Liberalism is an odd thing to observe. On the one end, liberalism has led to the ordination of an openly gay “bishop” (Gene Robinson) by the Episcopalian church in the US; but, on the other end, since liberalism has no doctrinal foundation upon which to stand, it has now led to Mary: Hope and Grace in Christ, the paper issuing forth from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International commission (ARCIC), first released in (irony of ironies, given our upcoming conference there) Seattle (after a Roman Catholic Mass–another indication of why doctrine matters), but to be released as well in the United Kingdom today at Westminster Abbey. I look forward to obtaining the entire paper, and have not yet had that opportunity, as my internet access while traveling here in Italy is still somewhat limited. But the article I was pointed to by one of our channel regulars from England (Nick) provided sufficient citations to give a good idea of what is up. I quote from the Time Online article:
Members of the Anglican church are being asked to accept that controversial Roman Catholic teachings regarding the Virgin Mary are “authentic expressions of Christian belief”.
The proposals, which came under immediate attack from senior evangelicals, come in a document agreed by leading theologians and prelates of both churches and published in America tonight.
The long-awaited document, published after six years of discussion, effectively seeks to backtrack on centuries of Anglican dissent over the place of Mary in the Catholic Church by giving new credence to dogmas that helped inspire the Reformation.
It states that there is “no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division” over the role of the Virgin Mary. “We do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing,” it says. The document also describes private devotions inspired by apparitions of Mary as “acceptable”.
In the passage likely to cause most dissent, the document says the infallible dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption – the teachings that Mary was herself conceived “without sin” and that on death she was “assumed” body and soul into Heaven – are “consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures”.
One of the participants who drafted the document, in true post-modern, almost “reformed Catholic” style language, opined, “What we have done is put down a paving stone on the road to Christian unity.” No, what they have done has been to demonstrate once again that the only way to have unity with Rome is on Rome’s terms; further, the only way to have unity with an unbiblical system like Romanism is to abandon the standard of the Scriptures as the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. Ironically, the release of the paper was delayed until after the ordination of Robinson, given Rome’s opposition to such an action. One is truly left wondering what kind of “unity” these folks are willing to accept.
Of course, this paper will go nowhere, functionally. The same conservative African bishops who have come after Robinson with a vengence will likewise torpedo this paper, but it does highlight the odd nature of “ecumenism” in the Roman sense. What is really accomplished when Rome interacts with liberals such as these? Who is being impacted? Where can it lead? Isn’t it odd to listen to the new Pope decry post-modernism while the only folks they can get to engage in this kind of ecumenical “dialogue” are themselves deeply impacted by post-modernism itself? To be perfecty honest with you, if Rome wants these kinds of liberals, she can have them. Better they cross the Tiber, I say, than stay on the other side causing confusion as to what the issues really are.
On a somewhat related note, Nick likewise directed me to another England-related URL which gave the statement of David Coffey, Moderator of the Free Churches Group and General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain on the death of Pope John Paul II. It begins with the inevitable reference to JPII’s moral stands, and then says, “His unshakable faith in the Gospel and his prayer-filled spirituality, forged under the oppressive regime of Communism, contributed an indomitable quality to his faith and leadership.” Then later his life is said to contain “the genuine mark of all true followers of Jesus Christ.”
The content-less gospel of modern pseudo-evangelicals seems to be marked by activities like prayer–a great thing, except that you cannot ask about the nature of that prayer. That is, the object and purpose of that prayer cannot figure in the discussion. JPII prayed to Mary with regularity. In today’s world that just doesn’t matter. Idolatry is an old word, and it no longer has a place in today’s post-evangelical world. Don’t expect to see too many sermons on Aaron’s sons, or Ananias and Sapphira, from this kind of “Baptist.” Let’s continue to pray for our faithful brethren in the UK as they seek to minister God’s truth in a society bent upon a deeply idolatrous, man-centered, truth-denying worldview that gives no place to a God-glorifying, sin-destroying, soul-changing gospel. May God grant them great joy in their labor as they realize they do so to His glory alone.