Friday, July 11, 2003

Vast Religious Conspiracy - An Evangelical Answer

Joel Edwards, of the Evangelical Alliance, in yesterday's Telegraph addresses three issues emphasised by Dr John's supporters.

To charges that the resistance to Dr. John's appointment was the work of a disaffected, unrepresentative minority (the 'hijack') he points out that "There are about two billion Christians in the world today, and at least 700 million are evangelicals. Most of these live in non-Western countries. By comparison, the worldwide Anglican communion is small: numbering 70 million, it is dwarfed by the global evangelical movement. Of course, some Anglicans - a clear majority, in fact - are themselves part of that movement."

On the idea that the Church in the Third World should defer to the greater wisdom and understanding of Western liberals:

"Liberals within the Church often call us to "listen to the voices of the Third World", but on the issue of homosexuality there has been apparent outrage that leaders from developing nations should suggest that if an appointment such as Jeffrey John's were to go ahead they might have to consider their position within the Anglican Communion. It suggests that when millions of believing Christians outside our shores hold fast to beliefs that don't fit Western pluralist assumptions, they are disregarded as outmoded and irrelevant."

And on Canon Slee's suggestion that Evangelicals are responsible for the seemingly inexorable decline in church attendance:

"There is evidence that a "Liberal Gospel" breeds decline, in the Church of England and other churches. The fact is that only a tiny minority of Christian denominations around the world have formally approved the ordination of practising homosexuals, same-sex blessings and other such measures. Two of the most notable examples are the United Church of Christ in America and the United Church of Canada. Since they adopted these policies, their membership has declined sharply. This gives the lie to the oft-quoted assumption that if the Church adapts to Western cultural trends on this matter people will come flocking through its doors."

This one will run and run, so let's turn our eyes from these somewhat sorry and ignominious facts and remember the great good the Church brings. As at a Pentecostal church in inner-city Birmingham, from the good doctor Dalrymple.

""But we are all sinners, Lord. Therefore we pray for forgiveness. We do not always follow Your ways, Lord; we are proud, we are stubborn, we want to go our own way. We think only of ourselves. That is why there is so much sin, so much robbery, so much violence, on our streets."

I recalled the faces of the young men in the prison now accused of murder: their hard, glittering, expressionless eyes—young men who recognized no law but their own desire of the moment. The old lady described (and explained) their radical egotism in a religious way.

Murmurs of assent were heard everywhere. It wasn't the police's fault, or racism's, or the system's, or capitalism's; it was the failure of sinners to acknowledge any moral authority higher than their personal whim. And in asserting this, the congregation was asserting its own freedom and dignity: poor and despised as its members might be, they were still human enough to decide for themselves between right and wrong. And they offered hope to others, too: for if a man chose to do evil, he could later elect, by an act of will, to do good. No one had to wait until there was perfect justice in the world, or all the circumstances were right, before he himself did good

Amen to that.