The Jerusalem Declaration: Why It Matters
Archbishop Peter Jensen
Archbishop of Sydney
Member of the World Reformed Fellowship
Presentation at "Be Faithful"
July 6th, 2009
Ominous and foreboding words are being said about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA)by those who wish it ill - they say it is schismatic, it will divide the church, it is a power play.
These changes are at best misunderstandings or at worst political posturing.
Let me say this as clearly as possible.
The FCA exists to keep Anglicanism united, to enable those whose spiritual existence as Anglicans is threatened to remain Anglicans with integrity.
It exists to keep orthodox, biblical Anglicanism inside the fold at the highest level possible; to gather up the fragments, to unite them. It exists so that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and mere Anglicans can continue to be Anglicans without compromising Biblical truth. The question for you is: will you join us, will you help us keep our Communion one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
Jim Packer is one of the giants of the real world-Anglicanism. Amongst the wise of this world he is disdained, but his praises are sung in all the churches. Astonishingly, in the eyes of his institutional church he is no longer one of us. He has chosen to separate himself from what he has called the sanctification of sin.
Is he still an Anglican?
When we can seriously ask that question, something is deeply wrong. We are at a watershed, at a parting of the ways. Decisions have to be made.
In this country, the Christian foundations have been shaken. In this and the next generation there will be fought what may amount to the last battle for the soul of the nation. It will be an ideological war,
a war of ideas. But great issues will hang upon the outcome: the fate of a culture and the eternal fate of souls. Many look to you for guidance and resource and inspiration. Can we do so any longer?
How can we test your resolve to evangelize your people? Unless you develop a deep confidence in the gospel of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ, a willingness to work together for Christ, and a determination to submit to the teaching of scripture, it will not be done. The culture will swallow you alive.
With persuasive power, the culture of the West has adopted and promulgated anti-Christian belief and practice. It confronts every Christian with the choice of submission or harassment. It pretends to
be the true heir of the Christian faith, that it now possesses all that was worthwhile of Christianity, and that the entire structure of Christian thought can disappear into the receding past.
It tells you that its tolerance is the choicest part of your love, that its non-discrimination is the choicest part of your justice, that its individualism is the choicest part of your freedom, and that its sexual athleticism is the choicest part of your marriage.
Against such a false ideology the ecclesiastical liberal temper fails. It means well, but its genius is toward politics and hence compromise. Its tendency is toward exercising denominational leadership, into synods and boards and councils, indeed into the episcopacy itself. It will come to terms with this world theologically but paradoxically it will insist on the structural unity of the institutional church before gospel truth. Its spokesmen will unceasingly lecture the rulers of this world on how to go about their tasks, but they will not do so from within the culture of Christ and the Bible. They will do so from within the ideology of the day so that if you listen to them on the radio you will not be able to tell whether you are hearing a Christian minister or a member of the intellectual elite or the political class. There is much to admire in the liberal temper, but it is assuredly no basis from which to evangelize the nation and build up the churches. For that, you need a deep confidence in the gospel and a determination to follow the teaching of scripture come what may.
In the British Isles, there is a laudable tendency not to panic, not to respond to overstatement, to seek balance and nuance, to see the other point of view, above all not to take decisive and rretrievable action. I know I am a foreigner, but I care deeply what happens here.
Let me say this: It is not a day in which to practice the politics of drift. There is little time left. The younger generations are largely lost. Your great inheritance is about to pass into other, heedless
hands. You can no longer treat the institutional church as though it is as unassailable as the temple of the Lord; you can no longer say "peace, peace" where there is no peace. You need to unite with
each other in a fellowship which will sustain and protect and do mission.
Many are still angry that the Jerusalem GAFCON was held. Some of the most angry are those who agree with the theology of the GAFCON movement but cannot accept that a moment for decisive action had arrived. To such persons I say, I admire you and honour you as brothers and sisters in the Lord. But it seems to me that every day that has passed since the GAFCON has only vindicated the decision to hold it. The liberal churches have not resiled from their unbiblical teaching on human sexuality; the court cases still go on; the covenant has been delayed yet again; Dr Packer and eighty thousand other faithful Anglicans have been told that they do not belong to the Anglican Communion. And in this country there are moves not merely to consecrate women as bishops, but to make no provision for those whose only fault is that they believe what the Church Catholic has always believed.
We need to imagine the next twenty years. We need to see the ideological battle being fought out in the arena of ideas with the speed of the internet and the scale of the globe. We need to see biblical churches assailed as never before by the distorted and false gospels which have captured so much of the West. The culturally captivated churches of the West are sending their gospel to the rest of the world. I tell you, this is not the time to wring hands and say "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," to choose institution over gospel; it is no time to say "peace, peace" for there is no peace.
