Stand Firm are reporting that the Anglican church in Nigeria have just had a brief synod where they issued a communique.
Lots to be said, but this is the interesting section:
The 2008 Lambeth Conference
The Synod reaffirms its earlier resolutions on the 2008 Lambeth Conference and stands firmly on the recommendations of the document, âœThe Road to Lambeth,â as a condition for our participation in this gathering.
The report, “The Road to Lambeth” was received by the Primates of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa) last September and now affirmed here by the Province of Nigeria. The punch comes right at the end and I thought it was worth looking at, not only because of the strength of the language but also because of the faithful way scripture was being used. Here’s the opening paragraph …
The Anglican Communion is at a crossroads. The idea of a crossroads â“ a meeting and parting of two ways â“ is woven into the fabric of Scripture. The people of Israel is confronted with the choice of ways â“ the way of the Covenant or the way of idolatry â“ and more often than not choose the latter (Jeremiah 6:16). So too Jesus describes a narrow road that leads to life and a broad avenue to perdition (Matthew 7:13). Hence the church must choose to walk in the light and turn from the darkness of sin and error (1 John 1:6-7).
These are all fascinating texts. Their common theme is that they address those who “gather around” Jesus or claim to follow Him but, by virtue of their actions, demonstrate that He is not their Lord.
So, Jeremiah 6 sees Jeremiah predicting the siege of Jerusalem. The people are unrepentant.
Jeremiah 6:16 The LORD said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!” 17 The LORD said, “I appointed prophets as watchmen to warn you, saying: ‘Pay attention to the warning sound of the trumpet!'” But they said, “We will not pay attention!”
18 So the LORD said, “Hear, you nations! Be witnesses and take note of what will happen to these people. 19 Hear this, you peoples of the earth: ‘Take note! I am about to bring disaster on these people. It will come as punishment for their scheming. For they have paid no attention to what I have said, and they have rejected my law. 20 I take no delight when they offer up to me frankincense that comes from Sheba or sweet-smelling cane imported from a faraway land. I cannot accept the burnt offerings they bring me. I get no pleasure from the sacrifices they offer to me.’ 21 So, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will assuredly make these people stumble to their doom. Parents and children will stumble and fall to their destruction. Friends and neighbors will die.’
In Jeremiah’s day the apostasy was punished with Exile. The people of God were removed from all indications of God’s presence. They couldn’t go on pretending that all was well, going through their religious observances.
It’s a brilliant choice of texts, spot on for the current crisis.
Next they call on Matthew 7, from the close of the Sermon on the Mount. What’s interesting about the Sermon is that it opens with
Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…
So there are lots of people interested in Jesus for varying reasons. He withdraws to a mountain (an oblique reference to His divinity) and begins to teach. It is, therefore, in His teaching that we will learn what it truly means to follow Him. Of course, the text that CAPA chose is one of choice – which house to build?
Matthew 7:24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!” 28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 27 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law.
The langauge of the flood is clear here – it is all about the final judgement. And surviving that awful day depends on one thing only – hearing (which in the bible has the conotation of both listening and obeying) the words of Jesus – something that TEC has increasingly refused to do. The warning is clear.
On to 1John 1:6-7. This one is stand alone.
1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Again, we have the language of walking. As a pastor of mine once said “it’s no good talking the talk if you don’t walk the walk.
A later paragraph also draws heavily on the same theme.
We in CAPA want to say clearly and unequivocally to the rest of the Communion: the time has come for the North American churches to repent or depart. We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation and resumption of fellowship in the Communion. We shall not accept cleverly worded excuses but rather a clear acknowledgement by these churches that they have erred and âœintend to lead a new lifeâ in the Communion (2 Corinthians 4:2). Along with this open statement of repentance must come âœfruits befitting repentanceâ (Luke 3:8). They must reverse their policies and prune their personnel.
Again, two brilliant choices of text.
2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. 2 But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God.
The church in Corinth is molested by “Super-Apostles”. They denounce the Apostle Paul’s minstry and theology as foolish and impotent. Fancy going on about the cross!!! That’s so AD30’s! Time to get with the more modern programme. It’s nothing more than deceptiveness and outright distortion of the word of God.
But the kicker comes in the last text, Luke 3:8. Throughout his gospel Luke develops a theme of the rejection of the Jews as the people of God. They are presumptuous about their status but they continue in disobedience. The arrival of the Messiah serves only to crystallise their rebellion. Luke 3 demonstrates this in abundance.
Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan River, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low, and the crooked will be made straight, and the rough ways will be made smooth, 6 and all humanity will see the salvation of God.'”
7 So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The nation of Israel is in a terrible state. They have three men as their kings, Herod, Philip and Lysanius, who were about as un-kosher as it gets. They were ruled over by pagans. They were, effectively, still in Exile – it’s just that the Babylonians had been replaced by others.
Into this situation comes the words of Isaiah 40 – a word spoken to the original Exiles, calling them to repentance for the sins that had brought them out to Babylon in the first place. And yet, when John the Baptist looks around, all he sees as hypocrites. The referent is clearly still Isaiah:
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. 4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. 5 They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
The bishops of Nigeria learnt how to allude to scripture from John.
The people coming to John aren’t actually serious – they’re not producing fruit. They’re people of regret, not repentance. They lie to the law courts. They claim that their heritage is enough. “Look at us, we’re Anglicans! What right do you have to tell us we’re not ok?
Perhaps today John would have drawn from the words of Prophet Gump: “Anglican is as Anglican does”. And you guys ain’t Anglican.
The church in Nigeria, knows what it wants. It has a proper zeal for the purity of God’s church that The Episcopal Church has for too long compromised. Time to lay the ax to the root of the tree. It’s going to be some serious pruning.
Leave a Reply