Saturday 27 February 2016

Last week I wrote about Christian Concern, the legal centre formed to help and defend Christians penalised for holding and expressing Christian views. In doing so I referred to the Chief Executive Officer Andrea Williams not being called to speak at General Synod of the Church of England, where a debate was being held on the Church’s evangelism strategy.

I do not believe this was an oversight, for Andrea is a very talented and highly articulate speaker, with a high profile because of her regular appearances on television programmes to speak on Church matters. I believe she was not called because it was realised she would say all those things people in senior positions in the Church SHOULD be saying, but do not either have the courage or belief to do so.

With kind permission I here give you the speech Andrea would have made. And pray the Lord will bless and cause it to be widely read. Tell your friends so they can have the opportunity to read a truly Christian message.

I welcome the evangelism initiative and long for the conversion of this nation. The conversion of lives, families and a turning back in public life to Christianity and the flourishing that brings.

In Romans, the apostle Paul writes: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

My concern is that in the General Synod body, we are not agreed on what the gospel is. Such a problem is not just confusing to us, but confusing to a lost and broken world.

Those writing the Report at Synod should perhaps draft a statement reaffirming what the gospel actually is.

We had a presentation on the Report from the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group, with an assumption that we are agreed on what the gospel is, but it was not set out in the paper or presentation.

Evangelism is the declaration of the 'evangel', which publishes the good news of the Kingdom of God; that Jesus Christ is Lord and King, and that salvation is assured by his death and resurrection for those who repent and put faith and trust in Christ, turning from sin and living in accordance with God’s Word.

We must be careful as leaders in the church charged with much responsibility not to truncate the gospel to 'God loves you'.

We pray the Lord’s prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” – but do we understand what this means?

The gospel is in fact the declaration of Christ's salvation and Kingdom rule that has invaded the earth.
Part of praying for the will of God to be done on Earth is the surrender of our human desires to the transformative power of Christ.

One of the most important areas where truth is under attack is on marriage – a primary gospel issue.
One of the visible manifestations of the gospel is the human body and marriage. Marriage sets forth the gospel and is the cosmological key to understanding the universe.
It declares that humanity has been made for intimacy and communion with God and that it is God's intention to have holy communion with his bride, the Church.

The Bible begins with a wedding in Eden, then describes the marriage of God and Israel and Israel's adultery. It then tells of the coming of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, whose first miracle takes place at a wedding.

The Bible ends in the marriage supper of the Lamb!
The one-flesh union of male and female in marriage reflects the fellowship of unity in diversity in the Trinity, and so declares Jesus as bridegroom to his spotless bride, the church.

Therefore, the destruction of marriage and the confusion of genders is undermining the witness of the gospel in Britain. How can a person growing up in a culture where the meaning of marriage has been destroyed comprehend the gospel?

Since we remain confused about what marriage is; since no clear sound is being made and we are locked down behind closed doors in ‘conversations’ to come to a ‘common mind’ on what it is to have ‘good disagreement’ on this issue - how are we to evangelise?

A quote attributed to Martin Luther says:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition of scripture every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle field besides is mere flight."

Today the battle rages for Truth over our God-given identity, God’s pattern for marriage and family and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

We must be clear that marriage and sexuality are not excluded from aspects of our lives that require total surrender.

We must bring our brokenness in all its forms to Christ, who in His love and mercy transforms us to His will, that we may walk holy and blameless before a world that is desperate to see the sons and daughters of the Living God revealed.

That is the Kingdom of God invading Earth. That is the gospel message.

People are punished in Britain for belief in the gospel; the Lord's Prayer was banned from being shown in cinemas: at the Christian Legal Centre, for over a decade, we have been representing people who have lost their jobs or been arrested for offering prayer, or testimony to Jesus Christ.

These men and women are not ashamed of the gospel. They are not ashamed of Jesus and his words; and his call to death to self and obedience to him; the transforming power of God that brings salvation.

