It seems that, after scattered splutters of protest here and there, Evangelicals in the Church of Scotland come to terms, however reluctant they may be initially, with one unbiblical innovation after another. They find ways to justify continued participation in a Church order which has rejected the ultimate authority of Scripture and replaced it with the authority of majorities in General Assembly.
It remains to be seen what reaction there will be from Evangelicals to the nomination of a “woman elder” as Moderator of the 2004 General Assembly, but early indications do not suggest much principled open opposition. If the sounds emanating from the Isle of Lewis are anything to go by, such complaints as may be voiced will be confined to the manner in which the nomination was reached – without a mix of male and female candidates – or to the nomination of a moderator merely on the grounds of gender. To criticise the nomination on Biblical grounds would be contrary to the law of the Church of Scotland which states that “women shall be eligible for ordination to the Holy Ministry on the same terms and conditions as are at present applicable to men”. An Island minister of Evangelical persuasion is reported to have commented that the appointment of a woman as moderator was inevitable in view of the law of the Church, that the appointment of an elder was appropriate and that he was sure that the “woman elder” nominated “would be a good person for the job” (Stornoway Gazette, 23 October 2003).
It has been the practice in the Presbyterian Church in Scotland to require that a minister of the Word preside over meetings of church courts, one of the principal reasons being that responsibilities fall to a moderator which are functions only of those called to labour in the Word and doctrine. It was as recently as 1996 that the Church of Scotland Assembly authorised Presbyteries to choose moderators from outwith the ministry.
Women became eligible for ordination as elders in 1966 and as ministers in 1968. That a “woman elder” will now be nominated as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is but the logical conclusion of these earlier departures from the Biblical pattern. It does mean, however, that every Evangelical minister and elder in the General Assembly will be giving practical consent to the occupation of that ecclesiastical office by one whom Holy Scripture debars from it: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” – not because of the local culture of the time, but for a definite theological and historical reason: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim 2:12-14).
It is not surprising that The Scotsman (15 October 2003) considers that “to have a woman in that public position is a step forward for the national Church and for Scotland, signalling a new engagement with the modern world and a necessary reinvigoration of an old and valued institution”. Neither is it surprising that the same editorial, after reporting that “the number of evangelical ministers and senior elders is put at between 400 and 500” comments that “so far they have made little impression”. What God can or will do in His sovereignty is not for us to determine, but God’s blessing cannot be expected on compromise with error.
Anglicanism in Crisis
“Ichabod” must surely be written on the portals of any Church that accepts into its membership, far less into the ranks of its ministry, men who are living openly in the sin of Sodom and glorying in it. The Anglican Church in the United States has now among its clergy a bishop answering to this description and his so-called consecration has attracted world-wide attention. This event has not only brought Christianity into disrepute in the eyes of multitudes and given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, but it has caused division and controversy within the 38 provinces of the Anglican Church throughout the world. It is now a house divided and, in the absence of repentance, its fall is inevitable.
As Presbyterians, we do not agree that Episcopalianism is the form of church government prescribed in the Scriptures but we have, nevertheless, always been ready to acknowledge that there have been God-fearing ministers within the ranks of the Episcopalian Churches, and we hope there still are. However, there appear to be few among them in our day who hold fast the principles and doctrines of the Thirty-Nine Articles as did, for instance, Bishop J C Ryle. It would seem that it was only the fear of a backlash from the laity in England that prevented a sodomite being installed as Bishop of Reading a few months ago.
It is remarkable that it is Anglican leaders in Africa especially who are prepared to voice their opposition. Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya is reported as saying, “The devil has clearly entered the Church. God will not be mocked.” We applaud him for that. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria also declared the American ordination to be “a Satanic attack on God’s Church”. Speaking, it is said, for 20 other Primates from Africa, Asia and South America, he further stated: “In addition to violating the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible, the consecration directly challenges the common teaching, common practice and common witness within the one Anglican communion”. In contrast, we have the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams – whom a “senior conservative” within the Anglican communion has described as “nailing his colours to the fence” – struggling to find a compromise solution to the problem on his hands.
The eternal and righteous God, our Lawgiver, to whom we have to give account, has throughout the history of the world declared His hatred of this vile, unnatural sin, not only when He rained fire and brimstone from heaven upon the cities of the plain. When Isaiah was instructed to tell the wicked that it would be ill with him, he was moved by the Spirit of God to place on record the exposure and doom of such as were given over to this sin: “The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! For they have rewarded evil to themselves.” We do well if we take heed.
The Conservative Party Leadership
More than one journalist has pointed that, with the elevation of the Rt Hon Michael Howard to the leadership of the Conservative Party, there is again the possibility of the United Kingdom having a Prime Minister of Jewish descent. It would also appear very likely that, if there was to be a change of government at the next General Election, another person of kindred descent – Oliver Letwin – would occupy the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The two most powerful men in Government would then be of the “stock of Israel”!
At the moment, however, they are on the opposition front bench and it is time alone that will reveal whether or not they are prepared to adopt policies which would reverse the present trend towards further European integration. This trend causes us to fear that our spiritual and civil liberties are being more and more placed in jeopardy and we welcome any glimmer of hope that they would be conserved to us by such men. It is reported that Mr Howard personally is “vehemently opposed to the single currency” and it is encouraging also to know that “in March he voted to block repeal of section 28 and last year opposed gay adoption”.
It gives us some comfort to know that these men, being Jews, will not be under pressure to advance the interests of the Church of Rome as a matter of religious duty. We also have the comfort of the promise that the Jews are to be gathered in, and may we not hope that it will be soon?