A response to Rt Rev Dr Graham Kings – by an ordinary Christian planning to attend FCA

Jul 4, 2009 by

Rev Andrew Symes

Dr Kings in his recent article  states that true Anglicanism puts its faith in the Covenant Process to eventually solve all the problems within the Anglican Communion, and dismisses the new initiatives of the Anglican Church in North America and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The points he makes deserve careful scrutiny as this debate moves forward.

First of all he deals with the ACNA. Dr Kings agrees with the conservative position on sexuality, but disagrees with the way that different groups have gone about protesting against the actions of the Episcopal Church. He thinks that the ecclesiology of ACNA is not right, and that ultimately it will secede and become just another ex-Anglican sect. Meanwhile Dr Kings is optimistic and convinced that the leaders of TEC will draw back from the brink and take resolutions and actions which gradually move them more back in the direction of the rest of world Anglicanism, in which case the Covenant will gradually be seen to work.
   
    Two comments should be made. Firstly, anyone who has followed the twists and turns of this saga over the last seven or eight years as I have can surely not fail to see the continued bad faith of the TEC leaders; the reneging on agreements, the slippery doublespeak of their resolutions and statements, the continued appointments of radical liberals to key positions, the persecution and harassment of clergy and Bishops who simply want to be faithful to their vows and to preach the biblical Gospel. But for such as Dr Kings, this does not appear to matter: TEC must be regarded as the true Anglicans. Any movement set up against them, however Anglican in theology and worship, must be considered beyond the pale by the English Anglican establishment. This shows the clear position of the “institutional centre” of our church: ecclesiology is not related to theology (faithfulness to the biblical witness) but to loyalty to the processes of diplomatic manoevering within the institution..

    Secondly, and related to the first point, Dr Kings sees the problem in America, and by extension in world Anglicanism, as one purely of differences in church polity, rather than matters of spiritual life and death. To put it more starkly, he simply does not “get” what all this is about. Its not about minor differences over the private actions of Anglican leaders in their bedrooms, or the breaking of protocols by inviting an African Bishop to lay hands on someone rather than an American one. It is about the massive gulf that has opened up in the church between two conflicting and opposing worldviews, two completely different understandings of what it means to be Christian. These views cannot be reconciled by a “covenant” process which owes more to Hegelian dialectic (the idea that truth is found in the middle ground between two positions) than to the Gospel.
    
    ACNA have not broken away from TEC because of a desire for independence or instant and cavalier disregard for due process, but because, after years of exhausting all other channels, Christian Anglicans have felt the need to take a stand against the triumph of secularism and Gnosticism at the highest levels of the church. In such a time of crisis, when the very survival of orthodox Christianity is at stake, making a respectful but principled stand should be applauded not dismissed. But who will now have any confidence that the Covenant will be even handed when Dr Kings, one of its main apologists, finds himself on the side of the revisionists in this conflict of cultures that we find ourselves in?    

    Now to Dr Kings’ criticisms of FCA. Again, the barely veiled contempt for the small numbers (“only half the places taken up 10 days beforehand”); the divide and rule tactic (“unholy coalition between Reform and Forward in Faith”); the conspiracy theory (“behind the scenes organising by international lobbyists”) – these read like something out of a thriller novel. They don’t read as showing an example of respect and love towards fellow Christians with whom one disagrees.
    
    It may be that there is a small number of conservative evangelicals within FCA UK who want an umbrella for what might be unfairly described as essentially independent protestant congregations. It may be that there are also some Anglo Catholics whose principal agenda is protection from woman Bishops. Dr Kings insinuates that this essentially is FCA. I don’t find myself fitting either of these descriptions, and yet I will be at FCA on Monday. There will be many others there either in person or in spirit who feel the same way. We are not interested in power or in party loyalty, we simply want to feel part of a movement within our Anglican church that is not ashamed to say clearly what it does and doesn’t believe, that resists aggressive secularism and the celebration of immorality, that can be a channel of God’s power and blessing because it is “confessing” the truth of Christ however inconvenient and unpopular it may be. And most of all we want to be part of a global fellowship, to stand together with the majority of Anglicans (whatever Dr Kings may say about “ratcheted rhetoric”) who are dark brown skinned and poor.
    
    Unfortunately again, as with his criticisms of ACNA, Dr Kings has brushed aside the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as irrelevant without addressing the fundamental crisis of doctrine that caused it to come about. His attitude is like the one taken by the Iranian leaders towards the opposition in that country: denial that there is a problem, misunderstanding of the grievances, a sincere belief that opposition is simply down to a few extremist troublemakers, and trust in the machinery of state to crush dissent and bring people back into line.

    Finally, a word about Dr Kings’ image of the glacier. In comparing the Covenant process to a glacier, Dr Kings wants to say that it is slow but effective in “reshaping the landscape”. But it is thousands of years since a glacier did anything effective in the inhabited world. Today many glaciers are in retreat because of global warming. And when there is a crisis, a house on fire for example, a hose is more useful than a glacier: speed, and something more relevant to the context, is better than putting everything on ice.
    
    Andrew Symes worked for many years in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and is now Priest in Charge of an urban priority housing estate in central England.
 

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