The Anglican Church remains in crisis and there appears to be little hope of recovering biblical fidelity in the worldwide church. Most recently, the biblically faithful Anglicans in New Zealand have acknowledged that the NZ Anglican Church has departed from the faith. Those aligned with the Scriptures have appointed a new Bishop to lead them. How should we think about this and what is the right thing to do? Let me make three observations.
First, there is nothing worse than division in the church.
Jesus prayed that there would be unity among us in John 17:20-21 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” As the body tasked with taking the Gospel to the world, division is at best a distraction and at worst it causes destruction to our life and witness. Jesus prayed we would be united and we are not. We ought to take this seriously.
Second, there is nothing more normal than division in the church.
We must not romanticise the early church and spend time wishing we could get back there. Within 20 years of the ascension of Christ, division had arisen amidst the 12 disciples and Paul over the place of the Law of Moses in the Christian life. The big issues were whether non-Jewish Christians should be circumcised and obey food and other laws. Acts 15 details the sharp dispute and it is not the first or the last dispute we read of in the book of Acts. Of course, our doctrine of sin ought to tell us this is inevitable even if unpalatable. Sin will always cause division. This doesn’t mean we throw our hands in the air but it does mean we ought not be surprised when it happens in our midst.
Third, there is nothing more important than division in the church.
Paul speaks of division in Galatians 2:1-5 – “This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” The preservation of the Gospel is ultimately important. Unity is not the greatest virtue – truth is. Jesus himself acknowledges that he did not come simply to unite people but rather to proclaim the Kingdom and be the truth (Mark 1:15, John 14:6). The Gospel must be preserved from generation to generation so that people may actually be saved. If people are ignoring the Bible, teaching untruths, promoting godlessness or seeking their own glory, we must at least consider dividing in order to preserve the Gospel. Nothing is more important than Gospel clarity.
Only the Gospel saves. And if we lose it, we lose everything.