Rev. Canon Phil Ashey: What should we do when Christians disagree – really
January 17, 2014
I am writing in response to an article published today by the Anglican Communion’s news office “What should we do when Christians disagree?” by the Rev. Dr. Phil Groves, facilitator of the Continuing Indaba Project. In the article, Groves writes that when Christians disagree, “when disunity appears, facilitated conversations are the Biblical way forwards.”
With all due respect, his analysis misses the mark by a longshot.
First, he cites the disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3 as the Biblical paradigm for all disagreement within the Church. But what about differences over Christian doctrine itself? In his landmark study Conciliarism: A History of Decision making in the Church (Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 56-60) Paul Valliere notes meticulously the doctrinal disagreements that gave rise to the Councils of the Early Church. Disagreements over doctrine often present themselves first as disciplinary issues– such as how do you deal with the “re-baptism” of people who vacillated or apostasized in the face of persecution (Council of Carthage, 256 AD), or how do you respond to public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration as bishop of a person living in such a union? (Anglican Communion, 2003).
Groves seems to have forgotten his history. The crisis in the Anglican Communion since at least 2003 has been and continues to be over the very definition of the Gospel. Disagreements and innovations in the Communion have been described, time and again, as a crisis of Gospel truth. This is exactly what 1358 bishops, other clergy and lay delegates to GAFCON 2013 re-asserted unanimously in the Nairobi Communique (26 October 2013):
“In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful. A crisis point was reached in 2003 when a man in an active same-sex relationship was consecrated bishop in the USA. In the years that followed, there were repeated attempts to resolve the crisis within the Communion, none of which succeeded. To the contrary, the situation worsened with further defiance.” the rest
This is the heart of the new religion of reconciliation: facilitated conversations (Indaba) that can have only two possible results: eventual acceptance of the innovations, or a never- ending process of facilitated conversations, until all resistance is vanquished.