September 17, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, September 17, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Archbishop of Canterbury to formalize rift in Anglican Communion to preserve some unity
The biggest and most consequential news yesterday likely came from the Anglican Communion. As Andrew Brown of The Guardian reported,
“The archbishop of Canterbury is proposing to effectively dissolve the fractious and bitterly divided worldwide Anglican Communion and replace it with a much looser grouping.”Show Full Transcript
That introductory paragraph points to one of the most important and very interesting developments to happen in any major Christian denomination in recent years, perhaps even in decades. What we are talking about here is the impending breakup of the third-largest denominational group worldwide that is the Anglican Communion. That communion is made up of churches that are at least symbolically, if not substantially related to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The mother church of that communion is none other than the Church of England. That church came out of the Reformation of the 16th century, but it came out very awkwardly. It came out first and foremost, not because of any theological reason, but because the King at the time, Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. He demanded that the Catholic Church give him that divorce and when the Pope would not he eventually severed relationship with the papacy. That was an earthshaking event in the 16th century and of course it led to the development of the Church of England over which of course Henry VIII made himself the supreme head. Every British monarch thereafter has been considered the head of the church of England, but it is the Archbishop of Canterbury that is the spiritual head of the church and not only the Church of England, but worldwide in the Anglican Communion.
The Church of England has veered left in recent decades, but so have other churches in that communion, most importantly in Canada and in the United States where a division in the Anglican Communion nearly occurred in 2003 with the election by the Episcopal Church in the United States of the first openly gay bishop that was Bishop Gene Robinson who became the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. After that the Episcopal Church basically moved even further to the left and very swiftly so and yet it left many churches and indeed diocese not willing to go along with the program. And so in recent years, several individual congregations and at least some entire diocese that is district groupings of Episcopal Churches left Episcopal Church and joined other churches worldwide especially the so-called global South. That points to the big development because of the announcement yesterday; the Anglican Communion is being pulled in two very different directions and an extremely liberal direction away from biblical authority towards the normalization of homosexuality, towards any number of theological aberrations by liberal churches, mostly in North America, but also the liberal wing of the Church of England itself. But then the rest of the world is pulling in largely the opposite direction in the Anglican Communion, bishops and churches in Africa and South America have stood resolutely for the faith once for all delivered to the saints and for a biblical understanding, not only of the authority of Scripture, but of the Bible’s definition of marriage and the Bible’s very clear teachings on issues of sexuality.
At several points since 2003, the Anglican Communion has stood on the precipice of breaking apart. Now just yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury called together a meeting in which that is the most likely result. As a matter of fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced that unlike his two immediate predecessors, he’s now not even going to try to hold the Anglican Communion together when it comes to any common understanding of the Christian faith or even to any common understanding of what it means to be Anglican. As Andrew Brown reports,
“Justin Welby has summoned all the 38 leaders of the national churches of the Anglican Communion to a meeting in Canterbury next January, where he will propose that the communion be reorganized as a group of churches that are all linked to Canterbury but no longer necessarily to each other.”
This is a really symbolic development. It goes far beyond the Anglican Communion and its importance because it points to the major issues facing every single Christian church and every single denomination in the world today. The question is this – will we stand with the authority of Scripture? Will we stand with the apostles? Will we stand with the teachings of Christ? Will we stand upon the authority of Scripture with all that Scripture reveals including what is revealed in Scripture concerning marriage and human sexuality and any number of other issues? As the Archbishop has told the media, he has called the meeting because he wants to find a way to continue to be in relationship as the Archbishop of Canterbury with the very liberal churches of North America and with the very conservative churches found in the rest of the world. It’s a really interesting development and the fact that it is so historic and important was made clear by a spokesman for the Archbishop, who said that the new relationship would be,
“If not a divorce, a legal separation.”
He went on to say,
“It’s more like sleeping in separate bedrooms.”
