Friday, September 15, 2017

Discern the Spirits and Pray for the ACNA

Alice C. Linsley

The ordination of women priests among Anglicans is an expression of much confusion. The elements of confusion go well beyond gender confusion. We find disordered thinking touching on the Trinity, the relationship of Scripture and Tradition, and the infusion of Pentecostalism. The 3-streams fallacy that Anglicanism is catholic, reformed, and charismatic is a serious deviation from the Anglican Way. A background in anthropology leads to my suspicion that this Pentecostal influence is simply "Christian" shamanism. It contributes to the notions of progressive revelation and the mutability of God.

This wider theological confusion made it very difficult for the bishops to correct or discipline errant bishops like James Pike, William Swing and John Spong. Even before their time, the Anglican Way was derailed in the Church of England by modernism and occultism. This is reflected in the 1938 publication of Doctrine in the Church of England, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This is the report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1922. It is the closest thing to an Anglican statement of doctrine in modern times, but note the title: Doctrine in the Church of England, not Doctrine of the Church of England. The report reveals the considerable division within Anglicanism on central points of Christian doctrine. 

Add to that the willingness of some Church of England and American clergy to dabble in the occult, and you have a dreary picture indeed. 

In 1937, Archbishop William Cosmo Gordon Lang established a committee “to discuss the relationship, if any, between spiritualism and the traditional teachings of the Anglican Church.” Although Archbishop Lang took a strong moral tone toward the failure of duty of Edward VIII in abdicating the throne, he opened the question of spiritualism by forming the committee. One of the committee members was Evelyn Underhill, who later withdrew, stating that she was “very strongly opposed to spiritualism... especially to any tendency on the part of the Church to recognize or encourage it.”

The committee delivered its report in 1939, but its findings were not made public until 1979. A similar delay took place with the 1922 publication "Doctrine in the Church of England" which was not published until 1938. As Mammana notes, "The “Conclusions of the Majority” reveal a shocking discovery of inherent value in spiritualist practices. One paragraph merits quotation without comment:

"It is often held that the practice of Spiritualism is dangerous to the mental balance, as well as to the spiritual condition, of those who take part in it, and it is clearly true that there are cases where it has become obsessional in character. But it is very difficult to judge in these cases whether the uncritical and unwise type of temperament which does undoubtedly show itself in certain spiritualists is a result or a cause of their addiction to these practices. Psychologically it is probable that persons in a condition of mental disturbance, or lack of balance, would very naturally use the obvious opportunities afforded by Spiritualism as a means of expressing the repressed emotions which have caused their disorder. This indeed is true of Christianity itself, which frequently becomes an outlet, not only for cranks, but for persons who are definitely of unstable mentality."

The committee closed with the recommendation of a sort of ecumenism between the Church of England and the spiritualist movement: “It is in our opinion important that representatives of the Church should keep in touch with groups of intelligent persons who believe in Spiritualism.”

Much of this confusion is due to the failure of seminaries. Abandonment of the Fathers, the Scriptures, and the received Messianic Tradition leads to degradation of the Anglican Way. The ACNA will either stand with the Fathers, the Scriptures, and the received Tradition on the question of women priests, or it will continue to stray from those authorities. Women are fully capable. That is not the issue. They are not called to this divine ordinance.

In conversations with younger clergy and present seminarians, I find a yearning for more intellectual integrity, deeper learning of Scripture, and greater discernment of Truth. They love the Anglican Way because they recognize the potential for a richer experience of the Body of Christ. Perhaps they will help recover some of the ground lost to the devil.