Archbishop Donald Coggan
THIS former Archbishop of both York and Canterbury died on 17 May at the age of 90. In his younger years he was considered a convinced Evangelical. He played a leading role in the Christian Union while at Cambridge University and, as a young Church of England minister, he sought to model himself on the godly Charles Simeon, who exerted so helpful an influence on the young missionary-to-be, Henry Martyn.
While a Professor of New Testament in Canada, Coggan came to the conclusion that, while the Bible is in some sense inspired, it is not infallible; he was already drifting away from his roots. Accordingly, back in England, he refused to sign a doctrinal declaration for the Inter-Varsity Fellowship which included the expression, “the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of Holy Scripture”. In ecclesiastical terms his career went ever upwards; it would seem, however, that his position was becoming steadily less scriptural.
According to the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Coggan “will be remembered particularly for his remarkable contribution to the New English Bible and Revised English Bible”. Although released with a fanfare of publicity, the New English Bible quickly passed out of favour. Certainly William Tyndale would not have commended it to his ploughman; it was a decidedly highbrow translation. Besides, both these versions share in the general defects of modern translations.
In a tribute paid to him after his death, the following comment was made, “While committed to the authority of Scripture in matters of faith and conduct, he recognised the role of sound leadership allied to Tradition and Reason, in seeking a right interpretation of Scripture in the life of the Church”. There is an ominous ring to the words Tradition and Reason, the watchwords respectively of Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism. Both of these forces needed to be restrained during his archbishoprics, not to be promoted.
Perhaps most significant was his willingness to pursue, in common with his predecessors and successors, the ecumenical agenda of union with Rome. Concerned also to preserve the modernism so prevalent in the Church of England, he wrote, “The wind of the Spirit is blowing through all our churches and it is our responsibility to respond as faithfully as we can to His promptings. . . I believe that we may do so without jeopardising our growing relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, which we value so highly.” If he had been awake to the words of the Spirit in the Bible, he would have followed completely different principles. But he was, in fact, the first archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation to attend the enthronement of a Pope. And, although conscious of the teaching of Paul on the place of women in the Church, he was a long-standing supporter of their ordination; he believed that the ministry was “deprived and weakened” without women priests.
We are left with the thought: what might a man with such obvious ability have achieved with saving grace and a willingness to abide under the absolute authority of infallible Scripture?K.D.M
The Kirk and Section 28
THE Church of Scotland, at its General Assembly in May, decided to sit on the fence with regard to the proposal of the Scottish Parliament to repeal Section 28 (or 2A) which forbids the promotion of homosexuality in schools. The Assembly did not even debate the issue. The Convener of the Churchs Board of Social Responsibility said, “We havent made a decision on whether or not to repeal, but we have found a solution that is not going to antagonise and polarise.” The solution was to ask the Scottish Executive to “affirm marriage as the normative context for heterosexual permanent relationships and, by extension, as the appropriate environment in which to raise and nurture children.” It was, to quote one editorial, “a craven performance”.
“The Church is united,” said the Convener, “in trusting that the Scottish Executive will not be deaf to the concerns expressed, and will seriously consider the alternative offered to them” a glaring example of misplaced trust. The Scottish Executive has in fact rejected the requests that legislation would include a commitment to marriage. It is quite astonishing that the Scottish Parliament should so arrogantly dismiss the very evident view of the vast majority of the Scottish people.
But to return to the Church of Scotland it made two major mistakes: it capitulated to the governments determined proposal to repeal Section 28 and supinely accepted what it saw as inevitable. The Convener said that it was unlikely that the Executive would be moved. Secondly, the Assembly avoided not only discussing the issue but also and worse did not condemn the sin of sodomy or the wickedness of those who promote it.
The Assemblys avoidance of a debate stemmed from the fact that its Committee of Education was prepared to do battle along the lines that Section 28 was “negative, discriminatory and disparaging of stable, same-sex relationships”. (It is indeed the Church of Scotland about which we write). Another minister stated that “gay people have been stereotyped and demonised, and we have been guilty of following our own agenda.” Our national Church has badly failed its people by fudging the issue and not declaring what the mind of God is on the matter. q
Gambling increases by 12 per cent
IN the early 1990s, many advocates of a National Lottery dismissed arguments that it would lead to a significant increase in gambling. This they did in spite of the fact that most of those who wished to operate the Lottery would be in the business for maximum profit and would endeavour to gain as many customers as possible.
The fact has now emerged (The Daily Telegraph of 8th June) that while 60 per cent of adults gambled before 1995, when the National Lottery began, the figure is now 72 per cent a very significant increase indeed. The Herald reports that according to a Stationery Office publication, Family Spending 1997-98, “more households now gamble than they did three years ago, a sign of the huge impact the National Lottery has had on the nations habits. Three years ago, just 55% of households bought lottery tickets. This year, the number rose to 70%. Three years ago, the average household spent 90p on lotteries. A year later it was £2.50 and spending has risen since to £2.80.”
Sadly, our nation ignores the Biblical fact that “wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished” (Prov. 213:11), and that “treasures of wickedness profit nothing” (Prov. 10:2). That gambling is wrong is clear from the fact that it is an endeavour to get wealth at the expense of others, and that spending ones money on gambling is sinful waste. Furthermore, the gambler shows his discontent with Gods provision for his temporal needs, and his rejection of Gods appointed means of obtaining that provision. q
Prince Charles and Mrs Parker Bowles
AS noted in our report on the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (page 193), the Lord High Commissioner, the Queens representative at the Assembly, was Prince Charles. He was joined at Edinburgh by Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, who was described by a sympathetic columnist as his “mistress-consort”. One newspaper report said, “Her visit comes despite warnings from some Church of Scotland ministers that her presence would be inappropriate,” and that “some ministers said he should not bring his companion with him because they were unmarried.” The Moderator did not share that view. When asked his opinion of the princes relationship with his close friend and mistress, he stated that the Kirk was “not for perfect people”.
It is evident that this relationship is being more and more sympathetically regarded. But there are still many people, some of them not professing to be Christians, who can see clearly the inconsistency of the future Governor of the Church of England, and the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland living in a manner that is patently contrary to basic Christian teaching and the commandments of God. q