MARCH 2023 - THIS WORLD IS GOD'S WORLD
By Rev Peter Ratcliff
SOME ON BOARDS AND SOME ON BROKEN PIECES OF THE SHIP
"....they which could swim should cast themselves into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land." Acts 17:43,44
What a wonderful deliverance as everyone survived such a shipwreck!
O, but what a shipwreck is the Church of England and yet how few will swim to safety!
Tragically, the February 2023 meeting of The General Synod, the ruling body of the Church of England, has voted to bless so-called same-sex relationships. While this stopped short of what they call same sex marriage, it sanctions what the Bible calls sin, men leaving the natural use of the woman and doing that which is unseemly with each other. See Romans 1.
The thought of such sin is unpleasant enough but that the Church of England could rejoice in this filth, words fail me. There is no point in using extreme language to express our dismay. Even more shocking is that this rejection of God is no surprise.
How can it be?
There is much attention in the Church of England on the immediate question of blessing homosexuality, even the question of whether God is he or her, that it is easy to forget the underlying nature of the Church of England: rebellion.
Who would have thought that the Church of England would be condemned by her own doctrinal basis, the 39 Articles of Religion? Yet Article 19 says,
"The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
"As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith."
What a scandal that the Church of England has now "erred in matters of faith" every bit as much as these other churches which she condemns! Which begs the question, why has the Church of England so long flirted with the Church of Rome which she condemned?
Being a minister in the Church of England Continuing we are often asked about the Church of England as if we are close to it. As a member of the Church of England Continuing it is difficult for me to give an entirely neutral view of the Church of England. Nevertheless it is right that we both explain why we are not in the Church of England and also why the Church of England Continuing exists.
Our position is that when the Church of England ordained women in 1994 it ceased to be a biblical church because it denied the authority of the Bible and followed the world. The confusion of male and female that brought in female ordination meant the abolition of the biblical roles of men and women. If the church would not stand and resist the mocking world then there was no hope. Our founders had no choice but to leave the Church of England and save something of the biblical faith. In the Bible there is always a biblical remnant from which the Lord preserves his people and it doesn't matter if this remnant is small. It is the Lord's remnant to use as he will in his time.
But what of the remainers? We fear that many are like Lot's wife. They were going to leave over women's ordination to a place of safety but they looked back and were turned to a pillar of salt. And as a pillar of salt they remain. Now rigor mortis has set in and they cannot leave. We fear that those within the Church of England have become so compromised by remaining that they have seared their conscience so it has become all but impossible for them to understand that they are not in a church that is pleasing to God. These are strong words and we must confess that we are writing these things to the best of our ability and with no claim to infallibility. Certainly we have no animosity towards Christians within the Church of England and our only desire is the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
But what is the underlying issue?
The issue is not homosexuality or gender confusion. We have been here before with the ordination of women. How did the Church of England get to a point where it would even have these matters on the agenda for discussion?
The problem is vast and we don't claim to know the schemes of Satan so well as to be able to order them, indeed they are no doubt so devious that they have avoided normal means of prevention. Yet we may pin it down to a few heads:
First, the fundamental nature of sinful man.
The Christian still has indwelling sin and is prone to sin and this hinders his walk with God. However the Church of England is led by men and women who appear to be unregenerate. Thus Evangelicalism is only a wing of the Church of England. The main body of the Church of England is somewhere between Roman Catholic and Liberal. These are other religions in which there is no Gospel, repentance or saving faith.
Historically the Church of England was Evangelical and it has an Evangelical basis of faith in the 39 Articles of 1562. The Church of England broke from Rome, providentially through Henry VIII, but theologically is the same as the reformed churches of Europe on the basis of the Gospel, the same Gospel which Rome denied and for which it persecutes Christians.
While Baptists and Independents and Presbyterians have some slight differences, the best men will not exaggerate these differences but acknowledge the errors of Rome and the blessed Protestant Reformation which brought our nation out of the dark ages into the Gospel light. Serious Evangelicals from across the spectrum recognise one another as brethren and, importantly, recognise that Roman Catholics and Liberals are not Christians. Yes, there may be people in bad churches that for one reason or another have genuine saving faith, but this is in spite of their churches, not because of them.
