Peter and the other apostles replied, “We ought to obey God rather than human beings!”
(Acts 5:29 NIV)
They called the apostles in and had them flogged…The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:40-41 NIV)
Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:42 NIV)
In the 5th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we see three signs of godly and effective leadership in the early church: clear priorities (obeying God, 5:29); praise in the face of persecution (5:40-41); and perseverance in mission (proclaiming Christ to everyone in every way, 5:42).
Today, we see these qualities in the leadership of Bishop William Love (TEC Diocese of Albany) who refused to bend his knee to the canons of the Episcopal Church USA which redefined marriage; refused to implement same-sex marriages in his dioceses; and steadfastly defended the clarity and authority of the Bible as binding upon the Church. Like the apostles, he did not resist the “public flogging” he received from the Presiding Bishop of TEC, the inhibition of his ministry as a Bishop, and the flogging he received from the TEC Title IV Hearing Panel. We commend his courage and his faithfulness. We pray that he will find another way to exercise his calling, his courage, and his episcopal ministry. Meanwhile, we pray for the biblically faithful clergy and congregations in TEC’s Diocese of Albany who supported Bishop Love and now face an uncertain future.
By contrast, Andrew Symes in AnglicanMainstream [https://anglicanmainstream.org/should-evangelicals-stay-in-the-c-of-e-these-reasons-arent-good-enough/] reviews the arguments that some evangelical leaders in the UK are making to stay within the structures of the Church of England as it continues on the same trajectory as TEC in compromising with the culture on matters of human sexuality and “human flourishing.” Quoting the Rev. Joshua Penduck, the Chair of Fulcrum (a moderate evangelical society within the C of E), Symes observes:
“Penduck concludes that conservative and moderate evangelical Anglicans need each other and should ‘stay put and stay together.’ The lesson for evangelicals in the Church of England today is this: a split would lead the moderates into revisionism influenced by secular culture and conservatives into becoming an irrelevant fundamentalist sect.”
The Rev. Penduck cites American Episcopalianism in the 19th century as the historical precedent for this “lesson for evangelicals” in the Church of England. He cites the conflict between 19th century evangelicals, some of whom embraced the more “high-church” Oxford movement and stayed to flourish within TEC, and those who left to form the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) which Penduck ends up describing as falling “into fundamentalism and obscurity because it sheltered itself from the fresh air of the Anglican debate. Rather than make the case for conservative evangelical Anglicanism, it retreated into its own world and shriveled away.”
I will leave it to Bishop Ray Sutton and other leaders of the REC to comment as to whether this is an accurate history of the REC. But what astounds us is Rev. Penduck’s gross omission of the more recent lessons learned in the late 20th and 21st centuries by evangelical Anglicans in North America who formed the Anglican Church in North America. He does not even mention the ACNA!
In 2011, the American Anglican Council supplied the archbishops, bishops, clergy, and lay deputies of the Church of England the facts and lessons learned during the General Synod’s debate on whether to recognize the Anglican Church in North America in our widely distributed TEC: Unjust Episcopal Acts [http://www.fwepiscopal.org/downloads/TEC-Canonical-Abuses.pdf]. Fulcrum was there. What are we to make of Rev. Penduck/Fulcrum’s astounding silence and absence of scholarship? Andrew Symes rightly raises the following questions:
“The most serious flaw in Penduck’s analysis is his contention that American Anglicanism today consists of TEC as a large liberal catholic denomination, and the REC as a tiny, disengaged, evangelical one. He must know about the formation of ACNA in 2009 of which the REC is a founding member; that the ACNA is a broad church, not of conservative and liberal ‘evangelicals’ as per his Fulcrum ideal but of biblically faithful reformed and charismatic evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics; that the ACNA is growing while TEC is shrinking. Many of his readers may not know this. I have to ask: is Penduck ignorant of the ACNA despite his erudition in other areas of recent church history, or is he being frankly dishonest and deliberately trying to mislead his readers, ignoring key facts which don’t fit in to the Fulcrum narrative, in particular airbrushing out the development of the ACNA as a significant alternative Anglican jurisdiction under GAFCON and a possible positive model for what could happen in England and even in Europe?”
You can read the full article, “Should evangelicals stay in the Church of England: These reasons aren’t good enough” here: https://anglicanmainstream.org/should-evangelicals-stay-in-the-c-of-e-these-reasons-arent-good-enough/
On one visit to the UK several years ago, I remember a conversation I had with a prominent evangelical bishop in the Church of England. To this question of whether to leave or stay he replied, “We English are pragmatists, and we will find a way to muddle through.” That may be true, but at what cost? Where are the clear priorities of the apostles in Acts 5 to obey God rather than mere human beings and church politics? Where is the willingness to face persecution and loss and to do so with gratitude and rejoicing? Where is the perseverance in the uncompromising proclamation of Jesus Christ as LORD over every area of our lives?
Where is biblically faithful leadership to be found?