The Rector Looks at Lambeth

A Tale of Two Religions

The Rev. Victor H. Morgan - rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Blue Ridge.
Column for 22nd July, 1998

Within Christendom today there are two religions. This may sound shocking, but it really is so. There is the religion of revelation and the religion of accommodation.

Let me explain. The first religion is centred round that deposit of truth Jesus entrusted to His little band of followers almost 2,000 years ago. This faith is centred in a God who has chosen to reveal Himself and His will for mankind. This He did first through the patriarchs and prophets of old time, but uniquely and supremely in the glorious person of Christ.

This faith, when confronted with questions about belief and behaviour, asks: "What saith the Scriptures?"

The second religion is centred round the "spirit of the age." It is a religion in which the faith of the Church is accommodated to "what's happening now." It is a religion where the individual and not God is the ultimate standard and judge. It is a religion that says, "If I don't like it, or if does suit my fancy, I change it."

One proponent of this "new religion" is the Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong. Recently, Spong issued a call for a new reformation in which he listed 12 theses. Some of the most outrageous include:

I might add, what's left? If one were to subtract everything Bishop Spong would like subtracted, one would no doubt be left with something, but would it be Christianity?

Historical Christianity - the religion of revelation - meanwhile, maintains that we -- the Church -- have been entrusted with a priceless treasure, a treasure that is ours to guard and publish, but not to change.

Methods and tools used in accomplishing this task may and must change. Each generation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must certainly wrestle with contemporary applications of the eternal Gospel. Yet, at the same time, this Gospel must be kept free from additions and subtractions. We must pass on what we have been given-nothing more, nothing less.

I have mentioned Bishop Spong, a spokesman for the new religion. Now, I shall conclude by mentioning a very different type of bishop. This week I received a note from the Rt. Rev. Anthony Burton, bishop of Saskatchewan, Canada. He writes, "Anna, the children and I are off to the Lambeth Conference in the morning in a flurry of luggage, baby clothes, and excitement. Ora pro nobis."

"Pray for us," writes Bishop Burton. Unlike Bishop Spong, Bishop Burton believes prayer changes things. Unlike Bishop Spong, Bishop Burton has not bowed the knee before the "prince of this world" and the spirit of this age. Unlike Bishop Spong, Bishop Burton confesses a religion of revelation, not accommodation.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church now assembled in thy Name and Presence in Canterbury. Save them from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern them in their work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable [strengthening] Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down of the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life, through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

From The News Observer, Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, USA.
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