Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2: 17
The Archbishop of Canterbury has firmly rejected the claim, restated in a Vatican document this week, that the Church of England is not a proper church.
Lambeth Palace issued a reassertion by the Archbishop on Tuesday, of the Anglican claim to be truly a part of the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. My mother would have been very amused at this. She always refused to acknowledge that we were part of the Catholic Church and when I asked her on one occasion what she thought about the creed, in which we say, "I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" she replied; "I always cough at that point".
The Papal ruling that Anglican orders are invalid has been in force since 1896. Dr. Carey says that this new pronouncement from the Vatican breaks no new ground, but neither does it fully reflect the deeper understanding that has been achieved through ecumenical dialogue and co-operation during the last thirty years. "The idea that Anglican and other churches are not proper churches seems to question the considerable ecumenical gains we have made," said the Archbishop.
This controversy was the headline feature in last weeks church times.
In the same issue, on page 5, there was a report which concerned an Anglican Priest in Wetherby who has been given three months compassionate leave and has announced that he will be seeking a new appointment, after a campaign of parish opposition that has included death threats. The issues raised by the Priests opponents were:-
Where he sat to lead the Sunday morning worship.
His decision to move the reading of the notices to a different point in the service; and
His practice of not wearing an Alb.
A member of the congregation expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Vicar, saying that their Church was the Parish Church and not an Evangelical Church.
What does our Lord Jesus Christ make of it all I wonder? Does he welcome the dogmatic assertions from the Vatican with their claim to be the true Church of God? Does he agree with the Papal Bull of 1896, which denounced Anglican orders?
What does our Lord Jesus Christ make of the claim of the Archbishop of Canterbury that we are a proper church because we can claim a true apostolic succession?
What does our Lord think I wonder about the church at Wetherby who sacked their Vicar because he was Evangelical?
St. Luke records that when Jesus entered Jerusalem he wept. I think he would do the same if he entered the church in our time. Through his tears he said, "If only you had known what is needed for your peace. But now you cannot see it." And he went on to prophesy its destruction. If only the church could see what is needed for its peace. Listen again to the plain speaking of St. James. He says; "My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well dressed man, and say, "come this way to the best seats"; then you say to the poor man "Stand over there" or "You can sit on the floor by my footrest". Cant you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
It seems to me, that if the Church hopes to survive into the next Millennium we must learn to get our priorities right. Without vision we die. We need to ask the Lord to lay his hands upon us and give us that vision which alone leads to life. Like the deaf man of the gospel, we need to place ourselves in the healing hands of Christ and to hear the words cry out from his holy lips, "Ephphatha", that is "Be opened".