Let us not be ashamed of the gospel. In Mark Chapter 8, as Jesus predicted his death, he said:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels."

This is the gospel

A debate was also held on the Archbishop’s Presidential speech on the outcome of the Archbishops of the Anglican Communion meeting to discuss the question of how the Church should respond to same sex marriage. Here is a response from Andrea.


The Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address at Synod addressed the aftermath of the recent Primates' gathering in Canterbury, in which a compromise was reached between two diametrically opposed groups: those who hold to the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality – and those who do not.

That meeting was not a success, and it is disingenuous to suggest that it was. It did not tackle the fundamental issue and instead it tries to keep us on a path that can never secure true unity.
It failed to challenge an overarching relativism which allows human ideas and current cultural trends to override God's unchanging Word.

The Archbishop's analysis reflects an approach that prizes the appearance of institutional, formal unity over true, organic unity. But without organic unity, institutional unity will crumble and collapse as we have already seen.

Real unity can only grow in the soil of truth. No amount of institutional scaffolding can substitute for healthy soil.
God's pattern for marriage and His teaching on sexuality is not peripheral. Our approach to it tests our understanding of the authority of Scripture and the Gospel itself..
The underlying issue is whether the churches will submit to God's Word.

An approach to unity which, as long as the institution is upheld, allows an 'agreement to disagree' on Scripture's authority, is counter-productive and doomed to failure.

Unless there is a shared submission to God's Word, we are not on a shared journey to a shared destination, and no amount of institutional scaffolding will take us there.

During his speech, the Archbishop spoke of the necessity of "unity which relishes and celebrates the diversity of freedom and [human] flourishing within broad limits of order."

What we saw at the Primates' meeting, and have seen for several years, is not true unity.
Members of the Communion who hold opposing views on the key issue of marriage will simply continue to co-exist in deep disagreement. The Archbishop himself admitted that members are in "very different" places theologically.

We know these conversations will continue, and we know that liberal members will continue to push their agenda under the guise of 'love and acceptance'. Yet true love and compassion does not discard or distort God's good patten for human flourishing.

Only a fortnight ago it emerged that a new 'Anglican' campaign group, LGBTI Mission, has been established, in order to pressure the Church of England to accept clergy in same-sex 'marriages'. It demands that same-sex 'marriages' be considered equally valid to marriages between men and women.

How will the Archbishop address these increasing attempts to deviate from the standard God has set out for us in His Word?
The Scriptures outline God’s pattern for marriage as between one man and one woman. This is designed as a beautiful reflection of Jesus' love for His church, an expression of intimacy and communion, in covenant.

Jesus promised He will come back for a pure and spotless Bride. Yet the Bride of Christ will not 'flourish' under compromise.
The Archbishop of Canterbury emphasised the need for a balance between order, freedom and human flourishing.
But what freedom is the Archbishop speaking of here?
He is right in reminding us that Jesus came to set us free. Yet true freedom is freedom from sin, which is found in repentance and the surrendering of human desires to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not freedom to continue holding to disobedience of the Word.

Obedience to the Word of God is vital if the Church is to flourish.
If the Church compromises the Truth we are are not fit to evangelise. How can we evangelise with a watered down gospel that reflects the spirit of the age that is less appealing to many than the running club?

Obedience to the true Gospel is worth living and dying for: as Jesus predicted his death he said:

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels".

We are not preaching a true Gospel message, if the teaching of the Bible on such a vital matter as marriage and sexuality is compromised. There can be no relevance if the truth is truncated.

The Archbishop spoke of the picture of humility that Jesus painted through the washing of His disciples’ feet. But in that humility and servant-heartedness, we must point people to truth. Archbishop Justin failed to speak of truth or of objective revelation from God. It is as if truth has been relegated to a 'process of discernment' not a matter of scripture, canons and creed.

This is a capitulation to the 'spirit of the age', not the Spirit of God who has spoken in Scripture.

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