Republished from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches website.
The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Archbishop Emeritus, Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria
Over the centuries, the church of Christ faced many heresies and unbiblical innovations. However, God raised up faithful church leaders to defend the truth and protect the church from losing her vision.
One of these divisive heresies was the Arian heresy. It started in Alexandria in the fourth century. Arius, a priest from Alexandria, developed a thought that denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ. He believed that the Son of God is of a similar, but not of the same, substance as the Father.
Bishop Alexander of Alexandria and his deacon Athanasius realized that this heresy contradicts the doctrine of salvation. In response, they stood firm at the council of Nicaea (325 AD), and defeated the Arian heresy. Arius did not give up but he continued to spread his heresy even after Athanasius became the bishop of Alexandria in 328 AD.
Years later, several Emperors adopted the Arian heresy and persecuted and even deposed Bishop Athanasius. He also was exiled five times during his episcopacy and yet he continued to stand against the heresy. Athanasius became known as “Contra Mundum” which means “Against the World “. Without his faithful, bold stance and endurance, the church in Alexandria would have been swept away and disappeared. To the contrary, the truth prevailed and St. Athanasius was welcomed back by his people to his seat in Alexandria.
Today, in this postmodern age, the church is facing a number of innovations and heresies. Examples of these are rejecting the virgin birth of Jesus, denying His resurrection, undermining the authority of the scriptures, and adopting the prevailing morals of the culture. The most widely spread innovations that openly contradict the scripture, the doctrine of creation and church canon law are: same sex unions and same sex marriage. Those who promote these innovations are not content with the recognition of these practices by the civil societies and governments but they want the church to accept and to bless them.
Of course the church should welcome all people of the society without discrimination but it should not welcome all morals and values of the society. Otherwise, the church would lose its distinctive role to care for and guide people to live a righteous life.
In a time like this, the church of Christ needs faithful church leaders who speak the truth boldly; leaders who are happy to pay the price of defending the biblical truth. Yes, the church needs more like St. Athanasius, Contra-Mundum. Indeed, the church needs Bishops who continuously remember their vows to guard the faith at the time of their consecration.
As I am writing this, I received the very sad news that the Church of England passed a motion that allow the blessing of same sex unions. I learned that very few members of the synod spoke against this tragic motion and the majority voted in favor of it. Some members have said that blessing is different from marriage! They forget the fact that blessing is in fact an approval of the thing we bless. In addition, both marriage and the blessing of same sex unions have the same outcome; two people becoming intimately united!
It is sad that church leaders think that they can undo God’s purpose in creation and they can innovate different teaching from the Biblical one. Yes, we need more faithful Contra Mundum. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” 2 Timothy 3:12-14