One tragedy of Anglican Evangelicalism is that while in heart it joins together with Evangelical Nonconformists, in practice it remains with non-Christian liberal ritualistists who would join with the atheistic world to persecute the true church.
Third, Nothing is perfect.
There never was nor will be a perfect church. The Reformation was never perfect and neither could it be. Therefore we are very vulnerable to Satan's attacks. The early church had heretics and Judaizers and Gnostics and proud self centred men among them. Very few had the humility of Paul. Timothy was a rare godly man as Paul had "none like him".
Thus we should not be surprised that the Reformation position of the Church of England would come under attack. Bishop JC Ryle said that in the early Seventeenth Century Archbishop Laud did more harm to the Church of England than everyone else put together. This was not merely for Laud's Arminianism but his Romanising the Church of England.
The attempts to play down Protestant hatred of Popery came about in the 19th Century when the Church of England dropped prayers in the Litany referring to "the tyranny of the bishop of Rome" and when the prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance on November 5th were dropped. November 5th marked not only the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 but also the arrival of William of Orange in 1688 to become king and save England from a Roman Catholic king.
People forget that Rome is a Charismatic church with the Pope being a false prophet and a false miracle worker.
Now the Church of England still has its 39 Articles which, more than even the great 17th Century Westminster Confession of Faith, denounces Roman Catholic practice as "fables and dangerous deceits". Yet the 19th Century saw this aspect of the Church of England almost lost. Ministers once had to read the 39 Articles and to sware that they would uphold such teaching but this was mocked, apparently by saying vows with fingers crossed. No doubt behind this downgrade was the theory of evolution and so called higher criticism which mocked the Bible as if it was fairy tales. And all this unbelief or liberalism left the Church of England wide open to being Romanised again. What better than some deceptive charismatic Papal wonder to revive the church!
And so it was that the Mass was allowed back in the Church with the gaudy coloured robes. The Lord's Table was replaced by the Altar so that today even Nonconformists slip into the language of the altar where none exists, as if it was normal to have an altar in an evangelical church!
And so the Charismatic emphasis enabled "Evangelical" Archbishop Carey to persuade the Synod of the Church of England that God was doing "a new thing" in calling for the ordination of women. Sadly the Church had already included women in the Synod to rule over men, another unbiblical step which slipped under the Evangelical radar. It appears that government pressure to ordain women gave Carey's imagination the feeling that it was the Holy Spirit.
When the vote was made to ordain women the gay lobby was outside cheering with posters saying "us next".
That it has taken the Church of England thirty years from the ordination of women to the blessing of cursed relationships may surprise us. How do we account for this? First, the world itself moved quite slowly. It took parliament itself a long time to introduce civil partnership and same sex marriage. Why? There is a natural knowledge of God which to some extent informs the conscience. Even the godless knew that homosexuality was revolting. Consequently it has taken quite some time to brainwash a nation to believe in homosexuality.
But what about the Church of England? Didn't all the Evangelicals leave when women were ordained? No, many switched course. As John Stott and others persuaded the New Evangelicals to work with rather than fight Romanism, so Carey did the same with Feminism.
What next? There are a few groups within the Church of England getting hot under the collar about same sex blessing but no doubt as previously, despite all the fuss, it will be business as usual. Just as they live with women bishops so they will live with homosexual bishops. Nothing is sacred. Ichabod is written on the doors but people keeping their heads down aren't looking at the doors. Are they looking to Christ? The Archbishop of Canterbury said recently that most Christians look to the Pope as the head of the church. It is as the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12, And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Fourth, Men are frightening
But what about us?
In the Bible "we must obey God rather than men" sounds clear enough and no evangelical would want to do otherwise. Yet sadly when this mountain of Downgrade builds up, there are very few who will be prepared to stand out like a sore thumb.
