Australian Anglicans: Who Do You Serve?
Where to now for Anglicanism in Australia?
The conservative Sydney diocese of the Australian Anglican Church has been dealt a blow by renegade bishops on the issue of homosexual marriage. The bishops rejected a statement on the matter by a vote of 12 to 10. The statement affirmed biblical teaching on the issue, but progressives within the church seem to think they can improve on what Scripture teaches. Three key points of the statement are these:
–The faith, ritual, ceremonial and discipline of this Church reflect and uphold marriage as it was ordained from the beginning, being the exclusive union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness, which is in accordance with the teaching of Christ that, “from the beginning the Creator made them male and female”, and in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:4-5).
-The solemnisation of a marriage between a same-sex couple is contrary to the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.
-Any rite or ceremony that purports to bless a same-sex marriage is not in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.
While the house of laity voted 63 to 47 in favour of this statement, and the house of clergy voted 70 to 39 in favour, the bishops won by exercising their veto power. One news report says this about the vote:
Australia’s Anglican bishops have thwarted an attempt by the powerful, conservative Sydney diocese to have the national church affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman, prompting dire warnings from Sydney’s archbishop that the unity of the Australian church is in peril.
The bishops voted against Sydney’s statement by 12 to 10, vetoing what would otherwise have been clear support for a rejection of gay unions from the laity and clergy at a meeting on Wednesday of the church’s general synod, a national congress of ordained and lay Anglicans.
The issue of same-sex marriage has splintered Anglican churches around the world. Any formal division in Australia could trigger an ugly showdown over who owns valuable assets, which, in Sydney, range from 200-year-old churches to sprawling schools. As the synod prepared to vote, the Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, warned that if the “unremarkable” statement affirming the traditional view of marriage did not pass, then something was “fundamentally awry”.
“The Australian church is looking to see whether the faith and practice of this church has changed,” he said. Raffel named the many international jurisdictions in which the issue had split Anglicans. “It has proved to be the case that when statements like this one have failed … then some Anglicans have found their conscience has not allowed them to continue fellowship,” he said. https://www.theage.com.au/national/nsw/fundamentally-awry-bishops-block-move-to-reject-same-sex-marriage-20220510-p5ak3d.html
I of course have been warning for decades now that such splits were inevitable once we jettison biblical teaching in favour of radical woke agendas. One such piece I entitled, “Churches Will Be Trashed When Marriage is Trashed.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/09/15/churches-will-trashed-marriage-trashed/
And I have written before about various divisions and splits within churches and denominations. The question always arises: Do the faithful stay and fight in such situations, or have things gotten so bad that leaving an apostate institution is the only viable recourse? As I said in one of those articles:
So the constant question for such groups is this: should we stay and fight the liberalism, or leave and form a new body? This is a very difficult question to answer. I suppose the short answer is to simply seek God with all one’s heart, and seek to discover what his will is in the particular situation. Presumably God will call some to remain and seek to bring the erring group back to its biblical roots. Then again, in other situations, God may call some to leave, because there is either no hope of reform, or remaining behind may result in contamination and corruption. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/03/when-churches-go-bad/
So Australian Anglicans must prayerfully and carefully weigh up their options on this. One Anglican who certainly has done so is Mark Durie, a Melbourne-based pastor and academic. He has just penned a very important piece on this vote in particular and the issue of church splits in general.
It is well worth reading in full, but here are some choice quotes from it. He notes how entrenched theological liberalism is in Western denominations:
Despite appearances, this church division is not just about sex. In One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America, American authors George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk recently argued that progressive and conservative Christians now differ so profoundly that they can no longer be considered members of the same religion. The fundamental issue is different systems of meaning. Progressives value a humanistic, post-Enlightenment ethic of social justice, downplay the idea of exclusive truth, and seek a flexible and inclusive theology. On the other hand, conservatives find their identity in obedience to a supernatural God revealed in the Bible, adhere to a historical theology which encompasses sexual ethics, and emphasise the supremacy of the Bible in forming doctrine.
He reminds us of the truth that conservative churches are growing while liberal churches are declining:
Much secular commentary has assumed that the conservative side of this divide is doomed to cultural irrelevancy and decline. In fact, the opposite is true, as theological progressivism is everywhere associated with denominational decline, while conservatives thrive. An example can be seen in North America, where the continuing Episcopal Church, which has embraced same-sex marriage, is in steep decline while the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, which maintains a conservative position, is growing rapidly.
In Australia, the contrast between theologically conservative and progressive Anglican dioceses is stark, as revealed in a 2014 General Synod report on denominational viability. At the time of the 2011 census, the conservative Dioceses of Sydney and Armidale had, respectively, 9.7% and 7.9% of census Anglicans in church on any Sunday, while progressive Brisbane and Perth managed to attract to church only 2.1% and 2.6% respectively of census Anglicans.
