Letter from Australia 116 – A Letter for Anxious Anglicans…. Weep for Sydney
Note: This article deals with subjects that are personal and sometimes hard. I have written it here on my own personal website rather than on any of the publications I write for because it is my responsibility and personal view alone. I don’t claim to be speaking on behalf of anyone else.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I normally write this letter as a letter from Australia, but this one is different. It is more of a letter to Australia, or to be more accurate a letter in response to those of you who have contacted me and asked for help – mostly from a few of my fellow Sydney Anglicans. I’m talking about those who have been distressed and confused at what is going on in society and how the church is responding. I’m thinking of those who can’t understand why the church appears to be silent, or those who think the opposite – who think we speak too much and who are embarrassed about being ‘Sydney Anglicans’ because of what you have read in the Sydney Morning Herald, or heard on the ABC. I’m thinking of those who can’t understand why their own particular evangelical church refers to more than two genders and wants to use whatever pronouns people identify with. My heart goes out to those who don’t know what to do at work, school or University when you are being asked not just to ‘tolerate’ different sexual ideologies which go against the teaching of Christ, but indeed to ‘affirm’ them. In this post-Christian society tolerance is out. Diversity is out. Cultural conformity is the order of the day. And the Church is struggling to come to terms with this cowardly new world.
None of this is new. But what is new and why I am getting involved – (with I must say a great deal of reluctance because I don’t want to critique even by implication, individuals, unless they are heretics! And I know the backlash that always follows things like this – and I don’t want to get involved in church politics – but this is not church politics – it is about the Gospel!) – is because of this astonishing advert in Southern Cross, the magazine of the Sydney diocese.
So – what’s the problem? Something called World Pride is coming to Sydney. The question of how the church collectively, or the individual Christian, should respond to this is an important one. But this advert shows an advocate for Pride coming to speak in a Sydney Anglican church – something being advertised both in the magazine and also by Sydney Pride.
But some will say – what is the problem with this? Isn’t this just allowing different points of view in a discussion? No. Jayne Ozanne is leading a worship service in an Anglican church on the Lord’s Day, whereas Wesley Hill is just doing an online seminar on a Wednesday.
The reason I am writing is because I have experience of Jayne Ozanne in the UK. She, along with Steve Chalke, is the primary advocate for seeking to have those who teach and practice Christ’s teaching on marriage, banned and even prosecuted. She was appointed to the UK government’s LGBT advisory panel and has used her influence to advocate her intolerant and authoritarian views. I’ve written a review of her book Just Love here – https://theweeflea.com/2018/11/13/jayne-ozanne-just-love-a-journey-of-self-acceptance-and-itv-on-conversion-therapy/
If you want to hear what she believes and how she operates (bullying, intimidating, smug, sneering, hectoring, distorting the truth and blaspheming). then look at this ‘debate’ she did with Peter Lynas on Unbelievable.
Jayne gave a lecture at the University of Oxford in which she made this chilling statement.
“I for one am a great believer in the importance of promoting a society that enables freedom of speech to the point that it does no harm.” But who defines what harm is? The irony is that Ozanne complains about those in power abusing that power, while herself being in a position of great power – as a government advisor. Five years ago I wrote about the danger of a new crime (spiritual abuse) being placed on the statue books – as advocated by Ozanne and the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS)- now known as 31:8. This is now coming to pass.
One of the greatest threats to Christianity and freedom in Australia today is from the anti-conversion laws being rushed through various State parliaments – all designed, under the guise of preventing harm, as a trojan horse to intimidate and silence those who want to maintain traditional Christian teaching. (Tasmania’s anti-Conversion laws part 3 – The World Turned Upside Down Sydney Anglicanism is a bedrock of evangelical Christianity in Australia. It is deeply disappointing that it is a Sydney Anglican church which is hosting and promoting someone who seeks to outlaw us!
The Church of England Synod.
This week Jayne has been campaigning with the Australian LGBT activist atheist, Peter Tatchell, at the Church of England Synod. She has been one of the leading advocates arguing for Same-Sex Marriage at the Synod. Although her motion that the Church should change its doctrine now to allow SSM was defeated, it is only a matter of time, because the same Synod hypocritically supported same-sex blessings and prayers for those who same-sex unions. The English Anglican Church is separating itself not only from worldwide Anglicanism but also from most of the worldwide church and even more importantly Jesus Christ.
The Synod debate, and Jayne’s role within it, was totally depressing. Despite faithful same-sex attracted Christians such as Vaughan Roberts speaking out clearly against them, the Church of England adopted proposals that are unbiblical, illogical and harmful. I will write about this later but for now, it is enough to say that this week the Church of England, the mother Church of Australian Anglicanism, wrote its own death warrant. Incidentally, it has also brought forward, to great ridicule in the secular media, the idea of changing the liturgy to basically ensure God’s pronouns are they/them rather than he/him!
What Can Faithful Christians Do?
I would like to deal with this in three ways. The local church, the general church and the individual Christian.
