The Stance of the Church of England (Continuing);
Time to Choose.
Archbishop Cranmer was, under God, the architect of the Reformation of the English Church in the sixteenth century. He bequeathed to it a Scriptural catholicity. Catholic truth, he declared, is Scriptural truth. On that principle he fashioned the doctrine and worship of the Church of England. It is enshrined in the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.
But Cranmer warned of the dangers of the loss of Scriptural Catholicity. He foresaw just such a possible development as that of our day, when the church would turn from the Bible and begin to formulate its own doctrines. Let me give you his actual words. The visible church, he said, is only the church of Christ in so far as it adheres to Scripture.
But if the church proceed further to make any article of the faith, beside the Scripture, or direct not the form of life according to the same; then it is not the pillar of the truth, nor the church of Christ, but the synagogue of Satan, and the temple of antichrist which both erreth itself, and bringeth into error as many as do follow it.
(Works of Archbishop Cranmer, Parker Society I, p 377)
If the church so errs, it ceases to be the church of Christ. And furthermore Cranmer shows how this situation comes about. He reveals just what is the cause of it. It is uncertainty about God’s Word, uncertainty about its message and its truth. Again let me give you Cranmer’s own words on the subject.
If we be uncertain about God’s word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god, as he hath already done in the popish kingdom.
(Ibid. II, 52)
Such is the perilous condition of the church that is uncertain of God’s Word, which is the present state of the Church of England, and which overthrows the supreme authority of Scripture.
Need for faithfulness
There are those of us who believe that in such a situation something must be done. If the Church of England is proving to be unfaithful to its great inheritance it is our duty to be faithful to that inheritance. We believe in the Scriptural Catholicity of the 39 Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. We wish to continue with them, to perpetuate them. And so the only thing to do is in fact what has been done, to form a body, the Church of England (Continuing), in which it is possible to be faithful to the true orthodox position of the Church of England, which is now little more that a memory in the Church of England itself.
Imagine the picture. You have the mainline going straight ahead, but the General Synod switches the points, with the result that the Church of England has sped off on a side line. But we are determined to continue straight on, on the mainline, and are doing so. (Interestingly, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones always objected to the term ‘mainline churches’ being used of the liberal churches, and you can see why).
The present crisis has created a situation for Christians in which they must choose where their allegiance lies; whether they are content to be sidelined or wish to make a stand for mainline truth and orthodoxy. A situation has arisen not unlike that in Israel at the time of Elijah, when he challenged the people to choose whom they would serve, the true God or Baal. The people were not used to having to decide in that manner. Ahab had allowed a laissez-faire situation to develop with regard to religion. He allowed the worship of Baal alongside the worship of Jehovah. People thought they could worship their idols and serve the Lord. Elijah came along with a different message. How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. (1 Kings 18:21). This is the kind of situation in which we now find ourselves.
Time to choose
It is time now for us to identify ourselves. Where do we really stand? I think if you belong to the real Church of England you will want to be in the Church of England (Continuing).
But you might say, “I love the Church of England and I don’t want to leave it”. If you feel like that then ask yourself this question: Where is the Church of England? It is no longer there, where you think it is. The Church of England is the Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic faith; it is the Holy Scriptures, the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, a believing people, a godly ministry. Article 19 Of the Church puts the matter clearly and succinctly:
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the Sacraments be ministered according to Christ’s ordinance…
Where are the 39 Articles today in the Church of England? Where is the Prayer Book? Where for that matter is the Bible? You will find all these in the Church of England (Continuing), so if you love the Church of England, that is where you should be.