Being Part of the Anglican Family 2What a State!

Being Part of the Anglican Family 2What a State!

Being part of the Anglican Family 2What a state!

Readings:Deuteronomy 7:1 – 9

11 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5

Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence.
May your Word be our rule,
your Spirit our teacher,
and your greater glory our supreme concern,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

I invite you to think about your own family – not your immediate family – but your extended family. Some of them are deceased, some are probably overseas and some of them are here in Aotearoa. Who comes to mind? Uncles, grandparents, cousins? What kind of people are they? Some will be wonderful, others very ordinary, some wierdos among them too I imagine. You know the saying: “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” True isn’t it?

Last time I spoke here it was about being part of the Anglican family. We spoke about how the church started, how it is structured. Most importantly we emphasised that Jesus Christ is the head of the Anglican family. Today I want to talk about the current state of our worldwide family.

Like our own extended whanau, the Anglican Communion is a bit of a mixed bag. Some are wonderful; some we’d like not to know at all really. Let’s consider some examples.

USA – The Episcopal Church– TEC – There are 100 Dioceses in USA. Because of falling church attendance, some Diocese have amalgamated over the last few years. During 2006 – 2010 the number of ‘baptised and active’ members fell by well over 50,000 people per year! That is a quarter of a million people who have dropped out!

There are some evangelical churches that are healthy and growing but they faced ostracism by TEC. In some places these evangelical Anglicans have left TEC and TEC has sued them to take the church buildings off them.

It is a huge generalisation but TEC is mostly liberal in theology and practice. They are very much for the blessing of same sex unions. In July 2009 the House of Bishops voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships.

When TEC did this, they rejected the two avenues the rest of the Anglican Communion had chosen to work through complicated issues of sexuality. They rejected the Windsor report, which has called for ongoing dialogue. They rejected the proposed Anglican covenant which aims to govern how the Anglican family operates. TEC says it wants to be part of the Anglican Communion. But it goes ahead and does its own thing anyway.

The Anglican Church in the USA is not in a good state at all.“Tom Wright described TEC as a large coach off the rails all together.”

Let’s look now at the English cuzzies: In the mother church all should be well right? Well not exactly. There’s good news and bad news. C of E has 44 Diocese – a bit less than half of TEC.

  • 1.7 millionpeopleattend a Cof E service each month – thathas been maintained since the turn of the millennium. Approximately one million participate each Sunday – about 100 thousand of whom are children.
  • Nearly 3 million people (out of approximately 62 million) attend a C of E service at Christmas.
  • The C of E has the largest following of any denomination or faith in Britain today. More than 4 in 10 in England regard themselves as belonging to the Church of England, while 6 in 10 consider themselves Christian.
  • Anglican growth centres on the Diocese of London. This Diocese has consistently grown over the last 20 years. The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by over 70 per cent since 1990. New Anglican churches and/or fresh expressions also have brought numerical growth and conversions to Christ.

All that sounds good. Theologically and in practice are UK cousins range from very liberal to orthodox and everything in between. Overall thoughour UK cousins arenumerically declining but there are signs of hope.

Both of those examples are from the Western world. What about other places? The continent of Africa is burgeoning. Let’s choose just one example.

Kenya is flourishing. People are coming to faith in Jesus Christ in droves. They are being discipled and trained as leaders. Churches are being planted. Diocese are becoming unmanageable as a result and need to be split. There are now 31 Diocese now whereas fairly recently there were 28.

Today, there are at least 1,500,000 Anglicans out of an estimated population of 30,700,000. Kenya focuses on evangelism and discipleship. Now they have many trained leaders and are keen to send some over here. The Anglican church in Kenya and many countries in Africa is doing very well indeed. I wasn’t at Synod. Apparently Steve Maina, CMS boss in NZ spoke about NZ receiving missionaries from Kenya!

Those are some snapshots of parts of our Anglican family today. Now lets have a look at today’s readings:

Deuteronomy passage

Here God is addressing his people Israel. Many of the promises and instructions given to Israel are relevant to the Christian church today.

