The Most Revd and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury does not have an easy job. He is the Primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion. We are now told that means 85,000,000 people look to him as the first among equals within the leadership ranks of the Anglican branch of the Christian faith. No one in their right mind would want such a burden. However, the burden is his and what he does in the office matters. It matters a lot to millions around the world.
We are loathe to criticise someone with such a burden but sometimes bishops, even archbishops, just do not understand their errors. We hope the error, which originates at least from within Lambeth Palace, if not from within the Archbishop’s private office and will be biblically addressed.
Case in point, the Archbishops of the Provinces of Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda have written a public letter saying they will not attend the upcoming Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. Why? Because bishops who have embraced and engaged in revisionist teachings on human sexuality are invited to attend and being treated as members in good standing. In turn, the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a public statement whereby he calls their actions, “unbiblical.”
Perhaps someone in Lambeth Palace would possess enough basic Bible knowledge to understand that the three Archbishops are not committing a sin but rather committing not to sin by attending?
What do we mean?
The Apostle Paul was familiar with the fact that Churches struggle with sexual immorality within its ranks. It is nothing new. It has always been a facet of church life. Then, as now, the great majority of the sexual sin was heterosexual—just more of them—than homosexual. All people are sinners and sinners sin and sexual sin has always been a factor.
So, in 1 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul instructs the Christians to exclude themselves from fellowshipping with those professing to be Christians but engaging in sexual immorality and other open sins. Archbishop Welby’s willingness to warmly welcome bishops in same-sex relationships flies in the face of unambiguous apostolic instruction.
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not to even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church who you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
What we have in effect is the Primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion telling the Primates of three separate provinces (containing half of all Anglicans) that they are being unbiblical by following an apostolic approach to handling open sin. Is it too harsh to recall the words of Isaiah 5:20? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil …”
We think not.
No, Archbishop, your fellow Archbishops are not being unbiblical by staying away. Rather, they are following an expressly New Testament way of addressing open sin. Other, orthodox bishops, may attend but exclude fellowship from those bishops who would re-write the Bible to suit their sin. However, by staying away, the African archbishops are leaving no doubt that they will not bow to the spirit of the age. May we all be servants of the Word as are they!