Well, actually it’s something far more significant than that. It’s the acknowledgment of something that is revealed in Scripture that is, if two are not agreed then they cannot walk together. This is an open public acknowledgment that the Anglican Communion basically as of January will be no more. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury is giving up on the plans and proposals of his predecessors to try to hold the liberals and the conservatives together in one church. In one of most revealing sections of the article in The Guardian, it is proposed that what the Archbishop is calling for is a new way of relating to him by these other churches, both liberal and conservative that will not presuppose any common definition of Christian doctrine, any common understanding of the Christian faith, any common understanding of Anglican identity, of what it means to be Anglican. One might then ask the question, why would one try to hold anything together in terms of relationships at that point? What good does it do to claim that you are a church or a denomination if you agree that what you’re basically doing is tantamount to “sleeping in separate bedrooms.”
But what that statement really reveals and powerfully reveals is that this is not only a proposal that those two different wings of the Anglican Communion decide to “sleep in separate bedrooms.” It’s actually an acknowledgment that for decades now, and perhaps even for longer they have lived in different theological worlds. That’s far more significant.
The most thorough coverage of this announcement comes in The Telegraph of London, where John Bingham, the Religious Affairs Editor says that,
“The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to gamble his legacy on a high-stakes plan to overhaul the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican church in what he sees as a “last throw of the dice” to avert a permanent split over issues such as homosexuality.”
And yet what John Bingham really documents in this article is that what the Archbishop is proposing is effectively a split and we ought to call it exactly what it is. As Bingham does explain,
“The Most Rev Justin Welby has invited the heads of all the other Anglican churches – some of whom have not spoken directly to each other for more than a decade amid a deep liberal-conservative split – to a make-or-break meeting in Canterbury in January.
“He wants them not only to acknowledge the rift but effectively formalize it by scaling the Anglican Communion back into a loosely linked organization – a step aides liken to “moving into separate bedrooms” rather than full-scale divorce.”
And yet we need to note that this is really just a euphemism, it’s really just a way of dividing the church while claiming that in some sense, this isn’t a total split or a complete divide. And yet, at the end of the day even this article makes clear that’s really what’s at stake. Why is the Archbishop giving up? Well, he can’t win trying to hold everyone together. That’s a profoundly important theological point, but it comes out in this article because we are told that his refusal to kick out the liberal churches and to sever relationships with them, since they would not reform themselves according to Scripture, has led to the fact that conservatives are saying they no longer want to have anything to do with the liberal churches and yet as Bingham says the Archbishop has,
“Infuriated the liberal-leaning American branch of the church.”
Because after all, he won’t join their agenda either. So now the Archbishop says to separate bedrooms you should go. According to Bingham, aides to the Archbishop said that he gives himself only about a 70 percent chance of success in avoiding both sides severing all relationships one with the other. Now, just remember that Bingham has told us that some of the heads of these national churches supposedly joined together in the proposed unity of the Anglican Communion haven’t talked to one another for over a decade. What Bingham doesn’t acknowledge is what many in the conservative churches have made clear, they do not believe those other churches, not only are Anglican they do not believe that they are Christian. As many of the African bishops have boldly and courageously said, those churches have repudiated the faith and those liberal churches have departed not only the Anglican Communion, but the Christian orbit. They have been very clear that they do not want to be associated with churches that repudiate the gospel of Jesus Christ, repudiate the Bible’s understanding of sin and repudiate biblical authority itself. The bottom line is clear, no church, no matter what it’s called can stand on the authority of Scripture and then deny what the Scripture teaches. No church can claim to stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ and then subvert the very power of that gospel. No church can claim unity at the expense of truth because Christ himself in John chapter 17 in his high priestly prayer for his disciples prayed that his disciples would be unified, but he prayed that the father would sanctify his church in the truth.
As the Lord said to the father, thy word is true and no church can decide to hold forth any kind of plausible future if it tries to stand in two places at once, furthermore, if it tries to send its liberal and conservative wings to two separate bedrooms. As I said, the far more fundamental issue is that these two groups, these two wings of the Anglican Communion have been inhabiting separate theological worlds, as I so often quote J. Gresham Machen,
It’s not a choice between two different variants of Christianity. The evangelical churches represent Christianity. The other churches repudiating the gospel and biblical authority aren’t really representing Christianity at all. It’s Christianity or liberalism, two different religions, not two versions of Christianity.
