Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anglicanism: a case study in moral relativism

The modern Anglican Church accepts openly gay bishops who live with their "lover", gay marriage, and the use of contraception within marriage. That's not to mention female priests and bishops plus many other issues.

But how did they get here? I was just looking back at some of the Lambeth Conferences that they've had over the years. This is roughly equivalent to an ecumenical council in the Catholic Church. After splitting from Rome, the Anglican Church managed to uphold most Christian doctrines, but suddenly in 1930 that began to change, and very quickly.

The change is truly astonishing and just goes to show the destructive power of moral relativism. It also shows the veracity of the statement "stand for something or fall for anything." Sadly, that's what happened to the Anglicans.

So what happened?

At the 1920 Lambeth conference, they completely rejected all forms of contraception even within marriage. Look at the uncompromising language used:

We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers - physical, moral and religious - thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under the name of science and religion, encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always be regarded as the governing considerations of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose for which marriage exists, namely the continuation of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control.

It's shocking and hard to believe that just 10 short years later, the Anglican communion would disavow their previous comments and break from their own tradition, so clearly laid out so recently. In 1930, they became the first mainstream Christian church that accepted birth control, although at the time it was limited to married couples for certain reasons.

How could they be so clear in 1920, then reverse their position a decade later?

From there, it was a free fall of moral laxity. In 1958, the reaffirmed the use of birth control.

In 1968 there were more big changes. They began recommending women to the priesthood and the diaconate. They also endorsed "open communion". This is interesting because it seems their doctrines were so shaky and minimized that any less than open communion would appear illogical.

In 1988, they began accepting women to the role of bishop, although this continues to be debated in the various autonomous churches.

In 1998, something odd happened. The conference declared that homosexual actions were incompatible with Scripture. This was voted on and only succeeded narrowly. However, after this statement was issued, many Anglican bishops around the world issued apologies to their gay and lesbian parishioners. This shows the inherent division the Anglican communion is currently experiencing.

Of course, it must be noted that many priests and bishops in the Anglican Communion are far more traditional than others. Often these more conservative leaders come from Africa, and there is a huge split in the church.

I think the goal of the Anglican Church has been to please people, to become popular, but this strategy has backfired. The Anglican Church is not growing. I think the reason is that people either want the truth or they don't. They don't want an accommodated truth which cannot offend anyone. If someone is against the Christian faith, they will not accept a watered-down version of it. Conversely, someone who wants real Christian meat and potatoes will not settle for anything less than the real thing. The Anglican Church is trying to appeal to a group of people that really doesn't exist.

A few years ago, Pope Benedict created a way for Anglicans to make the transition to Catholicism easier and many thousands have taken up the offer. Let's hope more Anglicans are able to find a home with Rome.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Phil,

    In less you are reading really new info (since April), the Anglican council of Canada does not endorse same sex marriage and is still divided on many of the issues that you listed. Although you may find Anglican Dioceses that do not obey the votes of episcopal councils, this does not mean that all dioceses or parishes do this. I understand that you have a great knowledge of Catholic faith; however, much like the Catholic church, the Anglican church has many complex issues that cannot be summed up in a short blog.