In terms of the local Church – the issue of Jayne Ozanne is not of any direct relevance – except for the church that has invited her. I doubt Christians in Coogee, Campbelltown or Cammeray have even heard of her. However, our people will have so much in-your-face LGBT propaganda over the next few weeks that they need some encouragement and guidance. The late Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, who was converted and became a member of our church in Scotland, convinced me that it was a good idea for churches to be proactive, rather than reactive, in terms of publicity such as press releases. Perhaps individual churches, or indeed the Church in general, should not put out press releases? After all it could be the case that it only adds fuel to the fire, or that we would be on a hiding to nothing. Wisdom may in this instance, suggest silence to the wider media. That may well be the right approach but my concern is not so much with the media or the Twitterati, but rather with our own people who are getting hammered on this. Perhaps something like the following could be put on our websites and given to our people as a statement of our position and a help in our conversations when we are asked?
“As a church we note that the World Pride event is coming to Sydney from Feb 17th to March 5th. It will bring tens of thousands of visitors to Sydney. We welcome them not only to our city, but also to our churches, where they will receive a warm welcome. Even more importantly they will hear a message of true love and how real relationships can be developed and nurtured. Our church treats all people equally – we are all equally in need of God and his Good News. The church is also incredibly diverse – having people from many different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
But Christians cannot celebrate pride. Pride is a great sin. All of us need humility. Pride leads to prejudice. In addition, some, (not all), of what goes on at Pride events, evidences a view of sex and sexuality (not just homosexuality) which ultimately does a great deal of harm. Our society is incredibly confused about identity, sex, gender, family, marriage and so many other vital issues – we don’t want to add to that confusion. When you come to church you will experience a loving, diverse and equal community, where we receive the clear, loving, healing words of life, from the One who knows us better than anyone else. We hope and pray that Pride month, will be a time when we all reflect on what it means to be human, how to know love, and what we can do to be a healthier and more wholistic community”.
That’s not perfect – but you get the gist. We need to stop apologising for things we didn’t do. We need to stop bowing down to the bullies, ideologues and idols of our culture. And we need to get off the back foot and get on to the front! The choice is not between going round acting like a terrified bully shouting and yelling at people or hiding like the helpless victim waiting for the storm to roll over. There has to be another way….
In terms of the national church – It would be helpful if the Australian Anglican Church or at very least the Sydney diocese, made it perfectly clear that Jayne Ozanne does not represent the views of the Church – in the same strong way that Christ warned the church in Thyatira – “Nevertheless I have this against you; you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she leads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). We are not saying that Jayne has no right to come and speak at Sydney World Pride – that is up to Sydney Pride. They have that freedom. But she should not come and speak in a church in the name of Jesus Christ. She speaks neither for us nor him.
(Note: After I posted this I noticed this excellent statement from the Sydney Archbishop – Kanishka Raffel – about the Church of England decision….https://sydneyanglicans.net/mediareleases/english-synod-decision-rejects-clear-teaching-of-the-bible
In terms of the individual Christian or group.
It is incredibly important that we don’t act out of fear. And that we don’t condemn people because they are homosexual. Homophobia has no place in the church.
I believe we do need to take every opportunity we have to speak into the wider context of the confusion and longings in our culture. The trouble is that the issue of sexuality is used as a shibboleth in our culture to judge whether you are good. It’s used as a ‘gotcha’ question. So don’t answer it. Try to get behind the question – listen – but ultimately try to bring things round to Christ and his word. And truly, genuinely, love those who are homosexual, or trans…. But remember it is not loving to affirm practices which God says are wrong – that is ultimately harmful and hateful. If you love someone you want what is best for them. God knows and wants what is best for them. (I would suggest have books like Is God anti-Gay by Sam Alberry, or Tales of an Unlikely Convert by Rosario Butterfield, and I have just been reading again the Sydney specific War of Loves by David Bennett)
One of the accusations that is always used is the idea that in believing, teaching and practicing biblical teaching we are causing harm and hurt. I don’t accept that. Indeed, it is ultimately hurtful to individuals and society to reject God’s law and love. Of course if you are aware of people who have been treated badly by you or your church, apologise to them, repent to God and get on with loving them!
But what about the hurt and harm being caused to God. But does God get hurt? “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6). If imperfect sinful human beings like you and I, can be hurt and troubled at the sin we see in the world – how much more the Holy and pure God?! The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Such was the state of Jerusalem and the judgement coming on it that Jesus wept over it! (Luke 19:41-44)
Wisdom from Manton
Speaking of weeping. I was in two minds about whether to write this or not and then, believe it or not, I got up yesterday morning and read, as is my habit, a sermon of Thomas Manton, a great Puritan Anglican from the past. I am currently on volume eight of his works and the sermon for the day (and also another today) was on Psalm 119:136 – “Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they do not keep your law”. Although they were preached almost 370 years ago, they are directly relevant for today. I had no choice but to publish! I leave you with a few points and quotes…he/she who has ears, let them hear….
v.158 – I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved because they do not keep your word”
“It is the duty and property of a godly man to mourn bitterly for other men’s sins” ….
Jesus wept not only for his friends but his enemies. …they rejoiced and he mourned: Christ’s eyes are the wetter because theirs were so dry.
