On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, with Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, Anglicans nailed (or tacked) a similar protesting document to the doors of five Church of England cathedrals. Leaders in the movement told PJ Media they intend to push the Church of England back to the Bible and against a “secular” form of “soft socialism.”
“These postings of the Southwark Declaration represent a grassroots protest amongst both the orthodox laity and the clergy against the complacent selling-out of the Church of England to the current secular zeitgeist in the name of progressive Christianity,” Gavin Ashenden, a missionary bishop to England who rejected his ordination in the Church of England (and his position as special bishop to Queen Elizabeth II) this year, told PJ Media.
Each of the protesting Anglicans posted both the Southwark Declaration — a document standing by traditional biblical sexuality similar to the Nashville Statement — and a document explicitly citing Luther.
“The leaders of the Church of England are so scared of losing their privileged and protected platform in this increasingly secular society, that they have been prepared to deny all the teaching on sexual purity and heterosexual marital configuration found from the beginning and running through to the end of the Bible,” the missionary bishop declared.
Ashenden insisted that the protest was broader than just sexuality and LGBT issues, however.
“This is not just a pragmatic political betrayal of Jesus and the Gospel He founded the Church to follow, but a spiritual rebellion that involves changing sides from light to darkness,” he said.
Ashenden connected the corruption in 21st century Anglicanism to the 16th century corruption of Roman Catholicism protested by Luther. “In our generation, the spiritual struggle has morphed from buying souls out of purgatory to buying public approbation to protect a national Church from national rejection by a skeptical hedonistic culture,” he argued.
He cited the principle “semper reformanda,” that the church should always reform itself, returning to the testimony of scripture and staying vigilant for the corruptions of the world.
“These ‘Wittenberg’ protests warn these progressive heterodox Anglican leaders that there is a core of faithful Anglicans who will repudiate their leadership and their claims to represent the Church unless there is a change of heart and a change of direction,” Ashenden declared.
The missionary bishop explained why Anglicans targeted cathedrals. A cathedral isn’t just a large church — it is the bishop’s seat where he is duty-bound to “teach and defend the orthodox Christian faith and call people to respond to the Gospel.”
Therefore, protesters direct their call for reformation to cathedrals. Ashenden said the protest aims to save the Anglican Church “from political compromise and spiritual corruption that will otherwise prove to be its undoing and lead to its demise.”
He argued that “progressive bishops” have been using “the Church as a tool to achieve a secular spirituality for what seems to be a form of soft socialism rather than faithfulness to the teaching of Jesus.”
A priest in the Church of England associated with the pinning of the documents also told PJ Media about the consequences of the Church of England’s leaders rejecting scripture.
“It’s when you lose confidence in the scriptures, everything becomes up for grabs,” the priest said. “We’re hearing more about green issues than about salvation from sin.”
Among church leaders today, “the gospel is not about salvation anymore, it’s about equality.” He noted an initiative preaching equality — especially for disabled people — which also emphasizes homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
The Church of England has also flirted with celebrating Islam. The vicar of St. John’s Waterloo, Giles Goddard, hosted Muslim prayers in his church in March 2015. “Whilst it is very important to build good interfaith relations, it is clear that an act of worship from a non-Christian faith tradition is not permitted within a consecrated Church of England building,” a spokesman admitted.
In January of this year, an Episcopal cathedral in Scotland also hosted a Muslim song — which explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.
In this context, with green issues, equality, homosexuality, and even Islam pushed in the Church of England, the anonymous priest lamented that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has fallen down on the job. The leader of the Church of England “is not defending the faith, he is not guarding the flock, he is letting the wolves run raged,” the priest charged.
He quoted a clergyman in Southwark diocese who said, “I am sick to death of the gay agenda in the Church of England.”
“It’s not a joke, it’s very serious,” the priest told PJ Media, noting that some outlets have reported the posting of the Southwark Declaration as a “stunt.” “Clergy don’t do this sort of thing lightly. They do it once in five hundred years.”
He traced the root problem to a rejection of the Bible’s authority. He noted Bishop John Robinson’s 1963 book Honest to God, in which Robinson argued “we can’t believe in God the way we have traditionally understood him.” Robinson attempted to reconstruct Christianity in a secular image, rejecting the idea of God “up there” or “out there,” but rather emphasizing God as inside the person himself.
This opened the door to the Church of England accommodating Christianity to cultural trends, the anonymous pastor said. “I would say the Church of England has got to be prepared to be countercultural,” he insisted.
“This isn’t a political thing — this is about saving the church,” the priest explained. “People do not want the church to be destroyed, and they are seeing it being weakened.” By contrast, he pointed to Anglican churches which are being “revived” through a return to the scriptures in Nigeria, Kenya, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and South America.
“I personally have become aware of clergy moving from other countries to the UK to be missionaries,” the priest said. At first, he thought this was an rumor, but he has now met “several people, one from America, one from South America, some from Africa. They keep hearing that England is no longer Christian.”
In his statement on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Justin Welby declared “the problem, as in every age, is us.”
“Luther set the gospel free, and as human beings we seek continually to imprison it behind ritual and authority — or to make it serve politics or causes. When we seek to use the gospel for our own ends, rather than to proclaim it as the word of God, then the gospel is not preached and the church divides,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said.
“What do we do with the gift today? Will we be willing ourselves to be reformed again and always, setting aside our differences because we are caught up in the grace that is found through faith?” Welby asked.
That is the key question. Will Welby and the leaders of the Church of England listen to the reforming impulse of the pastors nailing a 95 Theses-style document to Church of England cathedrals? Or will they reject the call to reform, and make the gospel “serve politics or causes”?
The anonymous priest warned that if Welby continues to fail in his leadership (the archbishop actually admitted “I am copping out” when asked if same-sex intercourse is a sin), then Canterbury may not remain in control of the global Anglican Communion.
“The size of the Church of Nigeria makes the Church of England look like a pigmy,” the priest declared. “If Canterbury wants to remain in control, Welby’s going to have to return to the scriptures.”
Click “Load More” to see Ashenden speak about the Martin Luther-style protest for Anglican Unscripted.