Is the Anglican Communion about to split over different views of sexual ethics?
You might think so after reading headlines about the archbishop of Canterbury’s proposal to “loosen” the structures of the Communion — a way of retaining his relationship to the liberal wing of the Western churches as well as the traditional Anglicans of the Global South.
But to interpret the archbishop’s recent announcement as a split over sexuality is to miss the bigger picture. First, the impending dissolution of Anglicanism as it currently exists institutionally is over much more than sex. Second, the divorce has already taken place, just not formally.
The Anglican Communion is divided over much more than sex.
The morality of homosexual behavior is the flash point in the Anglican crisis today, but the controversy over sexual ethics is just a symptom of a disease that Anglicanism has battled for decades now. Even if all Anglicans would “agree to disagree” on the nature of marriage, their differences would still be profound.
The communion is ultimately divided on the authority of the Bible. You can see the differences even in how Anglicans are responding to the news of a potential split. Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya has expressed hope that the Bible would be restored to the center of the communion. Like other African primates, Wabukala sees the crisis as much bigger than simply maintaining relationships across different cultural contexts. For Anglican leaders in the Global South, the communion is on the verge of schism because of false teaching that continues unabated, without a call to repentance or the exercise of discipline.
For decades now, traditional Anglicans have watched leaders in the West abandon key components of historic Christianity.
Back in 1963, Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson published the best-selling “Honest to God,” which criticized traditional Christian teaching and introduced situational ethics. Just before his death, author and apologist C.S. Lewis commented on Robinson’s work and others like it as “a scandal” responsible for “turning people away from the church” by “continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel.”
Lewis wrote: “I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution.”
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