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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where We Stand: The Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England: Part One

[In my search on the internet to find likeminded Anglicans who are Evangelicals first and Anglicans second, I have found a remnant in several pockets around the world. Probably the most famous of these is the Sydney Diocese in Australia. However, others exist in England and I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the members of the sister church of the Reformed Episcopal Church, The Free Church of England, have left that church and created the Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England. The following letter was delivered to the 2005 Convocation of the Evangelical Connexion by Dr. J. Barry Shucksmith, the current bishop. I trust that you will immediately recognize that I fully agree with Dr. Shucksmith's position and my goal here in the United States is to reform Anglican churches wherever possible and to plant new Anglican churches which will be faithful to the Gospel, to Evangelical theology, to Protestant and Reformed theology, and to the five solas of the Reformation. While I stand with a small remnant of true Anglicans, we like Gideon can win the victory because God will always preserve His church. The gates of hell will come crashing down before the truth. Believers need to turn the world upside down for the cause of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it. Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics are preaching another gospel and those who tolerate a little poison are poisoning the entire church with divisions, strife and false teaching. To view the Evangelical Connexion post click on the title above or click, Where We Stand.]

Bishop's Letter for Convocation 2005

1. EARLY HISTORY

"But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:16)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)


If the words "evangelical", "protestant" and "reformed" mean anything at all they identify the Free Church of England, in its early history as a one-party church. Indeed, evangelical secessions from the Church of England in both 18th and 19th centuries can hardly have been for the purpose of creating a broader Church. Latitudinarian and High Churchmanship was not threatened when James Shore (1844) declared himself the first member of the "free" Church of England. Those who argue otherwise need to study the Constitution and Canons Ecclesiastical of the Free Church of England and with a marker-pen highlight the use of the word "evangelical". It occurs many times, as do the words "protestant" and "reformed". "Evangelical" means "a gospel church". "Protestant" means "salvation by grace alone, in Christ alone". "Reformed" means "Calvinistic" as opposed to "Roman Catholic", "Lutheran", or "Via Media".

Sadly, many members of the (old) Free Church of England no longer seem confident in maintaining this position. They want a bigger pond in which to swim, or fish, as the case may be. The present Primus, Rt. Revd. Kenneth Powell, is on record as saying he "wants a broad, more inclusive church". He participates in modern ecumenical services. He attended (without knowledge of the then Primus or Convocation) the Enthronement of the present Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a greatly disappointed man when the talks for a closer relationship with the Church of England failed. He is in close relationship with the newly-designed REC and has never spoken against the REC/APA Concordat. Despite claiming to be an evangelical churchman, he has done everything possible to remove, or effectively negate, leading evangelical churchman from the Denomination. He has gathered around him several dominate people who would be insulted if referred to as conservative evangelicals. According to the latest Yearbook, he believes biblical doctrine is subservient to "Christian love" (p. 20 Report of the Acting Bishop Primus). While having many personal qualities, including managerial skills and exemplary energy, the tragedy is that the FCE is now led by a man who has never attended a theological institution or undergone any significant form of training for Christian ministry. Despite a lifetime of dedicated service, he appears not to understand the theological and historical position of his own Church and is preparing to 'sell his evangelical birthright for a mess of pottage.'

2. EVANGELICAL FOUNDATION

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16)

"The Free Church of England holds to... the faith once delivered unto the saints, and declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, and the SOLE Rule of Faith and Practice..." FCE Constitution, Article 1., Declaration of Principles).


The Constitutional position of the Free Church of England is absolutely clear for those who have eyes to see. It is a sola scriptura Church. Legally, it can only proceed by reference to the Convocation under the supreme authority of the Word of God. But, in recent years, the authority of the Convocation has been weakened by upgrading the limited "ad interim powers" of the General Council to a more important functional level. For example, the new Year Book speaks about the status of those who do not recognise the jurisdiction of the present bishops (p. 24) as being now outside the Denomination. At the time, General Council, without reference to Convocation, made this primary decision. It has also, similarly, made a decision to remove all who join the FCE (Evangelical Connexion) from the Communion Roll of local churches, without any reference to the local churches concerned, without discussing the matter at Convocation, or citing the Constitution and Canonical authority for doing so.

3. NEW TESTAMENT BISHOPS

"To all the saints which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." (Philippians 1:1)

"A bishop must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:7)


"This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of Divine Right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity... the Episcopate is an office proceeding from the Presbyterate--primus inter pares--and not an order in succession to the Apostolate and maintains the ecclesiastical parity of Presbyters..." (FCE Constitution and Declaration of Principles)

FCE bishops were never intended to be the same as C of E bishops. Anyone familiar with the early history of Bishop George Cummins (who effectively gave episcopal orders to the FCE) will know his mind on episcopacy. He was even embarrassed to wear the robes of a bishop. The REC booklet, What Reformed Episcopalians Believe (Charles Edward Cheney) was a textbook for the REC/FCE for years. Cheney describes episcopacy as "a presiding officer among his fellow presbyters" (page 62). But the present (two) bishops of the FCE have now made membership of the church/denomination dependent on accepting their episcopal oversight, while excluding many of the presbyters upon which their own authority/function, as bishops, depends. Therefore, we can only assume, that episcopacy is being raised to a new level and promoted as a separate order from the presbyterate. This is contrary to the clear and limited function of episcopacy in the canons and constitution where presbyteral parity is affirmed.

4. MODERN ECUMENISM

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth." (John 17:17)

"'To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray that they may be one, even as we are one?' (John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless... unite, unite! Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Unity without truth is hazardous." (C. H. Spurgeon)


The Free Church of England has its own history, seen largely to be the work of Bishop Frank Vaughn, and published by authority of Convocation. But both Kenneth Powell (Primus and Southern Diocese) and Bishop John McClean (Northern Diocese) have given wholehearted support to Dr. John Fenwick's new book, THE FREE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, without authority of Convocation. There is much in this book which is commendable, scholarly, and worthy of consideration. But its greatest weakness lies in developing the theory that 'the Free C of E could be described as England's best-kept secret'. It is absurd to try and prove that a 1927 Consitutional reference, 'this Church will maintain communion with all Christian Churches and will set forward, so far as in it lieth, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people,' can apply to the modern ecumenical movement. The Ecumenical Movement embraces so many who deny the preceding doctrinal tenets of the FCE DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES. There is also growing evidence that the modern ecumenical movement is developing into an inter-faith project.

[This is part one of an ongoing series of posts quoting from Bishop Shucksmith's letter to the Convocation 2005.]

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