The current situation in the Church of England proves to me several things:
Double Standards at work amongst leaders
Evangelical church leaders (in the Anglican communion certainly) are often prepared to live with homosexuals in the church and in positions of leadership – until they themselves are directly affected i.e. there have been openly gay church members and openly gay clergy for years. It’s only now with the prospect of gay bishops that the crisis has come to a head.
As an example of this dynamic, you remember there was more fuss about women elders than there was about women ministers, as in the latter case male ministers weren’t directly affected in their own congregations.
The Lord does not bless double standards.
I fear that those within institutions who have a higher regard for their own agendas and personal security than they have for the Truth will most always – in institutional terms - win (to which Martin Luther and Thomas Chalmers will no doubt testify).
It has been argued (as we know, and to support the ‘press on to bring reform from within’ viewpoint) that there are more evangelicals [in the C of S - Ed.] now than there were some years ago. But all this has done is to create the crisis which we now see. (If the composition of the Kirk were all liberal gays, there would be no problem and no crisis: everyone would be happy – except the Lord of course).
Truth is the victim
There is (it would often seem) even amongst evangelical ranks in our own set up a greater desire to protect the cohesion of the institution than to preserve Truth. Of course the good old C of S is by no means unique in this regard and there have been compromises across the denominational spectrum down through the ages and to this day designed to keep institutions intact.
One third departs
In any institutional crisis there are most often 3 camps (and we see this in our own denominaton) viz.
(i) reformers who are prepared to break away;
(ii) reformers who (mis-guidedly in my opinion) think that they can restore the institution to biblical integrity and
(iii) those (liberals) who have no care for biblical fidelity but who will stay within the institution (in order to further their agenda) and corrupt it from within (and we know what the Bible says about a little leaven.)
In this scenario, the Reformers who break away can only (on a rough analysis) count on a minority (say a third) to leave with them. It is said that Chalmers regretted that the actions of that day split the church. (The great imponderable is whether he would have led the way from the Assembly Hall if he had known the consequences.)
Compromise and corruption
Supposing that Jeffrey John was a self-professed gay, yet claiming to live a celibate life on his own, but also teaching that homosexuality was a legitimate lifestyle, how would we handle that? There are ministers in pulpits who are preaching social gospels and question the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Yet we allow them to continue.
The Apostate Church
To me the whole thing is just pointing up hypocrisies, double standards and a failure to exercise a Godly discipline within the church as a whole. But the much bigger question (in my opinion) is whether the way we operate is biblical at all. And perhaps God is bringing judgement down on the whole shambles. Of course our Bibles tell us that there will be a great apostasy and, in this context there will always be institutionalised Christian-based churchianity, but it will be devoid of the Spirit. So where does that leave us?
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
Comment from Reform on Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, being nominated for the post of bishop of Southwark:
“Dr John’s teaching regarding homosexual practice is contrary to both the Bible and to the current doctrine of the Church of England. To appoint him Bishop would send two very clear signals. First that the diocese of Southwark wants to walk in a different direction to the Church of England’s doctrine. Second that there is now little to stop the Church of England proceeding in the same divisive direction as the Episcopal Church in the USA . We would support churches in Southwark seeking alternative oversight should Dr John be appointed.”