Are genuine regret & repentance possible for a liberal Church that is in a constant state of innovation? Or is there a permanent Bondage of the Will?
a discussion starter from Peter Toon
The Communiqué of the Primates of February 24 assumes that it is possible for the North American Anglican Churches to change their ways and to undo the innovations, especially in sexual morality and practice, introduced by them after due process in recent days in their synods.
Individual Primates have added to this assumption by stating that these Churches need also to repent, and should do so, for what they have approved and what they practice, are sinful before God and offensive to the Catholic Church of God.
The internal ECUSA “Communion Network” headed by the Bishop of Pittsburgh also appears to believe that the ECUSA can change and recent legislation can be rescinded and a new way ahead forged – and so does the Essentials Movement of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In all four cases, it is assumed that there is no (to quote the title of a famous book by Luther) powerful “Bondage of the Will,” which binds the leadership and major participants in the ECUSA to their present ways, objectives and aims. (See Romans 7.)
We need to be fully aware that the history of American main-line/old-line denominations shows that once they begin to walk in the path of liberalism and of rejecting inherited patterns of worship, doctrine and discipline, they continue in this direction and do not engage in U-turns. The movement may be slowed down, a moratorium may be called for a period, but the departure from orthodoxy and orthopraxis always continue. That is, there appears to be a collective bondage of the will whereby those engaged in this movement are only able to go in one direction and one direction only – away from historic orthodoxy. This movement has been given extra fuel in modern times by absorption of the basic tenets of the human rights movement.
Reforming groups within these old-line/main-line denominations have found it necessary to leave in order to continue to stand for the worship, doctrine and discipline that they believe belongs to their tradition, as that is based upon the Bible and Reformation Confessions of Faith. Thus in the U.S.A., there is a variety of denominations of Presbyterian, Lutheran, Congregationalist, Methodist and Baptist lineage who have left their parent Church to begin all over again.
Perhaps The Network within ECUSA has not considered the facts of American denominationalism and how things work out in the supermarket of religions. Perhaps the leaders believe, on the basis of encouraging statements from Primates, that the situation will be different in the Episcopalian tradition than others and that the ECUSA will be turned around, at least sufficiently to get rid of the sexual innovations.
If it be the case, through Holy Ghost intervention breaking bondage and giving spiritual and moral freedom, that the ECUSA begins to regret and to repent, it is highly likely that genuine repentance once begun will cover much more than setting aside the sexual innovations. For, since the 1960s the ECUSA has been on a path towards apostasy.
Thus real repentance will mean a major change of mind and heart and the willingness to undo much legislation and canon law, even as the historic Formularies and genuine worship of the Father through the Son with the Holy Spirit are restored. As The Network is set within this context it too will surely also need to engage in the same repentance and accept the true basis of the Anglican Way (a basis eroded by the ECUSA since the 1960s), for at the moment The Network is committed to much of the innovations since the 1960s. (And of course this repentance is also required of the extra-mural Anglican churches which have taken the faults of ECUSA with them!)
What must be distasteful and repulsive to the angels in heaven as they behold our ways, is the totally confused and disordered state of those who, either inside the ECUSA or outside it, claim to the faithful Anglicans. The movements in 2005 towards a unified witness and front are few and their power weak in comparison with the movements towards disintegration and the creation of little jurisdictions here and there! Centrifugal forces are far stronger than Centripetal ones! This is not a good witness to the Lord who prayed for unity for His Church and to His Father with whom all things are possible that are according to His will.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 4, 2005
See this response to my short essay above. It is from a devout & learned R C man who used to be an Anglican priest. I certainly agree that we need a rational critique of the cult of democracy as well as of the unending agenda of "rights" within forms of democracy.
There are, I think, two related factors that powerfully contribute to the present
'bondage of the will" : the double mindedness of most Christians, and the fact that one of their two loyalties is a form of irrational fundamentalism.
The vast majority of Christians nowadays are in a situation of dual loyalty: a loyalty to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and a loyalty to the modern experiment in Liberal Democracy. Liberal Democracy shares a key characteristic with practically every other modern ideology (e.g., Nazism and other forms of national socialism such as Baathism, or the many forms of Marxism) in that it that places ultimate sovereignty---something that properly can belong to a supreme God alone---in the "will of the People": never mind that the people, being an abstraction and not a person, cannot properly be said to have a will. Democracy has become the secular orthodoxy, deviation from which is simply not tolerated: third-world dictators nowadays at least pay lip service to it, and the Communist Chinese, the Soviet Union, and even Hitler claim or claimed their system to be "true democracy". Democracy is no longer simply a form of government as Churchill assumed---if indeed it ever was---it is the religion of the modern world, the unrestrained cult of the Liberty and Equality of the People, its various versions differing depending of which of these false gods is given greater weight and how they are defined.
Furthermore its principles are a kind of fundamentalism: that is they are "fundamentals" which are beyond question and not open to rational analysis---hence the irrational tone of much political discourse, especially, though not exclusively, on the left. Not only are Christians double-minded, but like their secular neighbors most of them are also fundamentalists when it comes to Democracy. As for repentance, if someone is not open to rational argument, then there is a serious bondage of the will, and this is further complicated when those who are calling him to repentance suffer in part from the same disease.
I would note that even the present Holy Father has on occasion fallen into this trap with regard to Democracy, though it appears that the recent assaults on the Church and marriage by the Western democracies is causing him to rethink his former endorsement of Democracy.
In order to address this problem there needs to be a two-pronged approach:
(1) a rational critique of the cult of Democracy, including an elucidation of the principles of natural justice and of a rational political philosophy, something that Roman Catholics and the Holy See (note especially Leo XIII) have in the past really taken seriously in their social teaching, and
(2) a clear elucidation of what Christianity is, cf. the Nicene Creed, and what it is not, namely a Liberal social program or a Conservative moral program.
Veniat Christus Rex!