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On 1 March 2014 the Anglican diocese of Grafton will consecrate its new Bishop. The consecration will be hailed as ‘historic’ as she will be the first female diocesan Bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia. The fact that the diocesan Bishop will be a woman is of concern, especially considering there has been no publicly available provision by the Grafton diocese for those who cannot in good conscience accept her episcopal ministry1 . The matters raised in this document however are of more grave concern. Dr Macneil has made recent public statements regarding human sexuality and the Atonement that are unbecoming a Bishop in the Anglican Communion. At best they are unclear, requiring clarification. At worst they are a serious departure from Anglican historic formularies and the Scriptures. The consecration of someone who holds these views is further evidence that parts of the Anglican Church of Australia are departing from the Apostolic faith. We wish to state our full support of the Diocese of Grafton in its recent moves to deal openly, honestly and fully with claims of child abuse within the Diocese. We offer our support to any leader of the Diocese who will continue this approach. Our criticism of the appointment of Dr Macneil ought not in any way to be seen to impact on our view on this serious matter. Dr Macneil's Public Teaching During a series of lenten sermons in 2013, whilst preaching on the parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15), Dr Macneil stated the following2 :
The Australian Anglican Bishop’s Protocol, ‘Women in the Episcopate’, No 12, 2008
encourages dioceses to, ‘... make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry, addressing matters including the following: a. arrangements for episcopal visitation, confirmation and ordination; b. provisions for matters of discipline and pastoral succession; c. procedures through which a community of faith may request the provision of this ministry; and d. provision about the manner in which the costs of providing this ministry are to be borne.’
10 March 2013. http://www1.holycovenant.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/sermons/2013/Sermon_20130310.pdf accessed 1 December 2013. Currently archived at http://davidould.net/media/covenant/sites/default/files/docs/sermons/2013/Sermon_20130310.pdf
Although we tend to hear [the parable of the Prodigal] as a parable highlighting God’s welcome to all sinners, especially those who have had lurid pasts, like the younger son, its placement in the Gospel of Luke aims it straight at the religious authorities – the goody two shoes upholders of the faith. Will they join the party? Or will they stick to their rigid adherence to the Torah, tithing even the herbs in their cupboards, but neglecting mercy and compassion? We can ask where it is that we are working within rules that neglect mercy and compassion. Is it the Anglican Church of Australia’s reluctance to allow the ordination of gay people in same sex relationships? While this is a rhetorical question, the intended meaning is transparent. Macneil is advocating for the ordination of people in same sex relationships as something that is a good and godly “mercy and compassion”. In a sermon at St Luke’s Enmore, Sydney, in October 20103 , Dr Macneil gave a clear description of Penal Substitution and then labels it as ‘mechanistic and grim’, It is clear from the gospel [Luke 10:19] and from Acts that Luke is not thinking of salvation and atonement in terms of what we now call penal substitution. This view uses the logic of retributive justice and argues that it was Jesus’ death on the cross that saved us from our sins and brought us into right relationship with God. A debt had to be paid for human sin and disobedience in order to satisfy God’s demands of justice. This is what made Christ’s death upon the cross necessary. In his great love for us, Christ is therefore said to have taken the punishment deserved by all humanity upon himself. This rather mechanistic and grim understanding of atonement, prevalent not so very far from here, was not part of early Christian thought and clearly not part of Luke’s thought world. Nor does Luke regard Jesus’ death as a sacrifice or as an expiation for sin. His focus is more on Jesus’ life and on the wholeness that is brought to humanity through contact with the suffering Messiah. There is no doubt in the gospel that Jesus is the Messiah, no doubt that he will suffer and die, but the wholeness that comes to people because of him, comes from their encounter with him. Jesus’ presence is what brings life, peace, forgiveness of sins and right relation to God.
This same redefining of the atoning death of Jesus, is expressed in her Sermon for Christmas 20124 : Of course, some would argue that all this is irrelevant – that Jesus’ sole purpose was to provide our passport to salvation, a mission he fulfilled very effectively, if somewhat mysteriously, by dying. He was, in short, a man born to die. If we believe that he is God, then everything will be OK. In this way of seeing things, the focus really belongs on his death and resurrection. The events of the 33 years or so between birth and death were pretty irrelevant really and just show us that he really was the long expected chosen one of God. But I want to argue a very different kind of line. For I believe that the birth of Jesus as a human child, as one of us, has a much richer significance than that and is indeed infinitely more challenging. The incarnation is not some kind of crazy rescue plan; it is a systematic and timeless revelation to humanity about what it is to be human and about our relationship with God. Jesus’ life is not so much to show us who he is but rather to show us who we are, and who we are in relationship with God. While Dr Macneil responds here to a false dichotomy (that those who teach the atoning death of Jesus insist that His life “is irrelevant”), the same movement away from Jesus' atoning death to an exemplar life, as she attempted to do at St Luke’s in 2010, is clear.
