Not once but often in the Bible we are told that God repents. Not that he committed sin and then turned from it. Rather, that he intended a certain action against his covenant people and then he turned away from that action because of a change in them or because he decided to exercise mercy and forgiveness, when they did not deserve such. In such repenting, we believe that God maintained his holiness and righteousness wholly intact and pure. The fact that God repents is a reflection of the dynamic relation between his justice and grace for, as the Almighty, he is simultaneously the Judge and the merciful One. [For texts see Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.]
So, if God can and does change his mind and his intended action, why cannot the ECUSA (which after all is much less than God) also repent, that is, change its corporate and collective mind and then its action. Why cannot this corporate body do a U-turn and seek to return to the narrow way that leads unto Life?
In diocesan conventions and in the national convention the Bishops, clergy and lay leaders are able (but only as inspired and assisted by the grace and mercy of God) to change their collective mind both with respect to its internal working paradigm and in relation to a series of innovations introduced in recent times.
Romans 12:2 speaks of the renewing of the mind of the Body of Christ (“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”) and once this Holy-Spirit assisted process is begun then repentance – change of mind and of direction with appropriate emotions exercised – can begin, and not merely for the introduction of same-sex blessings, but also for other serious departures from the revealed will and commandments of God. After all, the introduction of same-sex blessings was the most recent of a series of clear departures by the ECUSA from biblical and historic Christianity and Anglican Faith & Order.
Let us hear Revelation 2: 5, “Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
It is difficult to think of such a Revival in modern times descending from heaven upon a “liberal denomination” in a vast supermarket of religions which is the U.S.A. and causing its leadership to heartily engage in a U-turn towards that which has been previously rejected. But with God all things are possible, even if not probable.
It is much easier to think of a liberal denomination such as the ECUSA deciding for political and religious reasons to express regret that its actions have caused offence to others in the Anglican Family, and to do so without engaging in a real U-turn of repentance but rather by calling a halt to further innovation (at least for the present time, until the crisis is over) and seeking to be “nice” to everyone around.
However, Repentance – real change of mind and heart – rather than mere regret is necessary by the ECUSA leadership because it has knowingly and deliberately moved so far away from the revealed will of God for his Church and has rejoiced in that departure and apostasy. (Let us also not forget that everyone within the ECUSA is affected by this apostasy, even those who protest against it, for it is a shared cancer within the one body.)
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon All Saints’ Eve, 2004