Shocking racial disparity evident in abortion unaddressed by abortionists must not be avoided
Here in the United States, yesterday, a stunning and important editorial appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. It’s an op-ed piece by Jason L. Riley and the headline is this,
“Let’s Talk About the Racial Disparity in Abortions.”
“America’s abortion wars may subside periodically, but neither side has surrendered and the latest flare-up could lead to a second government shutdown in as many years. After videos surfaced that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of parts from aborted babies, some conservatives in Congress vowed to block any spending measure that includes more money for the organization.”
But, Riley really isn’t talking about the possibility of a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. He’s not even primarily focused on those videos that have rightly attracted so much controversy, revealing as they have the horrific enterprise of Planned Parenthood tearing apart babies in the womb and then selling their parts. Instead, he’s primarily concerned about what isn’t being discussed by either the right or the left as it should be in America when it comes to the racial disparity that is found on the front of abortion. He points to the fact that many prominent Democrats who style themselves as pro-choice, have said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Most importantly, those were the words of former President Bill Clinton.
But as Riley says it certainly isn’t rare,
“Well, the U.S. abortion rate has declined somewhat steadily since the late 1980s, yet the rate for black women is nearly five times higher than the white rate and well above the national average.”
He goes on to say,
“The political left obsesses over racial disparities.”
But it will not face squarely or honestly, it will not even openly discuss one of the most significant and terrifying issues of racial disparity and that is the difference between the ratio of the abortion of white babies and black babies. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York and he writes,
“In New York City, home to the largest black population of any U.S. urban area, more black babies are aborted than born. New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported in 2014 that black babies constitute 42% of all abortions in a city where blacks are 25% of the population.”
Now let me go back to that statistic that you just heard that you may not have believed when you heard it with your ears. You weren’t certain that you could’ve heard such a thing. Let me repeat it again. You did hear it. As he writes,
“In New York City more black babies are aborted than born.”
That is a stunning, horrifying statement and you would ask the question immediately, why is no one seemingly concerned about this? Well the fact is many in the pro-life movement have been pointing to this for years. But now might be an opportunity to make the issue very clear to the American people. While we are rightly concerned, even urgently concerned about many issues of race, if we’re concerned with the fact that every single human being is made in God’s image and if we are concerned that means without regard to skin color, race, ethnicity or the stage of development of the child or of the adult, we have to recognize that one of most crucial issues of racial disparity in one of the clearest indications of the persistence of racism in America is this horrifying disparity in the abortion rate. Riley goes on to say,
“A popular explanation for the racial divide is that abortion rates are a function of poverty. Low-income women are more likely to terminate a pregnancy, and black women are more likely to be low-income.”
And yet Riley goes on to document that when you take race out of the picture and you leave the economic factors in, it still points to the fact that the disparity is very clear amongst the African-American population. Economics, in other words, can’t explain this disparity and yet what even Riley doesn’t acknowledge in his article is the fact that we’re back to Planned Parenthood. Because the woman who founded what was eventually called Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger was herself what is called a eugenicist. She believed that those of superior races and of superior mental ability, and superior giftedness in her view, those who are more worthy of life should be encouraged to have children. Others she said should be discouraged from having children.
Now eugenics wasn’t limited to Margaret Sanger, it wasn’t limited to the United States; eugenics was at the very center of the medical horrors in the 20th century in Germany, eventually becoming most clear and most murderous in the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler. Christians in particular, must understand that the urgent racial issues now confronting us are simply not going to be avoided and as Christians we should insist they must not be. But even as our national conversation and our conversation inside our churches and families turns to how we ought rightly to respond to these issues we need to remember that the issue of life is front and center. It has to be, it must always be and thus we cannot ignore the racial disparity when it comes to abortion, recognizing what it says about our country and what it says about the entrenched problem of racism, what it says about all of us that there are more black babies in New York City aborted than born. Those words are frankly, honestly hard to say. I know they’re hard to hear, but they are true and that’s a truth we simply have to face.
Workaholic culture in Japan pressures women to abort child for sake of career
And speaking of abortion and economics, the tables are turned in Japan. The Economist of London runs a major article in the current issue that’s entitled,
“We’re busy. Get an abortion.”
