THE PERILOUS PLIGHT OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
January 17, 2019
When the British philosopher Cyril Joad returned to Christian faith and membership of the Church of England, he paid fulsome tribute to the unassuming clergy of the hundreds of ordinary parishes throughout the land.
The faith and fortitude of these lowly men of God was a major factor in sustaining Christian belief and character in the life of the nation. Sincere but unspectacular ministry held the church together and maintained the good health of the institution. The troops of the church were of more value than the titled, pretentious, liberal senior clerics.
These men, acknowledged by the former atheist, had no prominence in church affairs and received few plaudits for their sacrifice and loyalty. They had little access to the media and limited participation in the making of church policy. The overall impression of the Church of England was created by noted communicators of striking ability, or notorious skeptics who loved to bathe in the gratifying glare of publicity.
There must be many pastors of similar ilk to those highly regarded by Joad who remain active in the Church of England today. When criticism is made of the Church of England it is leveled principally, forcibly, and deservedly, at those in positions of leadership, and also those followers who heartily approve of them. There is great cause in our time to weep at the poor quality of spiritual leadership in the Established Church.
Canterbury and York are of no encouragement whatsoever and we are saddled with a bevy of bishops that seems utterly useless to the promotion of the true Gospel and who are a distinct danger to the souls who are cruelly hoodwinked by them. They happen to be the daftest set of clerics ever to exist en masse throughout our checkered history. They neither impart nor share in a sure way of salvation through our beloved Redeemer and his mission of human reclamation to God and criminally omit any valid preparation of the soul for eternity. “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways” (Psalm 95:10). Some very plausible names come within this category.
Many of our professional scholars fail to evince a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ or any sincere reverence of his name. Their sophisticated mode of theologizing, purely on the plain of natural wisdom, i.e. folly, amounts to the scoffing of his divine status, obfuscation of his truth, and the proud, superior, patronization of traditional believers who enjoy converse with him, through the voice of the Spirit in Sacred Scripture. Rather than being servants of Christ they are in the service of an enemy genius whose sole and temporary reward (for he ultimately turns with savagery on his hapless lackeys) is the flattery of their flatulent egos through their “black-inspired” assisted display of intellectual acumen and stunning (they hope) originality that attracts great attention, and the admiration, of the gullible or lovers of obscurity or novelty. The human mind will devise any convoluted or contrary thesis to avoid the force of truth.
Welby and Sentamu are shockingly unsuited to their roles of headship, and the C of E now wallows in shame and uselessness.
Is it now time to “uproot, tear down, to destroy and overthrow” the errors and follies of the Church of England and then “to build and plant” in the right way”? (Jeremiah 1:10). Is it now time to launch a bold Luther-like corrective – the fearless, faithful preaching of the Word, the naming of error no matter the source, and quit all this fumbling, over-polite, soft-spoken, cautious, gentle concern of the bulk of current evangelicalism. The straight talk of the Bible is being eroded by those who have vowed to be its guardians: “The Church is a witness and guardian of Holy Scripture” (Article 20).
It is hard to detect any sound preaching to the nation on the part of our appointed Primates on soteriological issues that matter above all else that they could ever possibly aver. The fact and efficacy of the cross that preoccupied and animated the apostle Paul (but we preach Christ crucified) seems alien to the worldly mindset of our contemporary representatives. They are neither prime advocates of the eternal word or mates to those who love the scriptures. From their elevated pulpits, and great advantage in addressing the populace, they preach nothing but earthly concerns and pronounce on matters usually beyond their expertise and essential divinely ordained brief. How many of the lost will imagine, in their frenzied minds in the flaming abyss, the edifices of Canterbury and York cathedrals and make the accusation, “They never warned me, but majored mainly on the concerns of this short life on earth.” The momentous Gospel dimension simply is not mentioned to their vast potential audience.
A visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London will yield an accurate illustration of the essence of authentic Anglicanism in the portrayal of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer positioned within reach of two of the most treasured volumes in his ample library – the New Testament and an edition of the writings of St Augustine.
The Bible and the doctrines of grace of the Berber Bishop of Hippo constitute the genius of Anglicanism affirmed with clarity at the English Reformation. Anglican thought and practice derives principally from Holy Scripture; its doctrine is in alignment with the studied reflection on revelation of the Catholic creeds, and this historical inheritance is articulated more precisely through a confessional agreement with the core convictions of 16th century emergent Protestantism, both native and Continental. The resurgence of Augustinianism gave rise to the phenomenon of the reformed Church of England.
How far gone from this model is the prevailing spectacle of a deviant and dysfunctional substitute – the wayward institution that is the Church of England, drowning in the tidal wave of godless culture and amoral paganism. Daily, it seems, this effete organization plunges more deeply into the waters of destruction, its reputation and credibility besmirched by inane pronouncements and insane appointments to office and authority.
The so-called guardians of the Church, and guides of its people, seem to be attacking it vicious -ly with wrecking balls, and flummoxing the flock with tweaks, dilutions, and distortions of the testimony of Holy Writ with witless abandon. Scripture is quoted as intriguing narrative devoid of instructive propositions for logical arrangement in consistent conviction. It is quoted as mere embellishment of humanly invented and ornate orations designed to charm the imagination and tickle the fancy rather than charge minds to strive towards the real Kingdom of God rather than the Utopia envisaged by men.
The Church of England is a massive “let down” and key persons of ecclesiastical influence should be indicted for its collapse. The so-called peacemaker of Lambeth is a principal agent in its dismantlement, rendering into shattered pieces the noble edifice to the glory of God and well-being of sinners it once happened to be. Instead of being the Church militant the CoE is now becoming, at a rapid rate, the church emasculated and mutilated.
The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. He is a regular contributor to Virtueonline