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During a June gathering in an Illinois chapel, a Nigerian archbishop and a group of North American Anglicans consecrated a British missionary to serve churches facing an erosion of Biblically orthodox teaching in Scotland.
Consider it a summer tableau of the ongoing battle to maintain basic Christian teaching, as some churches around the world continue to embrace perilous compromise on issues of marriage and sexuality.
One of the latest rounds of compromise came earlier this summer, as the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to endorse same-sex marriage. (The Scottish Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.)
The move provoked a response from leaders of GAFCON, a group of conservative Anglican clergy from around the world. At a meeting in Nigeria, GAFCON leaders called for the appointment of a missionary bishop to serve churches in the United Kingdom and Europe striving to hold to the authority of the Bible.
The new bishop: Andy Lines—a British-born Anglican serving with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a body of conservative Anglicans formed in 2009. Members of the ACNA consecrated Lines at their June meeting at Wheaton College in Illinois.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria participated in the service, and he later reminded fellow Christians that false teaching is “restless and relentless” and leads to “grave spiritual danger.”
Okoh wrote that the danger extended to the Church of England as well: In February, the church’s General Synod rejected a report reaffirming Biblical teaching on marriage, though it didn’t vote to change church law. (A new report in 2020 could lead to such changes.) Then in July it passed a motion that said transgender individuals should be “welcomed and affirmed” by local churches and called for the House of Bishops to consider preparing a liturgy service to mark a person’s gender transition.
While churches should welcome anyone—including transgender individuals—to hear the good news of Christ’s gospel, those churches shouldn’t affirm sinful behavior that contradicts the Scriptures and leads to deeper confusion. “Our calling is not to be conformed, but to be transformed,” said Okoh.
Conformity on issues of marriage and sexuality is an ongoing temptation for churchgoers across denominations. In July, well-known Christian author Eugene Peterson startled many by appearing to affirm gay marriage in an interview with the Religion News Service.
When reporter Jonathan Merritt asked the retired pastor if he were leading a church today and a gay couple “in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?”
Peterson responded: “Yes.”
The comments evoked a firestorm of criticism from disappointed Christians, and LifeWay Christian Resources announced it was prepared to stop selling Peterson’s books, including his well-known paraphrase of the Bible called The Message.
Two days later, Peterson, 84, retracted his comments: “When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But in further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that.”
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted “Peterson is also 84 years old. The interview with RNS was actually a valedictory event, of a sort. He announced that he would not be doing any more public speaking or teaching. Peterson had every reason to expect that he would conclude his public ministry without having to answer these questions.”
That didn’t happen, and Mohler noted that journalists will ask even elderly retirees LGBTQ questions—and, “Every pastor, every Christian leader, every author—even every believer—will have to answer. ...
Evasive, wandering, and inconclusive answers will be seen for what they are.”