like those of us who speak up are just unhelpful destroyers of unity.
So, in response, a few basic principles that are currently guiding me. I welcome your thoughts.
Principle 1 – Protest is Necessary but Gospel is Better
Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
I think the Apostolic principle here is clear. I would much rather just talk about the gospel, share the many wonderful things that Jesus has done for us and daily mine the riches of his mercy towards us. But, we need to contend for the faith. It doesn’t mean we’re not gospel people, it means that we love Jesus and the gospel so much that we will contend for the faith. Ultimately, the gospel is at stake as I am sure recent events make abundantly clear.
Principle 2 – Division Brings Clarity
1Cor. 11:19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
Even a cursory read of 1Corinthians shows that Paul is no fan of division and there should, instead, be “unity of mind and thought” (1Cor. 1:10). Nevertheless he does note that differences brings clarity and they bring clarity in the most telling way; they show who has God’s approval. Since the matter of God’s approval is obviously a very important thing we ought not to always shrink away from having these differences aired.
Principle 3 – Those that Oppose God’s Ways are the Trouble Makers
1Kings 18:17-18 When [Ahab] saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’
‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.’
I’ve written about this before. Again, the principle is entirely obvious. Ahab is a terrible leader of God’s people and leading them in apostasy. He rebukes Elijah for causing trouble. If only Elijah had kept his voice down then there would be no disunity and no trouble. But Elijah puts him straight; the trouble makers are those who oppose the Lord’s commands and follow other gods. Therefore we reject the charge that we are causing trouble, rather we are pointing out those who cause trouble.
Principle 4 – The Leaders in the Church have an Solemn Obligation to deal with False Teaching
1Tim. 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer
Titus 1:9 [The overseer] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Are you ready to drive away all false and strange doctrine which is contrary to God’s word; and privately and publicly to call upon and encourage others to do likewise?
I am, the Lord being my helper
The Scriptures are clear that the role of leader in the church includes the duty to deal properly with false teaching, driving it away and banishing it from all those places where we have responsibility. Anglican Bishops, naturally, promise to do so in their consecration vows. When leaders do not discharge this duty they allow false teaching to fester and pollute the church like the most aggressive and pernicious of gangrenes. They allow a false gospel which simply cannot save to be promoted. Where our bishops do not deal with false teaching they end up being complicit in it and ought to be held accountable.
Jesus wasn’t messing around when He said,
Luke 12:47-48 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
We increasingly seeing evidence in the Anglican Church of Australia not just of false teaching but, even worse, it’s toleration. This simply cannot continue but it will unless we speak up and respectfully ask our bishops to take a stand. But that means taking a stand ourselves.