Perhaps one of the biggest losses in Evangelicalism is the loss of the old teaching that the Pope is the Antichrist. Such a claim today seems uncharitable but truly, after the burning of our martyrs under Queen Mary, such an understanding, despite Satan's best efforts, kept the British Church on fire for the Lord.
Fifth, the Church of England has caved in to unbiblical pressure from the Government.
We have mentioned this on previous occasions how MPs speak as they have the right to tell the Church of England what to do!
Sixth, Another aspect is General Synod itself.
We have already mentioned that The Synod included women members taking part in ruling the church long before women were ordained. Another aspect of the synod is that it doesn't debate properly. Like in the EU meetings, a person can stand up and make a brilliant speech, but nobody is under any obligation to respond to it or examine it, rather they simply ignore it. For example, people have been posting a clip of the great speech which one man gave against the blessing of same sex but there is no response, no attempt to explain why they won't take heed. The effort to express biblical views falls on deaf ears!
Is there any hope?
When we read the Bible and study church history, the ways of God are certainly "past finding out" and we know that "all things work together for good" so, while the Church of England is in such a terrible state doctrinally, teaching that evil such as homosexuality is good, we do not despair.
No doubt we have said enough. We could weep over the Church of England but we are better to do what Paul did on his journey to Rome and cut loose from the wrecked ship and swim to shore, if need be holding on to broken off pieces of the ship.
CONFERENCE REMINDER - 25th March in Wolverhampton
The Church of England (Continuing)
St Silas Church, Long Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1HU
(bus & rail stations 2 mins walk, pay & display car park in Broad St)
Saturday 25th March 2023 D.V.
REFORMATION & REVIVAL
Morning Session 11am
Reformation – The Importance of Theology
The life & work of Heinrich Bullinger
Speaker: The Rt Rev Edward Malcolm
Presiding Bishop, Church of England (Continuing)
Light lunch & hot drinks available
Afternoon Session 2pm
Revival – The Primacy of Preaching
Speaker: The Rev Peter Simpson
Minster, Penn Free Methodist Church
3pm Evening Prayer
E-mail: moc.liamg@1vwsalists Phone; 07477 704921/07925 693504
THE PROTESTANT SUCCESSION
It is wonderful to trace our Protestant Succession from the time of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century through to the present day. There is a succession of the Protestant throne but there is more importantly a succession of Protestant churches.
We could of course trace our history back to the Bible and through to the Reformation, even more remarkably surviving the rise of the Papal Antichrist which severely persecuted the true church for a thousand years.
Nevertheless, despite the resilience of the church, it is a sobering moment when you realise that all the men to whom you looked for guidance have passed into glory and that you must now press on as did Joshua, Elisha and Timothy.
The Church of England Continuing has been in such a time of a new generation for some years. Since the loss of Bishop Edward Malcolm of Wolverhampton (2013), Rev John Shearer of Nuffield (2018) and Rev Brian Felce of London (2020), there is now only Bishop David Samuel from this generation. Bishop Samuel is living in very old age and no longer able to take part on the committee of the church.
However it should be encouraging also to think that our great elder statesmen of Christ were far from perfect or complete, except in Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is truly amazing and we should not be discouraged that we are in difficult or even seemingly impossible situations. The way we act now may be visible to many and we don't know how much good the Lord might enable us to do.
It is indeed a sobering moment when we realise that our mentors and the guides to whom we looked have passed into glory. Yet, when we consider that the Lord has only ever used mere men to proclaim his glory, we have good reason to continue to trust him in the days ahead.
In 1 Samuel 7:12 we read that Samuel erected a stone and called it Ebenezer which translates from the Hebrew as Stone of Help. Samuel said, "Hitherto hath the LORD helped us". It is remarkable that implicit in making such a monument looking back to the past, Samuel was making a greater statement about trusting in the same great God for the future. Let us do the same.
We feel so clever with all information at our fingertips online but do we know anything?
