Times Are Confusing Enough
We live in perplexing times. However, we are consistently taught in the Scriptures that this is the norm rather than the exception for us as Christians. Against the turbulence of the world, we are taught not to despair because God does not change. He is totally immutable, that is to say, unchanging in his nature. We are reminded in Malachi 3, “I the Lord do not change” and in Hebrews 13 that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Third-nine Articles begin by affirming this unchanging nature of God, “There is but one living and true God, ever- lasting, without body, parts, or passions”.
The immutability of God along with other divine attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence, should thus be reflected in the teaching and public pronouncements of those entrusted to ministry within the Church. When that does not happen, confusion results and the teachings of the Scriptures are supplanted by emotions du jour benefitting no one.
Take, for example, the defence of the Church of England made by the two Archbishops regarding the role the Church has played during the last year of the Covid-19 pandemic pandemonium. This defence appeared in The Spectator, an especially useful publication, but not the routine delivery vehicle for archepiscopal announcements. It was not framed in biblical language, but biblically-minded people would have been hard pressed to find fault with it.
“One thing is abundantly clear: the Church of England has been a bedrock of faith, love, hope and compassion in this country for centuries through wars, plagues and pandemics — we still are, and we will go on being just that.
There are rascally voices around who want to undermine the church — it was ever thus. But the real story is that we so believe in that vision of serving every inch of the country, and every person in it, that we are having to expand what it is to be the church.”
Such words as so warm and engaging that they would not have been out of place in the 1942 romantic war drama, Mrs Miniver. You could almost hear There’ll Always Be an England playing in the background when reading them.
The Archbishops appear to have been stung into action in response to criticism of the lack of visible public leadership through the crisis – ‘rascally voices’ from outside. But will they take the same stand against rascally voices undermining the church from within? The ongoing LLF discussions are being commended to the Church of England, giving a platform to those who would wish to bring a new doctrine on marriage and undermine biblical teaching on sex and sexual morality.
However, the same two archbishops also came out in support of LGBT+ History Month celebrations. It is right that all people live their lives free from hate and violence, as the Archbishops affirm. But many members of the church may well ask, why do England’s two most senior churchmen feel compelled to issue a statement commending this event at all? Why did they have to jump on this particular bandwagon?
Why not at least issue a caveat that the Church’s teaching on marriage, rooted in the mystery of the relationship of Christ and his Church, remains unchanged? Where is the challenge to our culture against reducing people, made in the image of God, to merely one ‘label’, or a string of letters? Where is the warning against encouraging people to revel in their hyphenated sexual identities du jour? Canon A5 is not a blank piece of copy paper of a particular size, rather it is an inherited body divinity containing the revealed propositional truths binding upon all clergy.
Faithful clergy and laity are left scratching or shaking their heads in disbelief. How could these two, entrusted with faithfully leading the people of Christ, be so confused? Why the mixed messages? Do their Bibles read differently than ours? Do they not remember that vow to ‘banish and drive away all strange and erroneous doctrines’ from the Service of Consecration? How can one take issue with ‘rascally voices’ from outside undermining the church, when one is echoing the ‘rascally voices’ within, undermining the church’s teaching?
Sadly, such public declarations of the two archbishops do not reflect the immutable nature of God.
Pray they might come to a better mind.