Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Modern Christianity - Have it your way!

Mark Townsend at his other job.
I picked up on the story of the Rev.(sic) Mark Townsend in the Sunday papers this week. For those of you who missed this little gem, Mr Townsend, who is also a part time magician,  has turned in his Anglican dog collar after falling out with church leaders and has now set up his own virtual church on Facebook.

 I wondered about which point of Anglican doctrine Townsend had objected to, which had driven him to pin his resignation (metaphorically speaking of course) to the door of his church? After undertaking a little research I found out that far from going it on his own, he had actually become ordained as a minister into the Open Episcopal Church, a group that in it's mission statement declares that it is "a valid church which will not turn you away from the sacraments simply because you are a sinner. The divorced, the homosexual, the drug addicts and thieves, all are welcome at the feet of Jesus and, yes, at his sacramental table too."

A church where "all are welcome at the feet of Jesus." Sounds lovely doesn't it? The interesting part here is in the word "sacraments." This refers to participation in the Lords supper (communion) and baptism in water. Both of these acts speak of being part of Christ's body - the church - and are usually reserved for those who have made the commitment to making Jesus Lord of their lives. However, an essential, element of true Christianity known as repentance is apparently not necessary to being part the Open Episcopal Church, and therefore you can join in the fun without actually having to change your lifestyle in any way. "God loves sinners!" they shriek. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," is another favourite quote, although conveniently leaving out the next part of Jesus' conversation with the woman caught in adultery which was of course "Now go and sin no more."(John 8:11)

Repentance means a change of direction, a turning away from acts that lead to death and a decision to follow Jesus and obey his teachings. Without it you cannot even call yourself a Christian. You may believe in God, you may believe in Jesus, but even the devil believes and you wouldn't call him a Christian would you? Baptism in water and the Lords table are open ONLY to those who have made Jesus Lord of their lives. So while everyone CAN come to the feet of Jesus no matter who they are or what they have done, the purpose of bowing down at those feet is to ask for his forgiveness, receive his mercy and grace and turn from ones old life to follow Him. God does love the sinner. Jesus did die for the sin of the whole world, but that Grace can only be accessed and received by those who have put their faith in Him AND turned away from their sin.

So while Mr Townsend has decided to join a group with no rules, no authority and apparently no Bible, where everyone can find their own path to heaven. Jesus made it very plain that "No-one comes to the Father except through Him." And that pathway is only for those who will repent.

(Luke 5:32, Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19)

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