One sign that the new atheist generation is not as morally good as previous God fearing generations is that there is so much unreliability today. Every appointment now needs to be reconfirmed. In the past people would have had a conscience to keep promises and appointments but now a huge percentage just don't show up unless they have prepaid.
The best illustration I heard recently about the new incompetence was how cars used to have manuals about servicing at home but today the instructions on the battery say, "poison, do not drink".
Maybe this is unfair. Perhaps the next generation is better than the previous in some ways but evidence is lacking.
The Bible indicates that most people are no better. Most efforts to escape the tragedies of life are blighted by the hopelessness of atheist education and society.
THE LAST DAYS
Is Jesus coming soon? We hope so and perhaps sometimes pray so, but we don't know.
Certainly those who claim to be able to interpret world events in terms of prophecy have no shortage of followers.
It is right that we should be excited about the end times. It would be better if that excitement invoked holiness and reverence rather than speculative hysteria.
There is much mileage in having a good theory of "prophecy today" and the end times things "happening now" draws hearers into some church and online and parachurch ministries.
But there is an alternative to attract people. One alternative is the service I saw online from an evangelical church associated with FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) which consisted of a short introduction, a few pop songs and then an interview with a celebrity who had become a Christian. This was followed by a short "sermon" and more pop music. No doubt Jesus was loved and proclaimed to all sorts but it certainly wasn't biblical worship. What struck me most about the "service" was that the "stage" was a theatre set. No doubt there are those in churches with the gift of set design and lighting technology who set out the lounge scene under purple pinky lighting from where the interview took place.
Why was I watching this service? I found it when I "Googled" a preacher I heard about and to my delight I found a sermon he preached at the induction of a pastor at the same church in 1959. What a difference! The sermon referred to 1 Samuel 13&14 and how the people of God had trembled with fear in chapter 13 but how they were so helped and encouraged that in chapter 14 it was the enemies of God who were trembling. This was far more gripping than the cozy celebrity interview. The future of the church needs more than celebrity soundbite preaching, it needs trembling men of God who take hold of the Lord in prayer and bring forth treasures out of the Lord upon trembling hearers.
Besides the fact, is the theatre chat cafe style church service a church at all? The idea that we have a formal service in the morning but a cafe in the evening implies that there are two Gods or that worship doesn't matter.
"It is ... as certain that the Romish church burned our Reformers as it is that William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings" Bishop JC Ryle, Light From Old Times, p16.
If you really were really "like the very early church in Acts" you would have no New Testament. So to say you are like the church in Acts is a fallacy.
One of the most foolish things is to be young and to realise neither how soon you will be old nor how soon you will stand before God. To be old and not realise this is even more foolish.
I have not included street preaching reports this month. We have still been out on Fridays and are generally encouraged, especially that there has already been some fruit this year with one man enthusiasticly joining our services regularly and another I have met with is in poor health but in regular contact and is very determined to get to us soon. I think this is happening because some people can see that we both genuinely care for them and they can see that we ourselves have been helped by the Gospel we proclaim and they believe that there is something here which they need . Some reports are on my Facebook page.
I appreciated Mark Johnson's editorial on the theme of fellowship in the March edition of Banner of Truth magazine reminding us that public worship is the highest form of fellowship. See 1 John 1:3; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:3; 2 Peter 1:4.
If you need encouraging I have posted sermons on www.YouTube.com/c/WimbledonChurch/ Our midweek on Lamentations has been surprisingly encouraging as it is the mature Jeremiah in desolations. The sermons by David Dickson are helpful on this but I have also been helped by preaching through Jeremiah first. Also James Durham has helped me in Revelation in the Lord's Day evenings, especially upgrading my idealist view to historicist to clarify the Papacy as Antichrist and there is wide application as well as encouragement. In the morning we are on John 17 which is very rich and again I commend the George Newton sermons.
By Rev Peter Ratcliff
St Johns Continuing Church, London
Our Basis of Faith, Life and Worship is: Reformed, Protestant, Evangelical, 39 Articles of Religion, Authorised Version Bible, Psalm Singing.
Tel: 07946 465156