Christ bears the burden of all the world. He was moved with a zeal to the dishonour done to God, and compassion to men…..this is to the frame of heart which all the children of God have.
This duty chiefly concerns public persons – all Christians magistrates, ministers and officers of the Church. If we do not discharge our duty, the souls of the city who perish – our blood is on their hands.
We don’t always need to express it in tears but we do need affectionate hearts. ‘A tender heart may be matched with a dry brain. We should be more affected with the calamity of the church than our own private loss. On religious occasions we should express ourselves as passionately as possible, and not just content ourselves with a few cold words and dull thoughts.
The greatest sinners, when they are once converted to God, have the greatest compassion afterward towards other sinners.
We must not be only a constant disposition to mourn over the sins of others, but on some occasions, it must be exercised. 2 Peter 2:8 – Lot ‘vexed his righteous soul’…. he could go nowhere but he heard something that was a matter of grief to him. That is a sad prognostic of an approaching judgement when a country is so bad that it is made, as it were, a prison to a godly man….How can we walk the streets with dry eyes, when here we shall see a reeling drunkard, there hear a profane swearer rending and tearing the sacred name of God in pieces, a filthy speaker, theatres and the devil’s temples crowded with such a multitude of people, that men may learn more how to please the flesh, and hate godliness, and feast their ears with filthy talk? To see people so this occasions matter of grief and morning before the Lord.
He speaks of great sins – especially those which are against the light of nature. Hosea 4:1 and 2. These are more odious when they are universal and everywhere in the land. .” God may spare a land if the ruling party are sound, or the people are sound….but not when both are rotten…”
We mourn out of obedience to God. It is God’s command. Our zeal must increase not decrease. Zeal against the sin shows our love to God. “There must be anger for the offence done to God, and a grief that our brother has offended”. The world will call us peevish and rancorous.
We are to mourn for the sins of others – to engage us to seek redress and reformation. Ezra first mourns bitterly, then reforms zealously. Ezra 9:6-7
“Many times, the world is angry, because we are so clamorous for reformation and repentance. You have liberty enough, say they, and may serve God in your own way and go to heaven quietly: why should you trouble yourself about others? …but how can that be? A Christian is troubled about the salvation of others, to see so many thousands of souls carried to hell by droves, and hurried to their own destruction”.
“Private sorrow will begat public care”
This makes our own hearts more tender.
We have a tenderness for God’s glory. Can a man see an injury done to the person he loves and not be troubled? …God’s glory is more dear to them than their own lives.
It comes from their compassion and pity and love to men. Phil 3:18. “false teachers and their proselytes should not only fall under our indignation, but our pity…religion does not harden the heart but mollifies it….”
We hate sin – because it is the greatest enemy that Christ and God and our own souls has.
We can see ahead. We know what sin will come to. Wicked men tremble only at the judgement of God, but good men tremble at his word.
“There will be pestilence, famine, fire, sword and all other mischiefs and judgements, and expressions of the angry indignation of the Lord”.
We have a desire for the common good. The love and compassion for our country. “Godly men are the truest friends to their native soil; they are the chariots and horsemen of Israel. Those that plead with God stand in the gap, keep off judgements and have the most public spirit; therefore, the least they can do is to sigh for it and plead with wicked men…. the children of God are always of a public spirit. David fasted for his enemies. The godly Israelites were good friends to Babylon in their captivity. Jeremiah 29:11. Passengers are concerned in the welfare of the vessel wherein they are embarked. Babylon fared the better for the Jews prayers. Our hearts are melted to see the land defiled with sins and ready for judgements.”
They cry out we are legalistic…If the professors of religion will not brook such doctrine, how will we hope to prevail with this poor, blind, carnal world?
You cannot be sorrowful for others sins unless you first be sorrowful for your own. Grief must begin at home where you have the advantage of conscience and inward remorse. It is hypocrisy to pitch upon other men’s sins and neglect your own”.
Better be a mourner than a mocker and a scoffer.
We should not censure but mourn. Tears come from love, censures from pride.
If you don’t mourn in secret don’t go making public statements… We must do it in our families and in our own hearts…
Nations are one political body, churches one political body. The whole lump is involved.
Consider the compassion of Christ to you. He mourned and sighed in the garden; he sweated great drops of blood….
Beg the assistance of God’s Spirit. He can smite the Rock and make waters gush out.
Can you see why I loved it?!
Don’t be discouraged brothers and sisters. Don’t be afraid. You are not bigots. You are not on the ‘wrong side of history’. You are not defeated. You are not alone. The Lord of Hosts is with us. He’s dealt with the principalities and powers of this world before. And he will do so again. Hold on. Be courageous. Stick with Christ. Never doubt God’s word. Or his goodness. Or his love. Beg the assistance of God’s Spirit – he can smite the Rock and make waters gush out. Here we stand – together – we can do no other! Amen…even so, come soon Lord Jesus…
Yours in Christ
Letter from Australia 111 – Why Have We Returned to Australia?
Why I won’t be joining the Victory Parade at Sydney’s Mardi Gras
This video I made a few years ago may still be helpful –