The article tells us that in Japan economic pressure is so powerful and so acute especially on working women that many these women are actually told by their employers and their bosses that when they get pregnant they need to go get an abortion or their career is over. Women in Japan are now increasingly being forced to have abortions by their employers and it’s not only that, as The Economist writes,
“Other women have had to apologize in front of co-workers for becoming pregnant.”
Now keep in mind that we’ve discussed the fact that Japan’s birth rate has fallen so precipitously that the population is not being replenished. Japan is aging fast and because it generally does not welcome immigration, its population is plummeting. There have been serious articles even in this very magazine, The Economist, indicating that Japan is going to require the assistance of robots to care for the elderly in the future because there simply won’t be enough young people. And now we are being told the economic pressure and the pressure to have a career is now meaning that women are apologizing having been shamed before their coworkers for even just getting pregnant and then they are being pressured to get abortions.
Increasingly in Japan, the article says, when women are forced to choose as they are now increasingly forced to choose between motherhood and a career, they’re choosing the career and foregoing motherhood. Part of this is culturally specific to Japan. One of most interesting parts of the article says this,
“Part of the problem is the country’s culture of pointless workaholism—office workers are expected to stay late even if they have no work to do.”
Our first response of the Christian worldview is just how sad this is and what reflection it is of a culture that has its values inverted. But at the same time, even as we’re looking across the Pacific at this report that come from Japan, we need to recognize that many of the same pressures, although perhaps more subtly, are also present in American culture and in American companies and in American careerism. We too are tempted to let economic pressures and material values invert our moral system and as the Christian worldview reminds us, that’s not only wrong, it’s sinful.
Non-Christians rebuke Christian understanding of doctrine over FBC Greenville
Finally, in recent weeks we talked about the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina that declared itself to be completely open when it comes to membership and when it comes even to the ordination of ministers and when it comes to weddings, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As I explained when we first discussed the story, the First Baptist Church of Greenville years ago left the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s really far more theologically identified in this sense with those liberal Episcopalian churches than it is with more conservative Baptist churches, that’s also a part of the denominational picture we’re looking at today. But I raise the issue today, because I came across a letter to the editor that appeared recently in the Greenville paper. A woman wrote in saying,
“I can’t even begin to express how saddened I’ve been by the recent letters to the editor condemning First Baptist Church of Greenville’s decision to institute an LGBT nondiscrimination policy. And now I read that the S.C. Baptist Convention is threatening to disassociate the church from the group over the policy.”
Let me just state here, that is surely going to happen. Back to her letter she writes,
“I’m not religious, but I’m certain the God I learned about while attending Sunday School as a child is saddened by all of this, too. I truly am rendered speechless by all the hate I’ve seen thrown around by “religious” people about this issue. If a gay/lesbian/transgender person wants to worship, shouldn’t he or she be allowed to without fear of discrimination? Surely God would want that, right?”
She goes on to say finally,
“I, for one, applaud First Baptist’s decision, and I hope they stand firm. It’s simply the right thing to do. And to use the Bible to argue otherwise does it a gross disservice.”
Why do I raise this letter? Because it is so revealing in its own way. First of all, you have a woman here, who says right up front that she’s not religious, but she’s pretty sure where God stands on the issue. How do you make sense of that? Then she goes on to say that she’s rendered speechless, and yet she writes a letter to the editor, evidently that’s a new definition of speechless. But the most amazing thing about this is where she says that to use the Bible to argue what the Bible teaches does it,
“A gross disservice.”
I raise this letter to underline once again just how common it has become for people who declare themselves to be agnostics, atheists or irreligious to tell the church what we are supposed to believe about homosexuality and its moral status and then to proceed to tell us that we’re doing the Bible a “gross disservice” by believing it and by teaching it and by preaching it. It’s hard to believe a lot of what we see in the news media these days, but it’s really hard to know what to do with the statement such as,
“I’m not religious, but I’m certain the God I learned about while attending Sunday school as a child is saddened by all this too.”
We are living in a strange world indeed. A strange world made clear in this letter to the editor, but stranger still is the fact that some denominations and churches have decided to follow her advice. That’s the strangest and saddest point of it all.