The conflict is over the authority of Jesus Christ. The fact that sexual ethics is where the contest is sharpest should not divert us from this basic truth. There are two areas in which special vigilance
is called for if we wish to honour the authority of Christ in his church. The first is theological education by means of which the intellectual and spiritual lives of future leaders are shaped. The second is the area of hermeneutics. Those who hold that the Bible is the inspired word of God will see in it a unity which holds all things together. Those who regard it as a human witness to God, drawn together as a sort of library, will find contradiction and tension throughout. It is no accident that the two areas in which we can see especial liberal efforts to help in the "?enlightenment" of the global south and the conservative Anglicans of the West, are in theological education and hermeneutics.
GAFCON has been a remarkable success. It has rescued the 80,000 Anglican Christians in North America who have been forced to disaffiliate from their church by the sanctification of sin. Other
good people have chosen to stay inside the denomination. But who can doubt the stature of Bob Duncan or Jim Packer and their urgent need to find another spiritual home? I applaud the courage of men like Greg Venables and the African and Asian Primates who risked and received heaped up opprobrium for extending fellowship to those who needed it. They took action while others wrung their hands. They have invited us all to declare that we are in communion with these Anglicans. I cannot believe that any evangelically and catholically minded Anglican would hold back. Why are we so frightened?
The Jerusalem Declaration is a rallying point for Anglicans and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is the means by which the movement can be sustained. The FCA exists to unite Anglicanism in their faith so that we help each other be authentic Anglican Christians. Shortly there is to be a commentary on the Declaration published, and I commend it to you.
What sort of document are we dealing with here? It is a Catholic statement, it is an Evangelical statement, it is an Anglican statement, it is a classically Christian statement. One of its chief features is this: it says both a joyous "yes" and a firm "no".
Both are necessary. A Christianity which has a great desire to be acceptable to the world says all the positives but will not state the negatives. But the mark of a Christian statement, a statement which
professes the true faith, is that it also says "No!" In particular here is an affirmation which says to those who would offer cheap grace in the name of Jesus Christ that there is no grace without the grace which leads to repentance and to transformation of life, that our good news to this sin-sick world is not "go, this is not longer a sin," but "go and sin no more." Its affirmatives take strength from its negations.
First it affirms the biblical gospel.
The Declaration starts with the gospel. It is the gospel of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, applied to the hearts and lives of undeserving sinners by the Holy Spirit. It is a powerful Holy Spirit gospel which transforms us; it does not leave us where we are. It also speaks of the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, "humanity's" only Saviour from sin, judgment and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death we deserve. In other words here is a gospel which is to do with sin and hell, with our need of a Saviour, with our salvation through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross by which he bore our sins. The Declaration affirms that Jesus Christ is the sole Saviour that there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved than that of Jesus.
In other words it repudiates any gospel in which human merit is advanced, any gospel which confuses salvation with this worldly political goals, any gospel which does not seek for a transformed life though repentance, any gospel in which all are saved, any gospel which denies the reality of hell and judgment, any gospel which sees humanity as fundamentally sound, any gospel in which other beliefs and religions offer a way to God. The gospel of the Jerusalem Declaration is the gospel of the Bible, the Prayer Book and the Articles of Religion.
Second it affirms God's authority.
The Jerusalem Declaration identifies Scripture as the word of God written and its unique role in expressing God's authority over his people. Scripture is sufficient; it does not look beyond itself; it needs no supplement; the appeal to scripture is enough to settle for us the mind of God. Furthermore, since the whole Bible is a canonical unity, being the word of God, we may believe it and obey it with confidence that we may understand its message using the ordinary methods of reading, the plain and canonical sense.
And yet we are not the first to have studied scripture. We rightly respect "the church's historic and consensual reading", and therefore pay due honour to such creeds, Councils, Articles as enable
us with confidence to say that we understand the scriptures aright. Hence the importance of the rule of faith expressed through the four ecumenical councils and the three creeds; hence too the assertion that the 39 Articles remain "authoritative for Anglicans today."
Third it affirms Anglican identity through its basic practice and order.
The statement aligns itself with the classic expressions of Anglican sacramental, liturgical and ecclesiastical practice and order. It does so because this heritage is an expression of the gospel, not because they are worthy in themselves for antiquarian reasons. Over the years there have been many different appropriations of this heritage and to this day the different churchmanships lay claim to the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal as peculiarly their own. Such differences remain important. But we can talk about them and seek to resolve them as long as all parties recognize the givenness of the Christian faith, that we have received it from God and do not have the right to change it to fit the spirit of the age. To this conviction those Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals who understand their own position bear equal witness.
