I am not one to comment on the affairs of Episcopalians as a rule. The issue of whether women can be bishops in the Church of England is one that I honestly could not care less about. This is not because I do not have an opinion on the question of complementarianism. (Word would like me to change that to ‘complement Arianism’. I would rather not complement Arianism if it is quite alright. Santa has the right reaction to that particular nonsense.) It is rather for the simple reason that as a plain and simple Baptist I do not think there should be bishops of any gender. Or for that matter a Church of England. Still ‘the best laid plans’ and all – there was one thing I heard on the matter that made me think perhaps I would mention it after all. That being a quotation from Sir Tony Baldry MP:
“If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it has to reflect the values of the nation.”
Hmm. That is an interesting statement.
Here are another couple of statements:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
John 17:14-15 ESV
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 ESV
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV
That first one of course is from Jesus, the second two from Paul. So Sir Tony says that to be a national church the CofE must embrace national values. God says to be a church you have to be prepared to reject national values. Sir Tony may disagree but I rather think that the Apostle is more qualified to speak on the church than an MP is.
If the Anglican Church just ‘gets on with the program’ and does what the Prime Minister, Sir Tony, and just about every other grumpy journalist or news presenter wants them to and embrace ‘national values’ then it will quite frankly cease to be a Church. For all we may debate the theology behind it the fact remains. You can have a church with female Bishops in it. What you can’t have is a church with female Bishops in it because the Prime Minister says so. Or because the Guardian says so, or anyone else. The only reason to do anything as a church is because Jesus says so. That is the definition of a church – the body of Christ. Just as my body does not just automatically do what a passing stranger says, but rather does what I say. So the body of Christ does not what the world says but rather what Jesus says.
Any Church which has ceased to take Jesus’ word seriously is no church at all. At very best it is a notional church. Church in theory, church by name but call it what you want it is not a church. The same problem faces the Church of Scotland and the whole mess here.
Christians do not agree on whether there should be a national church. But I think we all agree that being a notional church is a bad idea. Consider the word of Jesus to that church in Sardis which held to him in name only:
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Revelation 3:1-6 ESV
There are indeed still a few names in the CofE and the CoS who “have not soiled their garments” and God be praised Jesus yet holds out the opportunity for reconciliation. Hear those words! Hear the challenge and rise to it.
“Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
I have no great affection for the idea of a national church but oh I do pray that they would yet wake up. Wake up and face reality, wake up and follow the real head of the church. A rose has fallen from our chaplet, we who were called to stand against this. All of us, from every denomination, have been sleeping instead of fighting. But oh especially the national church, how far it has fallen. As the hymn says:
“As we have slept, this nation has been taken
By every sin ever known to man
So at its gates, though burnt by fire and broken
In Jesus' name we come to take our stand”
But we must not despair. The very verse before that in the hymn says it well:
“Your church once great, though standing clothed in sorrow
Is even still the bride that You adore
Revive Your church, that we again may honour
Our God and King, our Master and our Lord”
I used to think that would be better if it said ‘as we again do honour’. But that gets it all wrong, the original is indeed best. We can't do this. God needs to remake the church so that by his grace we can wake up, strengthen this dying church and do our duty. Not as a notional church but as a national church in the best sense of that phrase. A church that stands before God among the nation. A church that stands, seeking and longing and working to bring this nation, our nation, to God. A church that stands for the nation but not like the nation.
Let us be the church again.
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
<<Hooray I’m back to writing again after a busy summer and a busy term and a crazily busy exam period. This piece may have wandered a bit, I’ll try and tidy it up later. Anyway, I have a website now: http://assistantpigkeeper.weebly.com. It is basically there for the sake of organisation, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet. Current plan is to use this as more of a blog and tidy up some of the older posts for an articles section on the site. Who knows.>>