Monday, October 30, 2006

Global South—Are we placing too much faith in IT?

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9)

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3)

Increasingly it appears that the would-be orthodox, not only in North American Anglicanism but also in the Church of England, are looking to the “Global South” as their guides, leaders and saviors. In turn, the Primates of the “Global South” are becoming more and more articulate (a) in their criticism of western/northern debased forms of contemporary Anglicanism and (b) in their proposals as to what MUST be done now or in the near future.

While stating their agreement with The Windsor Report in terms of what it says about the sickness of the North American Anglican Churches and wanting North Americans to accept its judgment, they appear to reject what it says about crossing diocesan boundaries and “interfering” in dioceses and provinces not their own. Their reason for doing the latter without shame is that the Gospel and pastoral needs require it and so they are justified in rejecting the advice of The Windsor Report.

Let us be clear. Right now the Anglican Way, in terms of biblically-based worship, doctrine, discipline and mission, is in much better shape in the provinces of the Global South than it is in those of the West/North. There is much greater obvious commitment to growth in maturity in the faith and growth in numbers through conversions to Christ. And for the foreseeable future it looks as though these realities will stay in place. Further, it is also good and right that some of the economic resources of the churches in the West should go to the Global South churches even as their solid Gospel commitments are offered and given to the failing churches in the West.

All this and more needs to be said. So, let us sincerely thank God for the courage, the zeal and the commitments of the Global South laity and clergy and let us see ourselves as one with them in the One Body of the One Christ in the One Faith (Ephesians 4).

Also, and here is where the solemn Word of the Lord, in Psalms 118 and 143 speaks to us so clearly and timely, let us be realistic before our heavenly Father. As we thank God for the Global South and its leaders, let us remember that they are but men—men who are committed to the Lord Jesus but nevertheless men who are sinners being saved by grace. As they trust in the Lord (and not in themselves!) so let us not trust in them but also trust in the LORD, YHWH, the Father through his Son, the Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.

Put not your trust in princes in whom there is no salvation.

If I may now speak in very human terms based on what we know of human nature, human history and experience of the churches in the world.

First of all, there is a real possibility—because of the spreading of human rights ideology, western media influence, international trade and capitalism—that the churches of the Global South will slowly but surely begin to suffer in obvious ways with the same kinds of moral and spiritual diseases that inflict the Anglican Way (in its myriad manifestations) in North America. What is happening for example in South African Anglicanism could well spread north rather quickly—even as it could also spread south from Europe! Also, the Anglican Provinces could also develop the fragmentation of the Anglican Way which is so embarrassing and debilitating in North America—in fact there is some of this now in Africa.

Secondly, there is the real possibility—because the Evil One wishes to subvert the Gospel and to destroy the developing fragile Anglican Conciliar Polity—that he, the devil, will in all kinds of subtle ways tempt the Primates and other Bishops of the Global South (see Ephesians 6:12 & 1 Peter 5:8) into thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think (see Romans 12:3), that they will exceed what they ought to do and say within the parameters of the emerging Anglican Conciliar Polity. Some think that there are real signs of this occurring now as some of them seem unwilling to wait for Lambeth 2008 to address certain major issues. The grace of patience seems to have left some of them and there are 20 months to go to Lambeth 2008.

The point is not to criticize the Primates of the Global South or they are servants of the Lord Jesus. Rather the point is that we are to trust in the LORD and in the LORD alone for salvation, both in the ultimate sense of full redemption, and also in the lesser sense of deliverance from the present major crisis of faith, morals, polity and identity. Certainly we all throughout the Anglican Family are to accept help and to work with others to this end; but, we are to recognize that all the leaders of West and South are “princes” who are men, sinful men, and that when they are wise they will wholly submit themselves to the Lord, and only ask us to follow them when they are truly sure that they are following the Lord Jesus himself. As we all know, church history has many examples of good and sincere people, being sincerely wrong, and leading many astray in that sincerity. We all need to “watch and pray.”

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9)

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3)

October 29. Trinity XX for which the Collect is:

O Almighty and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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