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Anglicans, Baptists, and Orthodoxy

More By Stan Fowler

In a recent article published by TGC Canada, George Sinclair has helped us all to understand the status of biblical orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada. He makes clear in that article that the recent rejection of a proposed modification of canon law to affirm same-sex marriage obscures the continuing affirmation of such marriages in practice. George rightly reminds all of us that protecting orthodoxy demands vigilance that goes beyond a confession of faith, because no confession of faith can anticipate in advance all possible challenges to our common faith.

Imagine my surprise to find that George uses my own tribe, The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada, to illustrate what might be demanded of an evangelical denomination when confronted with revisionist views of sexuality and marriage. Several years ago I raised the same concern in an article that I wrote for The Evangelical Baptist, our denominational magazine at the time.

My article was a critique of what I take to be our fixation on local autonomy, and to illustrate the potential downside of such autonomy, I used the example of a hypothetical Fellowship church that affirmed same-sex marriage but also affirmed the infallibility of Scripture. In other words, such a church would argue that the Bible, taken as a whole and properly interpreted in its historical-cultural context, would support same-sex unions. To my knowledge, that has not yet happened, but it would come as no surprise, given the cultural pressure on the issue and the existence of such arguments advanced by high-profile progressives.

When I wrote that article, the Fellowship had no formal mechanism to discipline or remove such a church. Member churches were required to affirm all of the denominational Affirmation of Faith, but that confession of faith says nothing about marriage. Various convention resolutions could be quoted on the point, but they were by definition non-binding. We were, in my opinion, victims of an overstated autonomy of each local church.

But I am happy to report that as of November 2018, we now have a mechanism to adopt policy statements that member churches must affirm in practice, and the first policy statement adopted (also last November) requires all member churches to reject same-sex marriage in principle and forbids all members of our churches to officiate at or facilitate same-sex marriages. I am grateful for the leadership given by our president, Steve Jones, that brought us to this place.

Thanks, George, for calling all of us to defend orthodoxy in our time and place. And thanks for giving me the chance to update the status of orthodoxy in one evangelical denomination. It may sound paradoxical to say that the defence of orthodoxy demands creativity, but that is the reality.

If the existence of an orthodox confession of faith were adequate to prevent apostasy, then all of our historic denominations would still be orthodox. My tribe has, I think, learned a few things about this reality, and I hope others are doing the same.