With the Church of England just recently naming the Reverend Libby Lane as the first woman bishop (December 2014), the Christian world is quickly reminded of the descent of one of its denominations down the fast lane of compromise.
It was said by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that George Whitefield (1714-1770) was “the greatest preacher that England has ever produced.” Yes, as a matter of fact, he was an Anglican preacher and evangelist. However, if soul sleep were a biblical teaching then Whitefield just might have woken up in his grave to the horrifying heresies that continue to pick up speed in the very church that ordained him! (Technically, the difference between the Episcopal and Anglican church is that the Episcopal Church is outside of England and took on the term ‘Episcopal’ during the Revolutionary War. Other than that, they are essentially the same and in communion with one another. For all intensive purposes the Episcopal Church is the US branch of Anglicanism.)
Many of us have forgotten how the Anglican Church once was an admirable tree rooted in sola fide. This tree once bore plentiful fruit and its branches spread across continents. As it approaches 500 years of existence the beacon of light which the Anglican Church once was has been dimmed dramatically by the pressures of postmodernism.
For the most part, Evangelicals are unaware of the mighty preachers, theologians, and godly people who have come out of this Reformational strand of Evangelicalism. During the reign of King Edward VI, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the first Archbishop of Canterbury, was a leader in the English Reformation. Cranmer was pivotal in turning the Church of England away from Rome and to the teachings of the Reformers. The Anglican Puritans were in fact, the first Puritans. Men like Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, James Ussher, John Newton the hymn writer (Amazing Grace), Charles Simeon, and J.C Ryle were Anglican clergymen and Evangelical preachers who stood firm on the doctrines of grace. Even more so, The Westminster Confession of Faith, one of the greatest documents ever written, was written specifically for the Church of England.
Quite possibly, the most well known of all these godly Anglican preachers was George Whitefield. He was in many ways the product of these Evangelical Anglicans who preceded him.
The “Great Itinerant” was born in Gloucester in 1714 and was ordained in the Church of England one year after his conversion in 1736. Two years later he would make his first of seven visits to America. It has been said that he became so popular that he was compared to George Washington.
He was an American culture hero and his powerful preaching, which he was notorious for, rubbed pulpits the wrong way back in the Motherland which resulted in his banning. This led to his open air preaching ministry which at times had crowds of twenty to thirty thousand people in attendance!
His emphasis in preaching was none other than the saving sovereign grace of God and the experience of the new birth. Like the Reformers before him, he was conscious of original sin and the devastating consequences of our fall in Adam. Moreover, Whitefield rejoiced in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for the elect of God. He was a man who had a high view of the sovereignty of God and a great devotion for holiness. Though he downplayed denominational distinctives to win people to Christ he was nonetheless a staunch Calvinist, even stating, “I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because Calvin, but Jesus Christ, has taught it to me.” (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (Crossway Books, 1990) 69.)
Whitefield, unlike many faith teachers and mega-church pastors, never shied away from speaking about sin and never compromised the Gospel of grace. He was truly concerned for lost sinners who were in danger of everlasting damnation in hell. The Congregationalist minister Cornelius Winter, who traveled with Whitefield said, “He seldom if ever got through a sermon without tears.” Whitefield, who preached approximately 18,000 sermons before he died, was truly one of the most passionate evangelists of the Great Awakening. And there is no doubt that these sermons rested upon the foundation of Scripture alone.
We fast forward three hundred years from Whitefield. If some have issues with the newly appointed bishop Reverend Libby Lane than they must be reminded of Reverend Katherine Ragsdale. She was appointed the Episcopal Divinity School’s sixth president and dean in 2009. Though she has no direct relation to Simon Episcopius, when one looks at her theology and ethics, there is evidence of the Episcopian Curse (See The Episcopian Curse).
Feminists can relax because I am not bashing a woman president of a seminary. Nor am I criticizing the seminary, which is an easy target, considering that in September 2006 they offered a blasphemous class on Love and Wisdom – Buddhist Meditations to Illumine Christian Understanding.
I am not even speaking against the fact that she hid her lesbianism all throughout her years in seminary.(Bishop’s Crusade: Rev. Spong’s Support Of Homosexual Priests Divides Episcopalians (Wall Street Journal., Dow Jones & Co. Inc February 20, 1991). http://aidsinfobbs.org/articles/wallstj/91/42.txt) She expected “the church to have superior moral ethics” and since they didn’t (from her perception) she demonstrated her ethics by lying to get ordained.
No, I am not even trying to bring up the fact that she was ordained in the early 1990’s by another Anglican, Bishop John Shelby Spong. Spong is supposed to be a Christian yet he challenges the virgin birth, the resurrection and deity of Jesus, and biblical inerrancy. To top that off he believes that humans emerged from the evolutionary soup and that Christianity is not about rescuing the fallen but empowering people to become more human. When in Church history has that ever been considered Christianity?
Finally, I am not even going to divulge into her position on abortion. What good will it due to harp on the fact that she is committed to transporting young girls for abortions even if it were illegal. She boasted about one such occasion where she did this for a 15 year-old when testifying on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. (Pro-Abortion Groups Seek to Defeat Bill to Protect Girls (6/04) http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/425/26)
Her words and deeds do line up when considering the content of her 2007 sermon where she repeatedly stated that “abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.” From her flawed unchristian worldview she argued that if a woman does not wish to bear a child “there is not a tragedy in sight – only blessing.” (Remarks of the Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, Birmingham, AL http://www.prochoicetexas.org/news/headlines/200708172.shtml)
I simply am writing to declare the obvious. The magnitude of this descent is appalling. The policies and practices of the liberals in Anglicanism – ordaining homosexual bishops, performing same-sex marriages, championing abortion and denying historic Christianity – are driving away many godly people away from the church and embarrassing Christianity. The renowned J.I. Packer, one of the greatest theologians of modern times, left the Anglican Church of Canada somewhat recently because of these abominations. (Lillian Kwon, “Theologian Packer quits Anglican Church of Canada.” Christianity Today, April 28, 2008 http://www.christiantoday.com/article/theologian.packer.quits.anglican.church.of.canada/18418.htm)
By no means am I declaring the Anglican Communion beyond repair. Though it might appear that it is a rapidly sinking ship into the dismal waters of disgrace, God still has a remnant of his elect who will not compromise the historic Christian faith as Spong, Ragsdale, and much of the Anglican Communion have.
The immensity of this decline from the days of the Anglican Puritans until now is enormous. Anglican Evangelicals of old held firm to the doctrines of grace and were not afraid to call sin exactly what it is. They did not compromise with the culture nor change historic Christian teachings for relevancy.
Cranmer did recant a few times, but he chose death than ultimate denial of Scripture. So did Ridley, Latimer, and many others. We must earnestly pray that Anglicans, as well as those sitting in Christian churches everywhere, would be convinced of their sins; that they would be awakened from their slumber, and that they would seek after the holiness of God in repentance.
As George Whitefield did, so may the people of God, herald the truth of Scripture preaching to awake the souls of men and praying passionately that God would pour out his Spirit and bring revival! May God use us to bring about an overwhelming sense of his glory and power.
Growing up in the east side of Moreno Valley, California, by way of Detroit, Michigan, liking all sports Detroit, while adding at the tender age of 8 a love for the Denver Broncos, a product of the public education system yet somehow by the grace of God managed to get some graduate degrees, serving the Lord out of Sovereign Grace of Perris, coaching Thai boxing and teaching and preaching the Word, also a proud father of 3, and husband to a faithful daughter of Abraham.