Tuesday, May 26, 1998

Handwriting on the Wall: Concluding Materials

The Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality

The following statement was unanimously adopted at the Second Anglican Encounter in the South, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 10 to 15 February 1997.

1. God’s glory and loving purposes have been revealed in the creation of humankind. (Rom1:18, Gen 1:26,27) Among the multiplicity of his gifts we are blessed with our sexuality.

2. Since the Fall (Gen 3), life has been impaired and God’s own purposes spoilt. Our fallen state has affected every sphere of our being, which includes our sexuality. Sexual deviation has existed in every time and in most cultures. Jesus’ teaching about lust in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:27-30) makes it clear that sexual sin is a real danger and temptation to us all.

3. It is, therefore, with an awareness of our won vulnerability to sexual sin that we express our profound concern about recent developments relating to Church discipline and moral teaching in some provinces in the North - specifically, the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions.

4. While acknowledging the complexities of our sexual nature and the strong drives it places within us, we are quite clear about God’s will in these areas as expressed in the Bible.

5. The Scripture bears witness to God’s will regarding human sexuality which is to be expressed only within the life long union of a man and a woman in (holy) matrimony.

6. The Holy Scriptures are clear in teaching that all sexual promiscuity is sin. We are convinced that this includes homosexual practices, between men or women, as well as heterosexual relationships outside marriage.

7. We believe that the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Holy Scriptures about human sexuality is of great help to Christians as it provides clear boundaries.

8. We find no conflict between clear biblical teaching and sensitive pastoral care. The call to repentance precedes forgiveness and is part of the healing process. We see this in the ministry of Jesus, for example his response to the adulterous women, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

9. We are deeply concerned that the setting aside of biblical teaching in such actions as the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions calls into question the authority of the Holy Scriptures. This is totally unacceptable to us.

10. We encourage the Church to care for all those who are trapped in their sexual brokenness and to become the channel of Christ’s compassion, love and healing towards them. We wish to stand alongside and welcome them into a process of being made whole and restored within our communities of faith. We would also affirm and resource those who exercise pastoral ministry in this area.

11. This leads us to express concern about mutual accountability and interdependence within our Anglican Communion. As provinces and dioceses we need to learn how to seek each other’s counsel and wisdom in spirit of true unity, and to reach a common mind, before embarking on radical changes to Church discipline and moral teaching.

12. We live in a global village and must be more aware that we way we act in one part of the world can radically affect the mission and witness of the Church in another.

Anglican Reconstruction

The following statement was adopted at the Second Anglican Encounter in the South, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 10 to 15 February 1997.

1. We are glad to belong to a Communion of different traditions and cultures. Nevertheless we are deeply concerned about its future unity and ability to respond to the challenges of a radically changing world and a new millennium.
2. Diverging views of Scripture, different understandings of ministry, and a breakdown of discipline and teaching related to social ethics all have placed serious strain on the internal unity of the Communion. There has been discussion about the permissible limits of diversity, but who sets these limits and according to what criteria?
3. We question the wisdom of retaining the complete autonomy of our many provinces and believe we should look for ways of strengthening mutual accountability and interdependence. It is vital for our mission that we have effective ways of seeking God’s will together, of reaching a common mind, and of encouraging and admonishing one another.
4. Therefore, prompted by our study of Nehemiah 8, we call for a careful review of our instruments of unity and ask the Lambeth Conference to consider organisational and governmental changes in the Communion. We believe such reforms must be matched with spiritual “reconstruction” based on biblical renewal.
5. The new century will demand changes of us. But we are already a changed Church with its majority membership in the South. We are experiencing new opportunity and growing hostility to the Christian message.
6. From the South we call on Anglican brothers and sisters of all traditions to be of one heart and mind in Christ’s mission and to effective mutual accountability in his service.


Postscript: What Can You Do?
by Stephen F. Noll

After the 1994 General Convention, Bishop John MacNaughton of West Texas wrote an insightful article entitled “Two Within One: The Divided Episcopal Church.” Bishop MacNaughton argued that the sexuality issue was a litmus test that defined “Church One” and “Church Two” within the Episcopal Church, which was divided by far more fundamental disagreements than merely sexual practice. He described these two churches thus:

Church One understands scripture as the final and deepest authority. While this church reads Scripture with all the resources of higher criticism and modern scholarship at hand, it is not convinced that data from any other source holds the same truth or the same authority. Scripture is, as the ordination vow still declares, “The word of God containing all things necessary to salvation,” and must be acknowledged as such.

Church Two sees the Scripture principally as a historic document subject to correction from current learnings…. Its major value, according to this church, is the way it describes the person of Jesus as a person of compassion…. Having chosen an irreversible position on human sexuality, this church then interprets scripture to make it support or at least not rule out the position already chosen….

The other major division is in the area of structural authority. Who has authority to decide major issues before the church? Is it the national church at General Convention and/or the House of Bishops meeting together, or can each diocese exercise “local option” and go its own way based on its own needs, standards and conscience?

The situation described by Bishop MacNaughton is what is called “impaired communion” or “impaired authority.” The visible fellowship of the Church is not utterly broken, but neither can we pretend that all is well. Impaired communion and authority is not the normal way of living as a Church, but we are not living in normal times.

If it is indeed true that there are two churches within one official denomination, what are average Episcopalians to do? It is in this context that Bishop FitzSimons Allison’s aphorism applies: Stay. Don’t Obey. Don’t Pay. Pray.

Stay
The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are a rightful branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. If you are a member of a Church One congregation or diocese, then bloom where you are planted. A crisis in the wider denomination provides an opportunity for you to be more active in your local church, not less. It is incredibly sad when Episcopalians leave a good congregation because they are offended by what the national church is doing.

If your congregation or diocese looks more like Church Two, then stand for your birthright as an Anglican Christian and ask your leaders the question, “Who moved?” It may be difficult, or even unwise, to stay in a congregation or diocese when your rector or bishop is advocating views that are unbiblical. If you feel you must in good conscience worship outside the Episcopal Church, find ways to bring your Anglican heritage to bear and keep in touch with the wider network of biblical Episcopalians and godly Episcopal ministries.

Don’t Obey
This is the most paradoxical of Bishop Allison’s injunctions. One does not obey in some cases because those in authority have not obeyed the authority of the Bible and the apostolic tradition. This may involve your becoming a “conscientious objector” to certain canons or regulations within your diocese or church. It may mean choosing not to receive Communion when certain leaders who have publicly violated the faith officiate. It also means “standing with” those in our Church who are being persecuted for their biblical convictions, even if you would not make your protest exactly the way they have.

Don’t Pay
We all owe a spiritual and financial account to God to use his resources to his glory and to serve the truth. The present situation is an opportunity for you to give more, not less, to the work of Christ’s kingdom, but you must examine carefully how that money will be used. You must be “wise as a serpent” in your stewardship of money, especially in a national church whose former treasurer is in jail and which refuses to disclose its financial accounts. You may also need to get careful legal assistance in property and inheritance transactions. Finally, you should consider ways that financial support can reach the truly needy ministries and churches of the Anglican Communion to further their life and witness.

Pray
Jesus promised that through prayer faith can move mountains. Why not the brittle resistance of the leadership of our Church? Anglicanism has been subject to periods of spiritual decline followed by great revival. Pray individually and corporately for the reform of the Episcopal Church’s leadership and for a revival of its mission. Pray also for the Lambeth Conference from July 18-August 9, 1997, that God would give courage and clarity to the bishops meeting there, and through them renew the wonderful vocation of Anglican Christianity to bring all races, languages, and peoples to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Prayer for the Church
Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen

Prayer for Mission
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching out our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen.

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