Once were Anglicans
“If anyone else thinks they have reason for confidence in their Anglican heritage, I have more. Baptised an Anglican at three months, confirmed at 11 years, my parents are Anglicans, both sets of grandparents were Anglicans, my father is an Anglican priest, I attended Anglican schools. An Anglican of Anglicans, I studied theology for five years, have served as a curate and vicar for the past twenty, have sat on two General Synods. As to zeal... no one has ever questioned that.”
Those familiar with the Scriptures will recognise this as a paraphrase of an argument of the Apostle Paul. Paul was defending his credentials as a religious Jew, concluding “but whatever gain I had (as a leader in Judaism), I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Once Paul embraced Jesus as the Messiah that Judaism awaited, he was rejected by Judaism and thrown out of the synagogue.
Last Friday my licence from the Bishop to serve as vicar of the West Hamilton Parish was withdrawn. It was withdrawn because I had withdrawn my submission to the authority of General Synod. In terms of abiding by the polity of the Church, the Bishop did what she felt bound to do. Holding a licence is dependent upon submission to the General Synod and normally I would have no quibble with that.
However, since the Anglican General Synod met in early May, I have found myself caught between the Scylla of breaking my baptism, confirmation and ordination vows, and the Charybdis of not submitting to a General Synod which has passed a motion which is in breach of its doctrine and the Fundamental Provisions of both its own Constitution and the Church of England Empowering Act (1928). The Anglican Church’s doctrine, which the Fundamental Provisions safeguard, is grounded in the Bible. It is immutable, with the Constitution specifically stating General Synod has no power to change doctrine.
What this comes down to is a disagreement within the Church over authority: is the authority of the Bible paramount, or is the authority of the Church (and its bishops) paramount? If this sounds a familiar argument, it is. Think of Luther, Wesley and the more recent breaking up of the Episcopal Church (Anglican) in North America.
In deciding to withdraw my submission to the authority of General Synod I have asserted that the Bible is the Church’s supreme authority. This is entirely consistent with the spirit and tradition of Anglicanism.
There is of course a deep sadness in departing from a denomination which I have belonged to all my life, but the Church of God is far bigger than Anglicanism, and Jesus is its Lord, not any human authority.
My main concern now is for my congregation, which is likewise grieving, and the local mission God has called us to. Both will continue in spite of having to leave our buildings. As for Paul, all that we have lost is as rubbish compared with the surpassing worth of truly know Christ.