Fourth, it firmly applies the biblical gospel to the issues of our day.
The Declaration asserts "lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those not married" as the biblical norm and hence as the will of God, to be obeyed not evaded. This stands in contrast to
the churches which obscure the call of the gospel over this area of human life by ordaining those who breach it, or having the audacity to bless unions which God does not bless, or by suggesting that there is one standard for the ordained and another for the laity. The fact that these things may occur in our churches is an indication of how far we have come from the biblical foundation of our churches, of how far we have slipped and allowed the world to rule over that which belongs to God alone.
Here is where the contest between the church and the world is fiercest, here we need to be absolutely clear on the mind and will of God. If we will not stand for these principles we will not stand fogether or any principles and the Christian faith becomes an infinitely malleable set of human aspirations and not the revelation of the living God to a sinful people. Here we must make a choice and the choice must be political not theoretical. It must devolve into action not drift.
The Declaration properly asserts the unity of all Christian people and calls on us to act to one another in love. That is a basic Christian principle. Thus it recognizes that even between those who can assent to the Declaration itself there will be significant differences. Concerning these, there is a pledge either to live in Christian freedom or to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues which divide. The most obvious of such issues at the moment is that of the ordination of women. The Declaration assumes that on this subject there will be mutual forbearance and a willingness to continue a conversation under the eye of God to see whether there can be a common conviction. This is a far different temper from that which would make life impossible for those who hold this view to remain in fellowship and for the matter to be treated as though it is no longer able to be discussed before God. That is the cause of schism.
The boundaries of doctrine are not elastic. There are moments when an institutional church loses its grasp of the gospel and actually endorses that which is sin. There are moment in which the unity of the authentic church is best maintained by separation and distance. Truth must precede order; the fellowship of God's people is more important that the institutions which serve that fellowship. The Jerusalem Declaration recognizes the orders of those of orthodox faith and practice and says firmly "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed."
Can we do this? We can do no other. To remain in undisturbed fellowship with those who endorse what the Bible identifies as sin or heresy is to run the risk of partaking in the sins of others. We have to approach a subject like this with care and humility, but nonetheless when the issues are clear so is our duty. Our actual strategy may differ in each case. There may be a call to actually sever relations and move outside an institution; the aim of FCA is to help us stay within, but to do so with integrity. If we choose the latter option, we must do so in such a way at to make it clear that the practices which dishonour the gospel of Christ are not ours. We must organize, unite in fellowship, and act. What we cannot do is merely drift or utter meaningless protests which will not protect others or put forward the gospel of Christ. What we ought not do is show incredible sensitivity to the feelings of those who have endorsed false teaching and to the institution which does not bring them to account, while at the same time castigating those who have made their protest by taking action.
The Function of the Jerusalem Declaration
I believe that the Jerusalem Declaration is a noble document.
It is a gathering point. We need to be renewed, given new heart, revived in a common identity and in a common purpose. In the Jerusalem Declaration we have a gospel inspired, gospel infused call to unity of heart, mind. purpose and love written by and for Anglicans from the world-wide Communion. It does not say that its signatories are the only authentic Anglicans. But when you sign it and join the FCA does give a very practical way in which Anglicans of different backgrounds can signal their fixed determination to work together for the Anglican faith against the cultural captivity of the church and in favour of the Holy Spirit's transforming power and the mission of Christ in the world. I believe that it represents a spiritual movement within our Communion, something which we seem to have forgotten in all our talk of conferences, covenants, commissions, and indaba groups.
The launch of the UK FCA is a great moment, a gospel moment. It appeals to all that is best in the Anglican tradition. It summons people from all over Britain and Ireland to join together in a spiritual movement for the sake of Christ and his gospel. It is a moment in which ordinary people can take responsibility for what happens in their church. It is a moment when you can say, enough is enough, we wish our church to express the Anglican faith because it is the biblical and gospel faith. It is a moment when you can say, what has happened in the USA and Canada will not happen here.
In Sydney we made Jim Packer a Canon of our Cathedral. It was a practical way of saying that we stand with him and we will not allow it to be said that he is no longer an Anglican. Our Diocese has signed up to the Jerusalem Declaration and we are actively at work with our brothers and sisters all round the world to defend and promote the biblical gospel. We are making our convictions concrete and we are setting them to work. Will you join us?