Mere Anglicanism

The “war in heaven” has spilled over into Anglicanism, says Okoh

The Anglican wars were issues of life and death, heaven and hell, Archbishop Okoh warns GAFCON III in his presidential address.

Those who seek to pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ to conform it to the spirit of the age will not be saved, the Primate of All-Nigeria and chairman of the GAFCON primates council, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh said in his presidential address to GAFCON III on 18 June 2018.

In a 4500 word address that melded a theology of Scripture with a survey of the moral state of the Anglican communion, Archbishop Okoh laid out the Biblical principles that drive GAFCON. While he proposed no specific legislative agenda for the six day gathering, the Nigerian leader was clear as to the implications and directions of his call to faithfulness. Those who preached false gospels, like the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada would be condemned for their unfaithfulness.

The Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the current institutional structures of the Anglican Communion — the niceties would be preserved and respect accorded to the office — but unless there was repentance and a return to faithfulness, the game was over. The archbishop’s arrows were not targeted only at the Episcopal Church  and Archbishop Justin Welby, but at those within GAFCON whose efforts were focused on jockeying for power and party politics.

He told the 2000 delegates gathered at Binyenei HaUma in Jerusalem on 18 June 2018 that while the sins besetting Europeans, Asians, Africans and Americans differed, the solution to each was the same: “the life-transforming message of salvation from sin and all its consequences through the death and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Okoh spoke immediately after the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, addressed the conference. Archbishop Dawani endorsed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s desire for “good disagreement” whereby disputes of doctrine and should be suspended in favor of dialogue and reconciliation. Archbishop Okoh would have none of it, arguing there was no other way man can be saved than through fidelity to the Gospel of God. The “gospel of Nice” is not the Gospel of God.

The external implications of the GAFCON chairman’s address for the delegates were clear. The campaign to rewrite or reinterpret Scripture to bless what the Lord had condemned as sin, would lead its authors to the pit. For the church to be silent in the face of evil, made it complicit with evil, Archbishop Okoh reasoned.

The archbishop began his talk by laying out the Biblical and doctrinal positions that supported his views. Reasoning from the Nicene creed on the nature of the Trinity, and in a discussion of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he said “the Gospel finds its ultimate ground in the character of the triune God, his perfect love and holiness. It announces the work of the triune God. The Son came to do the Father’s will in the power of the Spirit. By the Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, becoming genuinely one of us while remaining truly God.”

Scripture further declared that Jesus was “made like us in every way, except sin,” while he is “at the same time” the  “unique Son of God, the only Saviour of the world. He lived the perfect life that none of us can live, always doing the will of the Father who sent him. He died for our sins and was raised for our justification, always in perfect unity with the Father and the Spirit.”

In Romans, Paul “demonstrates that the Gospel derives from God just as Christ proceeds from the Father; and the content of the Gospel is Christ himself.”

Archbishop Okoh said it was “difficult for some to reconcile the judgmental and merciful attributes of God.” However, the “success of the Gospel comes about because it is grounded in the character of God himself being ineffably just and yet indescribably merciful.”

He then turned to the theological implications of orthodox Christian belief. “The consequences of sin are death, judgment and eternal death in hell, so his justice demands. But God’s perfect love means that he will not abandon his creatures to the judgement they deserve. This unresolved tension is resolved in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Working from the textual history and doctrine Paul shared in his Epistle to the Romans, Archbishop Okoh stated “God’s Gospel is not limited to the beloved in Rome alone but is indeed to all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike.”

What this meant was that we were “obligated to proclaim it powerfully and dutifully to the nations because it says, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” that there was “no distinction between Jew and Greek. We are justified by faith, not by works of the Law. Because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we have peace with God.”

The implications of this belief upon the mission of the church rested then on the “uniqueness of the Gospel … that it is God’s initiative, not ours.”

The archbishop then turned to a survey of the world, asking correspondents “what the Gospel means to them and how it may be threatened.”

In Britain and Europe secularism had triumphed. The Gospel had “virtually been lost … because the churches have lost the essence of the Gospel.”

The Church of England was no longer preaching the Gospel of God but deistic therapeutic moralism. It had hijacked Christianity, keeping the externals but preaching a hedonistic sexualized existentialism — “another Gospel”.

The “human sexuality palaver” demonstrated that in the face of a “radically fallen” human nature, the West maintained an essentially optimistic view of human nature. “Historically, the Church of England has seen its role as being to express the national spiritual and moral consciousness but tended to substitute moralism for the biblical Gospel of grace.” When the moral compass of society was working, when it “broadly coincided with Judeo-Christian morality, this problem was not so evident, but with the profound changes brought about by the sexual revolution in the 1960s, church leaders who see their role as articulating the moral consciousness of society found themselves increasingly distant from a biblical understanding of morality, sin and human nature.”

The moral compass of many of the Asian churches remained true, the Nigerian archbishop said, but it must remain on guard against “inclusivism” and the “syncretistic interpretation” of God’s word and doctrine. He cited a proposition made at a World Council of Churches gathering in 1991, where a South Korean theologian identified the Holy Spirit as being the same as “the ancestral spirits of the dead in Shamanist Korean religion.” The belief that all faiths led to God the Father was false, Archbishop Okoh said. “Jesus Christ remains the only way, truth and life; no man comes to the Father except through him.”

In America and Canada the GAFCON churches were preaching the Gospel of God in competition to the Gospels of “materialism, idolatry, obsessions with sports, sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, and success”  The churches “should be on the alert to ensure that the influence of another gospel which is already entrenched in that environment is not imperceptibly adopted by the unsuspecting and innocent believers. It is especially from North America that a false gospel of inclusion without repentance has come.”

While the Gospel of God was making powerful strides in bringing the people of South and Central America to fullness of faith, the powerful Pentecostal and Liberation Theology movements needed to “be monitored to avoid adoption of elements of another Gospel.”

The churches of Australia and New Zealand, along with those of America and Europe, had to be on guard against presenting Christ as an example, rather than a savior. “Those who persist in sin and unbelief will be condemned,” Archbishop Okoh said. “By underestimating sin and the reality of judgement, thinking that human beings can save themselves; believing that all are saved; or that repentance is merely feeling sorry and not actually making Christ their Lord” the church was teaching a false Gospel, which was “as bad as no Gospel at all.”

The African churches held fast to the Gospel of God within an “environment full of powers-native power or African science-through which evil people harm others.”

We, therefore, preach the power of the Gospel of God that sets people free from witches, ill-health, diabolical persecutions, evil arrows,” Archbishop Okoh said, noting the churches emphasized “healing, exorcism, breaking of curses, protection from evil, and even some form of prosperity.”

However, the power of the Gospel in this life often was perverted, he said, noting the pernicious teachings of “prosperity gospel” preachers. “If the focus is shifted to earthly things and solving of existential problems it becomes another Gospel. Emphasis must be on eternal realities and implications of the Gospel for human existence here on earth,” he said.

Citing Billy Graham, Archbishop Okoh noted that “any distortion of the Scriptures is a distortion of the Gospel of God, and therefore a false gospel.” No “antics” of the “present generation can undermine the Word of God revealed and written. Any gospel not derived from the Bible is a false gospel propagated by the spirit of the anti-Christ.”

The therapeutic gospel that affirmed Jesus as savior, but stopped short of proclaiming his “Lord over the affairs of one’s life,” was a false gospel. Many sought to “exercise their human rights and determine what they do and not what the will of the Lord might be.”

The position of GAFCON was that it was “either God’s Gospel or no gospel.” At the 2008 Jerusalem Conference, GAFCON “made plain” that “we do not accept that the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury necessarily defines Anglican identity and belonging.”

He acknowledged the historic “privileged position” Canterbury held within the Anglican world. But if Canterbury were unfaithful, by its own actions, this position was vacated. “If we walk together with those who deny the orthodox faith, in word or deed, we have agreed that orthodoxy is optional. Then it is just ‘our orthodoxy’ and, therefore, no orthodoxy at all.”

The error in Archbishop Welby’s doctrine of “good disagreement” was that the “Gospel cannot mean just maintaining my right to my views, but being willing to publicly challenge church leaders who contradict the Gospel and establish the need to maintain apostolic boundaries.”

‘Good disagreement’ is like a slow acting solvent which gradually dissolves the convictions of the orthodox, while all the time they still think that they hold to the apostolic faith,” Archbishop Okoh said. A generation ago Bishop Fulton J. Sheen correctly diagnosed the malady afflicting liberal Anglicanism. “The Church never suits the particular mood of any age, because it was made for all ages. A Catholic knows that if the Church married the mood of any age in which it lived, it would be a widow in the next age.”

Archbishop Okoh closed his address by offering eleven principles:

1. The Gospel of God is a gracious gift to give us life in abundance.

2. It should not be subject to cultural distortion. Defend it in word and action.

3. The world still needs the Gospel because people need salvation. Preach it loud!

4. The Gospel of God is good news to the whole world – rich and poor, old and young, male and female, educated and illiterate, white and black, red and yellow.

5. The Gospel of God is still potent if preached faithfully to the nations.

6. There is urgent need for preachers and church planters-faithful missionaries.

7. Faithfulness is required in delivering the message of the Gospel of God.

8. The Anglican Communion is called upon to return to the old path of God’s Gospel.

9. Anglicanism is the Gospel; the heart of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, not any human being no matter his title and the institution he represents.

10. As we rediscover the ministry of proclamation of the undiluted Gospel, cognizance must be taken of the real possibility of martyrdom, in very hostile situations or contexts.

11. Children of God must not join politicians to play sexual politics with the Gospel of God as is being done in the West. When the nuclear bomb of secularism explodes in the West, the fallout can be felt in all the world.

Anglican Christians must “wake up”, shaking off the “end-time slumber imposed by religious pluralism, heterodox philosophical ideologies and faithfully, zealously proclaim the Gospel of God to all the nations.” This was a matter of salvation, not niceness.

And “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved,” concluded Archbishop Okoh to thunderous applause.

 

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