How Dr Macneil's teaching conflicts with Anglican formularies and the Scriptures
The forms and standards of the Anglican Church of Australia are articulated in the Constitution Canon and Rules of the Anglican Church of Australia5 , the book of Common Prayer and the Thirtynine Articles. The national denomination also sets out its position on various doctrinal matters, consistent with these principles, in the form of motions of General Synod, statements by its bishops and other publications as required. Dr Macneil's public statements in the areas of human sexuality and the doctrine of the Atonement stand in contradiction to the position of the Anglican Church of Australia as set out below.
http://www1.holycovenant.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/sermons/2012/Sermon_Christmas_2012.pdf currently archived at http://davidould.net/media/covenant/sites/default/files/docs/sermons/2012/Sermon_Christmas_2012.pdf
Part I, s.4. The Constitution Canon and Rules of the Anglican Church of Australia, 2010. http://www.anglican.org.au/docs/Constitution%20Canons%20BOOK%20FINALrevclient_indexed.pdf
Firstly, the Anglican Church of Australia’s position on sexual ethics is abundantly clear. Faithfulness in Service, our national code for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry by clergy and church workers, states in unison with the Scriptures that, 7.1 The sexual conduct of clergy and church workers has a significant impact on the Church and the community. 7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. The Church has held a consistent position on this matter, most recently affirming it as part of the Bishops’ Protocol 015 “Ministerial Appointments" released in 2012 and subsequently reaffirmed in 2013 where it is stated, “We undertake to uphold the position of the Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses”. This protocol is consistent with the Scriptures’ teaching on human sexuality which celebrates healthy, active sexual relationships within marriage between a man and woman. The position that Dr Macneil taught in 2013, less than one year before her consecration, stands opposed to this Protocol and to those other statements with which the Protocol concurs. As a bishop she would be expected to uphold the Protocol. Her ability to do so is severely compromised by her public statements on this issue. Secondly, the Anglican Church's constitutionally approved doctrine and worship uphold the doctrine of Penal Substitution. It is a view of the Atonement that takes centrestage in many of the key texts of our liturgy and other documents: Article XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross. The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world… (Prayer of Consecration, The Order of the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, BCP) When Dr Macneil rejects the Penal Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus she rejects an understanding of Jesus' death that is writ large across our formularies and the Scriptures upon 4
which they are based. The role and responsibilities of a Bishop in the Church of God are clearly set out in the New Testament in passages such as 1Timothy 3:17 & Titus 1:79. The requirements for a Bishop set out in "The Form of Ordaining or Consecrating of an Archbishop or Bishop" within the Book of Common Prayer are derived directly from these Scriptures. Accordingly, in the APBA consecration service the candidate will promise to “guard [the Church’s] faith, unity and discipline…” and to “teach and encourage with sound doctrine”. It is entirely reasonable to expect any person making these promises, especially given the public nature of the office they are accepting, to do so with full integrity and conviction. Dr Macneil’s statements are at odds with the promises she is making.
The Impact Upon the Anglican Church of Australia
Dr Macneil has made no secret of her position in these matters or sought to publicly clarify or amend them. We are greatly concerned that there will be Bishops and other supporters involved in the consecration who are aware of her position and yet find no impediment to consecrate. Further it should be a matter of concern for all Australian Anglicans that they know the stance of their own local Bishop (and Metropolitan) with regard to their consistency with the Scriptures and Formularies on matters of the atonement and human sexuality. For these reasons, we call on evangelicals and Anglican organisations to not support the consecration of Dr Macneil as Bishop within the Anglican Church of Australia in any way. Her elevation to this position signals a marked deterioration in the willingness of some church leaders to submit themselves to the authority of Scripture and the discipline of our foundational forms and standards. Therefore we find it necessary to call upon all Australian Bishops to be clear and consistent with the Scriptures on teaching about the Atonement and human sexuality and where there is any doubt to seek clarity so that there is no confusion in these matters. The installing of yet another Bishop who potentially seeks the ordination of practicing homosexuals and departure from the church’s long held position on human sexuality, all the while denying the Penal Substitution of Christ does not bode well for the future unity of the Anglican Church of Australia.
A Call for Prayer and Alignment
We call upon faithful Anglicans to pray for our denomination and to be deliberate in seeking fellowship with those who are gospelminded.
Our Prayer Books call us to intercede regularly for our ecclesial leaders. In addition to praying for our Church we also encourage those who seek to defend the historic faith once delivered to the saints to actively pursue informal and formal partnerships both within their dioceses and throughout the country. We also call upon our leaders to speak plainly and clearly on this matter. These departures cannot be considered as peripheral and further threaten unity within the Anglican Church of Australia. This slow deterioration compromises the gospel witness. Our concern is for the centrality of the cross and a church leadership that upholds Biblical authority. The revealed truth of God is a precious treasure and must be proclaimed and guarded by all who believe. As unity within the denomination is threatened we take great delight in finding common ground among those who uphold gospel truths and dare to make them known.
Rev Gavin Poole Anglican Church League President 28 February 2014
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