CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - "Global reformation is what I'm after," world-renowned theologian Dr. J. I. Packer told CBN News.
While many talk of schism in the Anglican Church, when asked if the words global reformation were appropriate to describe recent developments in the Communion, Packer hoped that's what this season is about.
The inaugural synod of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) was the backdrop of an historic moment in the arousal of orthodox Anglicanism.
As I sat at the small round table of an informal press conference, sharing a meal with a legendary theologian, I found myself caught up in history in the making. A wise 82-year old man, hunched over with the invisible weight of the years on his shoulders, discussed his grief and joy over the future of the global Anglican Church and why now is the time for re-direction.
We are witnessing an awakening.
A Fractured Church
In June 2008, hundreds of bishops and clergy, representing millions of Anglicans internationally, met in Jerusalem at the Global Anglican Future conference (GAFcon).
They assembled in reaction to the lack of response coming from Canterbury regarding the rampant disobedient practices of same-sex blessings in North America. At this time they penned The Jerusalem Declaration, the essence of which affirmed historical orthodox Anglicanism, and rejected culturally influenced liberalism of the West and parts of Europe.
Indeed this is not only an Anglican crisis, as Archbishop Peter Jensen from Australia told Christianity Today last June. "The convulsions that are striking Anglicans, if they have not reached your mainstream denomination, will do so without a doubt. …This is an absolutely essential effort for us, for every evangelical no matter how pure a denomination they may think they occupy."
J. I. Packer is one of many who left the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). In recent writings he also referred to "convulsions" that same-sex blessings sent across the global communion and addressed his move to part from the ACC in an article called Why I Walked:
"Why did I walk out with the others? Because this decision (to bless homosexual relationships), taken in its context, falsifies the Gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth."
Since The Jerusalem Declaration was released, many have asked if this implies an official separation from Canterbury. It does not. However, it is the general consensus that, short of a miracle, the prospect of restored relationship is grim. On this issue, Dr. Packer addressed the ANiC synod:
"The Archbishop's public gesture reminds me, at least, of the Canadian hero [comedian], Red Green of Possum Lodge, who reckons to hold things together with lashings of duct tape, while the equivocal nature of his own position… robs his leadership of moral authority… this entire enterprise of patching the cracks seems forlorn. The cracks are, quite simply, too wide for that to work."
A Global Reformation
The Gospel of Jesus went out from Jerusalem at its inception and continues to do so today. The effects of GAFcon and The Jerusalem Declaration are beginning to manifest around the world.
Last week, priests and laity representing 23 congregations that walked from the ACC, met for the "First things first - Inaugural synod" and have announced the birth of a new North American province, which will be established as of December 3, 2008. Anglo-Catholics, charismatics, and evangelicals came together in a huddle around the Gospel to get ready for the task ahead.
While most of those present had either lost, or were in the process of losing, their church buildings, it was little talked about. Instead there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.
It was noticeable that most were nursing wounds from recent loss of properties and aggressive ACC lawsuits, yet the topic of conversation remained on the Lord's work moving ahead, with a focus on mission and church planting. The business meetings were interspersed with prayer and testimonies of new life budding in the congregations. There was a recurring theme of looking outward with the gospel of Jesus, mingled with grief over what has been lost and the fracture in the global communion.
At the Local Level
Wherever there is battle, there are casualties. In North America it is the local church that has taken the hit for defending the faith. CBN News interviewed Joyce Lee, a securities lawyer who, unrelated to her profession, has been at the forefront of the attacks of a liberal Bishop in the diocese of New West Minster.
Attending the synod as a lay delegate, she addressed the assembly sharing stories of encouragement from her Chinese congregation who had lost their building. She candidly spoke about money and in this case the real cost of discipleship. Everyone in leadership in her church personally mortgaged their homes to buy a new building, coming up with $700,000 - one-fifth of the total cost, leading their people by example.
"Speaking as a Chinese person, if the money is there, then you know the heart is there," she told the laughing assembly.
Lee had glassy eyes as she spoke with CBN. The past six years have been a time of perseverance "and many tears," she confessed. When asked how The Jerusalem Declaration affected her, she had happiness mixed with anti-climax:
"We had spent years, literally pleading with different primates for help. We received letters of support and encouragement, but ultimately, disappointment. … My feeling about The Jerusalem Declaration was finally, they act."
For so many in the Anglican communion, this reformation was a long time coming.
Establishing diocesan infrastructure and church government may sound like a dry subject to some, but what is happening is an awakening in the Anglican Church. Anglicans have been forced to ask themselves What does it mean to be Anglican? What does it mean to be a Christian? Today we see people realigning themselves with the deep roots of the creeds built on Jesus and the authority of God-breathed Scripture.
We are not witnessing a schism, but the cusp of a global reformation and perhaps, revival.