Sunday, August 3, 2008

What Makes A Healthy Church?

In recent headlines, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, supported a temporary ban on new ordinations of openly gay bishops. While this would appear, initially, to be a victory for the more conservative Anglican and Episcopal groups, certain of Williams' phrases indicate that it is not.

At a Conference at Lambeth, Williams suggested that the Anglicans Church should provide "space for study and free discussion without pressure" concerning traditional biblical understandings, particularly about homosexual relationships. He also mentioned that "[a] healthy church gives space for such exchanges." Archbishop Williams' ideas of a healthy church indicate a belief in a human-centered gospel; one in which church doctrine and obedience to scriptural mandates are decided by people in a democratic process. It appears as though Williams is stalling, trying to keep the communion together until there is a liberal resurgence.

If we agree with Rowan Williams, that doctrine, and adherence to biblical commands are determined by people in their subjective context, then Scripture has already been trumped. What good is it if it has been determined to not speak to us? The Bible is worthless and should be thrown onto the rubbish heap. If, however, we believe (as I do) that the Bible is the authoritative and self-referential revelation of God, "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16), then we must vehemently stand against Williams' understanding. I would also suggest we examine Williams' words in light of Paul's in the encylical epistle to the Galatians,

Paul, an apostle- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead... I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
Paul does not mince words. Scripture is completely clear in condemning both the practice of homosexuality (Lev. 18:22,29; Jud.19:22-20:9; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-13) and the minimizing of Scripture (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim 1:18-26, 4:13-16, 6:3-4,20-21; Tit. 1:15-2:1; Heb. 2:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:19-2:3; Rev. 22:18-19). I believe that Paul's words are meant for those like Rowan Williams; clergymen who would willingly subvert the gospel for "peace" with pagans. So what makes a healthy church? I think that we may conclude that it is not democracy or social activism, but the true proclamation of Scripture. True churches are those who hear the Word and obey it.

No comments: