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Without a doubt, political pundits and commentators have had a tsunami of surprises this year. All of the polls and the professionals in the UK and the rest of Europe were certain that the vote about staying in the European Union would be positive. In fact, most people were so confident of a positive vote that there were no contingency plans when the vote went the other way. Similarly, on election day in the U.S., all the major media outlets were announcing overwhelming odds that Hillary Clinton would be elected as President of the United States, notwithstanding what a terribly flawed candidate she was. Even more surprising was the fact that Donald Trump, who won the election, had been dismissed as being anything from a “loose cannon,” to a “crackpot,” to any one of a series of horrible invectives.

What happened in order to have the surprising events transpire? I’m sure people will be arguing for years about the complexities involved, but at a very basic level, what happened in the UK and in the USA was that the “political class” forgot the historic foundations and values that the people cherish. In both cases, many people felt that their way of life was unraveling before their very eyes. For instance, it is not a matter of hating people who are different or even stopping immigration, but there are common sense considerations when dealing with the fallout from open borders. 

Liberal pundits like to describe the way they would like things to be, but that is not necessarily the way things are. Of course, the Liberals are smarter and wiser than we the unwashed – just ask them – but there are no guarantees that they are right. What is fascinating to me in all this is the great parallel with the Anglican Communion. The Progressive portion of the Church is pressing ahead with throttles pushed forward to the firewall. There is neither a governor nor a safety net present as liberal and progressive policies are pursued. There is no concern for the unintended consequences that might result from progressive actions. There is only an arrogant assumption of being right and disdain for any who might disagree.

Limitations – Set and Ignored

When the most senior leaders of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishops, met in Canterbury in January, they were very clear and in overwhelming agreement that the change in the definition of marriage that had taken place in the Episcopal Church was unacceptable and TEC needed to be disciplined. Reactions ranged from mild distress to utter horror at what TEC had done. Overwhelmingly, TEC was given a three-year “time out” in the areas of doctrine, polity, and ecumenical affairs. When TEC subsequently pressed forward at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, I don’t think very many people were surprised, but many of us were astonished in the face of their full participation in areas from which they were supposed to stand down — and that the Archbishop of Canterbury declared TEC to have fully complied with what the Archbishops (The Primates) had insisted in January. By observation, that assessment simply is not true. When a group that was told not to participate in making decisions about polity or doctrine participates in making decisions about polity and doctrine, any claim they have not done so is very hollow. Regardless of who offered the invitation, when TEC was told they were not to represent the Anglican Communion in ecumenical conversations, their participation in ecumenical conversations was simply contrary to what the Primates required. 

A Force for Change

It is certainly true that some of those who campaigned and voted for exit from the European Union had bad motives. Some were probably xenophobic or prejudiced. Some might even have been hateful. The same is true in the U.S. election. Without a doubt, President-elect Trump is a man with rough edges. Some of his comments have been well beyond what could be considered acceptable discourse, but that is not all he has done. He also represents a shift from a sense of tyranny to either that which is “politically correct” or that which operates within the confines of the status quo of the political class in Washington, D.C. Many people have been willing to accept far rougher language and behavior than they previously would have found acceptable in order to see the juggernaut of “progressive liberalism” stopped. Rather than being votes for President-elect Trump, many votes were cast against the alternative(s). 

In the Church world, similar charges are often hurled at Biblical conservatives—like those in GAFCON—that they (we) are motivated by hate, that we are judgmental, mean, and _____________ (fill in your invective of choice). 

What is at stake in the Anglican Communion is the foundational role that holy Scripture holds. For liberals and progressives, the Bible is at best nostalgic literature to be occasionally read and appreciated, perhaps like a fine wine, or more likely akin to one of those 500-year-old Chinese eggs–rare, very expensive, and for most, unappetizing. 

One would think that the Anglican Communion operates democratically and that when the vast majority of the members and/or the leaders make their position known, that it will prevail. Sadly, over the last twenty-five years that I have been intimately involved with the leadership of the Communion, the great consistency that I have seen in Anglican Communion affairs is not integrity. Sadly, almost all of the majority decisions that have been made since 1998 have been diluted or completely ignored, replaced by what the dominating Western liberal minority has wanted. It has functioned very much as the ruling forces (though not necessarily the majority) wanted. What the minority “ruling class” of the Communion will find is that they are going to see the same sort of chaotic upset that has been seen in the Brexit and U.S. Presidential vote. 

Cairo – a Watershed Moment

The Global South meeting in Cairo marked a watershed moment, a huge point of departure from “business as usual” in the Anglican Communion. By deciding to develop structures for ministry and mission with those who share the same theological positions, the tyranny of those who think they know better was undone. Of course, they will continue to reign over the structures of the Communion they control, but they will not be able to stop the life that rises out of Global South and GAFCON ministry and mission, which are Biblically faithful and Gospel-centered. The former smells and tastes lifeless; the other has the sweet aroma of new life. Fruitfulness is the inevitable product of Biblically faithful Gospel work. Initiatives that are neither Biblically based nor Gospel-centered simply cannot produce fruit. 

Faithful Christians have a responsibility to work diligently to ensure that the atmospheres in Britain and in the USA do not become toxic. Actions that people suggest or take that run roughshod over other people (especially the weak and outcasts) must be challenged. That does not mean, however, that all standards of common sense must be abandoned.

The exact stewardship is called for in the Anglican Communion. Where there are initiatives that are not Biblically based, they must be challenged. Where things are loveless, they must be challenged as well. The lion’s share of our energy should not go toward challenging things. Instead, our creativity, our hearts, and our resources should go toward proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and helping bring transformation to people’s lives. That is true whether it is in dealing with Brexit, with the U.S. election, or with the Anglican Communion.  

The two competing agendas cannot co-exist. Happily, we are now entering a season in which there will be many opportunities to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ, and to do it in structures inhabited by people who share the same Biblical world view. Over time, feel free to challenge me if Gospel work doesn’t bear fruit. But you know what? I’m not worried.