Bishop Philip Jones and a spiritual tsunami

April 12, 2013

We had confirmation at St. Andrews Anglican in Little Rock last Sunday. Our former Senior Pastor, Bishop Philip Jones, presided. We are (by Anglican standards) a rather large church and continue to be situated in the amazingly troubled Anglican Mission. The tendency of North American Anglicans toward schism is an offense to the body of Christ and does damage to our calling to speak wisely into a pagan culture. Jones, if you have not heard, will be taking over as “Apostolic Vicar” (don’t ask) of the Anglican Mission next year, and he needs our prayers.

Philip Jones is a preacher who always relates the gospel message in the most personal tones. He has plenty of style and, at the same time, does not back off from the things that make us squirm. His forecast for the future of Christianity in America is not unique. For goodness sake, the man is not blind. Christians are facing a society that has heard of Jesus and rejected both the good news of salvation and his church. It is a fairly large breakthrough for the prideful mind to concede the need of a savior. Bishop Jones used an expression that is so powerful and evokes such an image of catastrophic suffering, “spiritual tsunami.” I wonder if listeners really comprehend the evil times ahead.

 

Like the little boy who cried “wolf,” Evangelicals have been whining about every imagined instance of hurt feelings and perceived mistreatment. Such ill-founded claims have been voiced against American institutions, while followers of Jesus in the developing world are put to death every day. American Evangelicals went chasing after an imaginary enemy over whom it would be easy to declare victory. Filled with a boastful sense of entitlement, and sure that American government exists to promote their particular private and flawed version of the Kingdom of Heaven, a political party was selected to give God a little help in working out his divine purpose for humankind. It worked just fine until the political party was confronted with the possibility that a faithful working alliance with the church folks might cost something. It was a sudden parting. Thanks for your membership lists, all the email addresses, the vast sums of money, the use of your (God’s?) facilities, and your vast organizational skills, but you naive church people should have known from the beginning that we were not really serious. It is another version of the frog and the scorpion.

The real problem was the Dobsons, the Falwells, the Kennedys, and the Robertsons. They were fallen human beings, broken men. How easy it is for the serpent a to plant an strain of self-importance and pride inside a small human mind. Here it is, straight from the snake’s mouth. “You’re doing a great job preaching the gospel and Jesus really needs fellas like you, but just imagine how much easier it will be once you take over the government.” Get this clear. Up till now, those who have passed themselves off as Christian leaders have refused to trust God by just doing what Jesus commanded. Preaching the gospel to all nations may be OK two-thousand years ago, but the Holy Spirit needs a little boost today. With our vast political insight, we can put the gospel into law and make everybody just like us. It is an astounding display of ignorance and arrogance to forget that this approach has been tried before.

And supposedly conservative church folks are very concerned about “biblical principles” in government. In the scriptures, however, there is but one absolute good biblical principle for government: “worthy is the Lamb!”

Well, things are about to get tough for Bible believing Christians now. We have made it on to the widely published lists of hate groups. Yes, that’s completely bogus and unfair. The media concentrates on the real nit-wits so that anybody out there in American who might have actually cracked a book will despise and fear Evangelical Christians. Truth is that I am a little afraid of Evangelicals. This bunch does little to help our own cause. Where are the clear leading voices that will patiently explain why marriage is for one man and one woman only? Where are the leaders who sincerely love and care for homosexuals and treat that sin just like the other failings of our human nature. When we get as excited over divorce and remarriage, adultery, anger, or (gasp!) gluttony? (I’m guilty of more than one!)

But back to this tsunami thing. Philip Jones is right. Things are about to get serious bad and there is only so much we can do. Anglicans have the intellectual power and the spirit-led congregations to speak into society, if we were not consumed with beating the stuffings out of each other. Anglicans have a liturgical tradition that emphasizes the public reading and exposition of scripture. Our sacramental theology brings us into contact with the heavenly realms. Anglicans have a calling to bring our spiritual outlook to this suffering world. That will not stop the tsunami, but it might help some souls lost to materialism and self to accept admission into God’s household.

The public position of Evangelical Christians, while well seasoned with biblical head knowledge, fails to convince more worldly minds that must measure everything in objective terms. Christians are disqualified by pride and the lust for power. Things were different in the earlier times when the influence of Christian thought was at a high point. Those were the early days when Christians went to their brutal executions singing songs of praise and joyfully embracing a death which they considered a privilege. Embracing the pain and the shame, these humble believers shook the culture by following the Savior’s example.

Now, what if that kind of fierce persecution is the essence of a spiritual tsunami? What if that is what you and I are to face? Those who have not encountered the Jesus of scripture, the one who teaches from the heart, heals and forgives, will never see the need for accepting mistreatment or even death, while trusting in the eternal plans of God more than the ambitious schemes of a few prideful and power-driven men.

If there is a tsunami coming, and I believe Jones is correct and that there is, it may well be that it will be a transformative event. Those who walk in the footsteps of Christ trod the way of the cross. There is no other way and this act of obedience in the church may be God’s plan to bring men to his saving grace.

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