God wants to bless his people by giving them land. Before the Israelites can inhabit the land safely God has to clear it out by destroying the local people.

For most of us this is a horrific thought!. Any honest, thinking ought to struggle with this!. The people living there were to be totally destroyed. It is very hard to reconcile a God of love with that. We get that pagan temples needed to be destroyed. Their practices directly opposed the Living God. But no peace treaties – where is the logic in that? And no marrying any of them? God knew that local alliances of any kind would lurethe Jews away from him. That’s exactly what happened.

But still God’s methods were drastic to say the least. One of the things that is becoming clearer to me is that there is much about God I don’t understand. I’m finding it’s okay to ask questions, to struggle with God’s methods and to rail at him for the injustices that he seemed to carry out. I know my own thinking is limited and that God is sovereign but that doesn’t ease my struggle.

God acted the way he did so that his people would maintain their relationship with him. They didn’t do that. When the Israelites remained focused on God, they flourished. When they lost that focus, they fell to pieces.

Let’s turn to the 2nd letter to Timothy.Paul’s urges him to stay true to the gospel that won him to Jesus Christ in the first place. This gospel is found in the Scriptures. Timothy mission is to preach and teach the whole of the Bible. Only this will give adequate preparation for the coming times of unbelief. Only the gospel teaches us how to truly live. Only the gospel readies souls for Jesus coming again.

Many wonder what it will be like when Christ comes again. That is too big an event for us to consider in any depth today. This passage, and many others, promise he will. When he does he will judge all people.

Exactly what that judgement will look like, we don’t know. We do know it will involve the confession we have made. Have we confessed Christ as Lord and King? People need to know about Jesus. We need to be telling them and we need to be grounded in God’s Word.

Both passages of Scripture are pertinent to the situation we find ourselves in, with our wider Anglican family. Some branches of our family have held to the gospel Christ as presented in the Scriptures. Others have diluted it so much, that we can barely see the true Christian faith at all.

So should we remain as part of this mixed up, wider Anglican family? This question has been asked many times. We must be clear the issues are not about human sexuality. The issue is whether or not we hold to the truth of

Scripture and wrestle with it in order to find out what God is really saying.

How we read the Scriptures today is the root of disharmony and division. Liberal branches of our family do not hold to the orthodoxy of Christ as human and divine. They do not believe that Christ is literally risen from the dead. This unbelief strikes at the core of our Christian faith. So should we stay or should we go? Should we divorce ourselves from the branches of the family we don’t agree with?

Does anyone remember Gregory Kingsley in the early 90s? He was a young man who came from a very dysfunctional family. Eventually he went to a foster home and made a friend. This friend was George Russ. George already had 8 children but took Gregory into his home. Gregory settled into George’s family and wanted to stay there permanently with no interference from his birth family. So, with George’s help, Gregory sued for divorce! And he won! By now Gregory called himself Shawn. After winning the case, he was presented with a t-shirt that had the name "Shawn Russ" printed on it as well as the number 9 to show he was the Russ' ninth child. (There were some legal hiccups to follow but Shawn remained with his adoptive family.)

Our family is pretty dysfunctional too! Should we divorce them? I hope it doesn’t come to that but it may.

To sum up we’ve taken some snapshots of some members of our wider Anglican family – our cousins overseas. We’ve considered God’s commands to stay focused on him. We are not to fall into unholy alliances. Like Timothy, we are to commanded to share the gospel of Jesus.

Our focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. He is the head of the church. Where that is true, churches generally flourish. Where Jesus is not the Centre the church can expect major problems. We see that happening in much of the Western world. We are part of a very diverse family. Maybe the time will come when we do have to choose our family. But let’s be encouraged by what is happening in Kenya and other parts our wider family too.

Next week we’ll talk more about the church here in Aotearoa NZ.

Let’s pray. Father we thank you for our wider family members in the Anglican Communion. We pray for those who are having difficulties. Help us not to be smug or superior but to humbly look to you in our own difficulties. We rejoice where your gospel is evident and your church is growing. Help us to focus on your Word and on the living Jesus Christ. Amen