Christian Life 


The major problems in the Anglican Communion and the Church of Scotland have produced similar response; but what purpose will these organisations serve?

by Watchman

Comfort blanket and fig leafI RECEIVED an invitation the other day. It was an offer to join the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). In fairness the joining fee was modest and subscription was suggested rather then obligatory, but nevertheless my money was required. (And more on that later.)

The timing of the invitation is related to the forthcoming launch of the FCA in London on Monday,6 July 2009. This event a follow-through from last summer’s Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem which – amonst other issues – discussed the weighty matters of women’s ordination and gay bishops (both of which are, and have been for many years, exercising evangelicals within the Anglican communion).
Of course recent history tells us that evangelicals in the Church of Scotland have leap-frogged their Anglican counterparts by establishing – in May – the Fellowship of Confessing Churches (FCC), a network of like-minded church leaders and members.

Similar aims

So Fellowship of Confessing <insert your name here> seems to be the order of the day. And in both Anglican and Scottish contexts the motivation and aims seem to be much the same – to maintain a true biblical witness and faithfully preserve and preach an unadulterated Gospel message. Both bodies also firmly state that they are not schismatic and wish to remain part of their parent organisations – the Anglican communion and the Church of Scotland respectively.

But similar dilemmas

But there is a difficulty; and within Scotland it has already showed itself in the Church of Scotland grouping called Forward Together which has now existed for about a decade. And the problem is this: “Does any such grouping merely ‘be’ or does it ‘do?’” And if it does things, then money is (usually) required, and a distinct , structure is necessary for decision-making, accountability, financial management, general oversight and adequate control.

Action or irrelevance?

But if FOCC/FCA or any other body builds these mechanisms then a separate identity necessarily develops, and sooner or later that leads to a growing apart.

On the other hand if a grouping merely ‘exists’ then the question is ‘Why bother?’

The answer to this question may well be found in the conflicting imperatives of being both distinctive from but identified with the larger body at one and the same time.


The problem of gay clergy which is a principal factor in bringing these confessing groupings into being has created embarrassment, confusion, insecurity and shame amongst Bible-believers throughout the denominations of which they are part. And the formation of these new bodies are reactions by the leadership. But it could be argued that the FCC and the FCA groupings could be better described by the acronym FL/CB – Fig Leaf/Comfort Blanket.

Whose needs are being met?

When Adam and Eve were found by God in original sin their first instinct was to ‘cover their shame’; and we can see this dynamic at work in these present situations. And when the organisations which support church leaders shakes then there is a sudden need for a new form of security – which a network of like-minded souls provides. Guilt and fear produce sleepless nights and fig leaves and comfort blankets can serve as expedient palliatives – soothing the conscience and providing a sense of security.

Time will tell how these embryonic bodies will develop, but there must be the very real prospect of either meaningful existence which will create the conditions for future splits or, alternatively a passive existence in fig leaf and comfort blanket mode which will inevitably result in irrelevance.
An indicator of intent will be the extent to which these new networks look for financial support; so ‘watch this space.’

The sound of bleating on the hills

If these questions were to be merely academic then that would not be so bad. But as leaders clutch at fig leaves and comfort blankets the air is filled with the bleating of vulnerable, confused and insecure sheep.

Time for bold and biblical leadership

There is a crying need for leaders to lead. And the time has come to put Truth before the maintenance of personal ministries, comfort zones and denominational loyalties, and depart from ecclesiastical institutions which have shipwrecked the faith.
But it is also time to get back to simplicity of local church leadership by a plurality of male elders which is divorced from the overarching and mechanistic structures that have brought the body of Christ to this pretty pass.

Watchman, 15/06/2009

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