Episcopal Repentance

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
24th August 2007

Tagged: anglicanism homosexuality

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The worldwide Anglican Communion is on the edge of doing nothing. It has been there for some time now. It is poised on the lip of a great plunge into indecision. It is the modern Anglican way of doing theology.

To repent is to act. To be unrepentant is a state. Repentance is something that we do. “Unrepentance” is not doing something. It is what does not happen—it is what you are when you do not repent.

The Anglicans of the world have been asking the Episcopal Church in the USA to repent. This September their peak body meets to once more consider this question. We can pray that God would perform a great miracle in their hearts that would lead them to repent. There is not much more that we can do than pray. For there is no indication that repentance is likely.

In the last four years, since they consecrated an active homosexual as a bishop, there has been no repentance. Just the reverse, there has been an increased call from them for Christians to follow their example and accept homosexual behaviour.

It is a Mexican standoff of repentances. Neither side is flinching.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to this difficult situation with invitations to his Lambeth conference. He has insulted the Americans by not inviting the openly homosexual bishop. On the other hand he conceded to their concerns and has not invited the bishop consecrated by the Nigerians to minister in America.

But such apparent even-handedness is unimpressive for those who are opposed to the consecration of an active homosexual. They have several problems with the current state of affairs.

That the homosexual bishop is not invited does not meet their problem. They are concerned that those who elected, supported and consecrated him are welcome without any repentance. Their concern is not over one individual, but over false teaching and false teachers leading the church.

They have asked for repentance and received only an unrepentant apology. (Saying “I am sorry I hurt you” is an apology. Saying “I am sorry that I did it and will seek to rectify the matter” is repentance.)

They have drawn a line in the sand that requires repentance for continued fellowship, but this line is being fudged by prevarication, weasel words, and procrastination. The worldly practice of political brinkmanship is the response they are receiving both from the USA and Lambeth.

Repentance is a big ask of anybody. The call for the Americans to repent appears to go unheeded. The American's call for the world body to repent is also going unheeded.

So when neither side repents who wins? False teachers always win. For when neither side repents—false teachers move from the status of “tolerated” to “accepted”. Within a generation they then move from “accepted” to “orthodox” which is only a short step away from “mandatory belief”.

Doing nothing has always been the safest way for false teaching to secure control of the church.

In the New Testament the bishop “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

When Anglican bishops are consecrated they promise to be ready to “banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's word”

It does not sound like they are supposed to do nothing.