The current dominance of conservatives at the Australian Anglican General Synod reflects their greater success at retaining and growing their membership. For example, the Brisbane and Sydney Dioceses historically have had approximately the same number of nominal Anglicans as measured by census responses, but by 2011 conservative Sydney had more than five times the overall Anglican attendance of progressive Brisbane.
And he looks at what will happen with Australian Anglicanism:
The fundamental unit in the Australian Anglican polity is the diocese, so ultimately each diocese, together with its bishop, will have to choose its own path. Because of the ubiquitous pattern of progressive decline, it seems unlikely that progressives will ever gain numerical dominance in the General Synod, at least not in this generation. Up to this point, progressive-dominant dioceses have been exercising restraint, to varying degrees, but as they come to terms with the growing conservatism of the General Synod, their consciences will lead them to ignore or modify national Anglican protocols, first through passive resistance in church discipline, and then through open action.
He concludes with these sobering words:
A structural split in the Australian Anglican Church now seems inevitable. The ideological split is already entrenched, and will not go away. It arises from a deep clash between the values of the Enlightenment and a biblical worldview. The only question is how the schism will play out and how wastefully destructive it will be. The most sensible and forward-looking thing would be an orderly separation, with assets – both human and material – graciously and fairly divided. Yet Australian Anglicans are far from ready for this. Denial about the reality of the situation in which Australian Anglicans now find themselves seems so entrenched that the process of division will be drawn-out, acrimonious and bitter.
In any case, the eventual separation will happen, come what may. https://markdurie.com/whither-the-australian-anglican-church/
At the very least, we can ask God to protect this and other denominations from what so often seems to be inevitable rebellion, decay and apostasy.
11 Replies to “Australian Anglicans: Who Do You Serve?”
It is not as though God has not made it patently clear:-
Lev 18:24“ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled…'”
This, very clearly, is not simply Mosaic law for O.T Jews only. This plainly is something which applies to all nations as God clearly said and because the Apostles repeatedly reinforced sexual morality, it is, very obviously, part of the Apostles’ doctrine. True Christians do not continue in sin. Both the precursors of the great flood and the complete destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were sexual sin.
It simply is not loving to encourage people in their sin. The heretics idea of “who are we to judge?” is completely deceitful because they are judging that sin is okay and that God is wrong. Their judgement is wickedness and in contradiction to God whereas those who trust in what God has told us through scripture know that His judgements are right and true. The heretics don’t realise that being judged according to your judgement is a two edged sword and those who judge in opposition to God will definitely be judged accordingly.
This division in Christianity and loss of faith in God comes directly from not adhering to God’s decrees. God told us that those who engage in homosexuality were an extreme danger to us all but we have not only ignored this but have handed over the great pearls of mankind over to those who so engage – marriage, family and children. Woe unto us.
The long term decline in the Uniting Church should be a warning to all denominations about what happens when a church abandons biblical values for the church of woke.
If the “progressives” in the Anglican Church want to impose their agenda people will vote with their feet and Anglicanism will wither to nothing,
Our God is a holy God, and He will not tolerate people messing with His Bride.
Quite right Keith.
While being concerned for a long time where the leadership of the Anglican and Uniting Churches are heading, I have also noted that many of the congregation members I have met have been faithful to conservative, biblical theology. Going woke creates confusion and division – I think the unfaithful Anglican bishops have now signed the death warrant of their church within one generation (given that much of their congregations are elderly).
A Uniting Church school even had a dress purple day to show support for the LGBTQ… community and I was told of conversations that the girls in the school were having about being bisexual. This is the fruit of such liberalism. Students at such schools will be sexually immoral and confused and end up having nothing but contempt for the church and ultimately our Lord.
Some Anglican bishops and high ranking Uniting church ministers are going to have a very big millstone problem.
Exactly right Gary.
One leading indicator on the direction of a denomination is their attitude to Genesis 1-11. Indeed that is the origin of the rift between the Christian worldview and the Enlightenment. One a denomination accepts theistic evolution it is only a generation away from this sort of result. That demonstrates their attitude to the Scriptures.
Another summary of where the Australian Anglican Church is (sadly) going:
Considering the vote was overwhelmingly supported by the laity and clergy, I think “what’s next” is let time take its course.
The 12 bishops holding the Anglican church in Australia won’t be around forever. They’re all getting old and are some are fast approaching forced retirement.
There’s already been a big shift in the Anglican church in Australia toward reformed, biblical, evangelicalism. There were other resolutions which passed including a motion regarding “unchastity” being defined as sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. So it’s not all doom and gloom inside the Anglican church of Australia
I was fortunate to grow up in Sydney and came to faith there as a young man in the Anglican Church. The church has always had solid leaders usually products of Moore College. I knocked on that door a number of times but God had other plans for me! Pray for the Archbishop. Incredibly this man was born in Sri Lanka and raised as a Buddist. Sydney diocese not only stands firm on marriage but also on the respective roles of men and women. What a joy it is to attend my old parish church in Narrabeen when we are in Sydney.
On further reflection. The clergy vote was 70/39. So 39 Anglican ministers could not support the motion. That is a cause for real concern surely. John