The office of Archbishop of Canterbury or York is a position I can honestly say I would never want to occupy – not in a million years. Firstly, I think archbishops are unbiblical. But, even if I didn’t think that, I reckon it’s easier to square a circle than to preside over the current mass of contradictions that is the Church of England. Regular pastoral ministry in a well-ordered church is hard enough; so, I don’t envy anybody appointed to an archbishopric.
To be clear, I’ve not met either man, nor do I expect to. As a presbyterian minister, I’ve never interacted with an Anglican bishop, though I know a bunch of good guys ordained in the Church of England who outstrip me in gifts and godliness. But the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the two most public faces of Christianity in England. When they hold a press conference, what they say gets broadcast around the nation’s newsrooms and media outlets.
So, though I’m sitting in the cheap seats, what they are doing is clear to the whole nation; the primates of the Church of England are proposing that the state church starts to bless sexual immorality. Stephen Cottrell has publicly said: “I will celebrate the fact that people are living that way and expressing intimacy that way”. Similarly, Justin Welby has said he is “extremely joyful” at these proposals.
While I know it might sound like I’m making it too simple, this means that both archbishops need to resign from office. Why? Because with this proposal, the archbishops have disqualified themselves as overseers in the church of God.
At their consecration as bishops, both men would have been asked the question: “Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?”
To which they will both have solemnly answered: “By the help of God, I will”.
It is impossible to square those vows with their recent public statements. In other words, both bishops have broken their vows. Both men have completely failed to refute the brazen errors of “those who call evil good… who put darkness for light” (Isa 5:20). Instead they’ve joined in and applauded them, while pretending the church’s position hasn’t changed. Rather than fight off the wolves, they’ve welcomed them in (Acts 20:29). Passing on the entire faith entrusted to you and refuting error aren’t optional extras for ministers. Titus 1:9 says that an overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught”. He needs to be able to “rebuke those who contradict [sound doctrine]” (v.10). They, therefore, should resign from the ministry of the word and sacrament. And, for the good of his own soul, Stephen Cottrell needs to repent of planning to high-handedly bless sin.
There are wolves in sheep’s clothing in the house of bishops. It’s fast turning into the Sanhedrin that stood against Stephen, the apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus himself (Acts 6:12; 22:30; Luke 22:66). They are turning into the school of false prophets rubber-stamping the spirit of the age (1 Kings 22:6). The right thing to do in such situations is to speak clearly. Like I said, I’m not directly involved with these men, and my opportunities are limited, but for any who are involved, I’d encourage you to not simply express your shock, disapproval and anger at these proposals. The archbishops themselves need to be called to repent. John the Baptist directly told Herod to repent (Mark 6:18). Paul opposed Peter to his face (Gal 2:11). The right thing for both men to do is to resign, repent, and seek to buy ointment from Christ to anoint their eyes so that they may see (Rev 3:18).