Monday, October 03, 2016

Canon Phil Ashey: Recovering Authentic Christianity

Posted October 3, 2016

The flip side to the yearning for authentic Christianity is an aversion to a Christianity that is divided and fighting among itself. I can understand that—especially among younger generations who come from increasingly broken families. Why would one want to join a Church that looks like a broken family?

Unfortunately, that’s what the Anglican Communion looks like right now. We are divided along issues of human sexuality which present themselves as “family fights” over whether to bless same-sex partnerships in the Church and to consecrate openly practicing LGBT persons as ordained leaders—even Bishops—within the Church. But like all false teaching that divides and undermines the Church, these fights over sex are merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s not about sex. The fights are about differences over Christian essentials such as the nature of our humanity, sin, the Biblical doctrine of creation, the authority of the Bible itself in the life of the believer and the Church, and ultimately the definition of the Gospel itself. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ “come as you are and stay as you are”? Or is it “Come as you are but don’t stay as you are! Find your identity in Jesus and his call on your life, and let him change you from the inside out.”

In a few days Anglican Archbishops, bishops, clergy and lay leaders from the Global South will be meeting in Cairo, Egypt to address this brokenness in the Anglican “family” or Communion of Churches. It’s not enough to define the problem as a leading Anglican theologian, Paul Avis has defined it:

“[Anglicanism] believes that provinces gathered into communions should act in a conciliar fashion within the limits imposed by the divisions in the Church. It [Anglicanism] sets out to extend conciliarity as far and wide as it can until it runs up against the barriers erected by broken communion, rival claims to jurisdiction or serious differences in doctrine or order.” [1]

It’s not enough to say that we are a “family” and make decisions together until we disagree on doctrine and order. Doctrine and order are essential to authentic Christianity, as opposed to a Christianity in which anything goes, and where people are free to do what is right in their own eyes. We may not like everything Jesus says, or the Biblical diagnosis of our human nature as fundamentally flawed and broken by sin, incapable of reform apart from the blood of Jesus Christ and faith in Him alone. But we need to face the truth if we are to get on with our mission to the world. This Biblical truth is the heart of the Gospel and the vision of the Kingdom that gives Christianity its authenticity and compelling call to people of all ages, generations, languages and nations.

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