As a rep at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia commencing this week, I’m thinking of two key promises I made at my ordination to the ‘priesthood’ (i.e. presbyterate = ‘eldership’) in the Anglican Church almost two decades ago.
These two responsibilities sum up the tension evangelicals often feel participating in such a theologically mixed denomination.
One the one hand the bishop asked me,
Will you be ready to drive away all false and strange doctrines that are contrary to God’s word; and to this end both publicly and privately to warn and encourage all within your care, both the sick and the well, as often as the occasion demands?
A little later he also asked me
Will you maintain and promote, to the best of your ability, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people, especially among those who are committed to your care?
Both important imperatives for Christian leaders, and in both cases, I answered,
I will, the Lord being my helper.
As well as teaching the gospel and preaching God’s Word faithfully, Christian leaders do have the unpleasant responsibility to vigorously resist (“drive away”) false teaching – such as a denial of the Trinity or of justification by faith without works!
But as much as possible, as in all other aspects of ministry, we are to do so in a way that promotes quietness, peace and love. (In passing, and I’m not sure how significant this is, I noticed in the second question that it’s not our job to “promote unity” – perhaps because in the end, that’s fundamentally the Holy Spirit’s job, a lá Ephesians 4?)
Anyway, clearly our manner here is critical. Discerning the debates that really matter from the ones that are silly. And then avoiding the argumentative spirit.
Here’s what I wrote as I asked the congregations of St Michael’s Cathedral Wollongong to pray for the Synod…
In parts of the Anglican Church of Australia, there is a lack of confidence in the gospel of Jesus as the power for salvation and in the authority of the Scriptures for ordering our ministries and ethics. Please pray for Bible-faithful, grace-filled, patient and kind contributions from our Sydney diocesan reps both at a formal and informal level at the Synod. And ask that all our churches might be continually reformed by God’s Word in the power of his Holy Spirit.
I hope you might pray for Australian Anglicans at the moment.
Pray also that your pastors can do things which can easily seem to pull in opposite directions: both to drive away false teaching and also to promote peace and quiet among Christians.