The Swedish have a delicacy of tinned fermented pickled herring. It is reputedly the most putrid food smell in the world. The message of Jesus has always and will always produce a response. When our lives and our lips proclaim that Jesus is Lord, the apostle Paul says it is as if we reek of him and his message (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). For some, that will be a beautiful and wonderful perfume. But to others it’s the rotting stench of fermented herring. To some it’s like oxygen, to others it’s like cyanide. Those running the Lambeth Conference seem desperate not ‘to cause a stink’ in the eyes of a watching (and censorious) world. More conscious of media reaction than of fidelity to the Master, they have resorted to obfuscation and opaqueness about the message, lacking either clarity or conviction in the cloak of conferring. To do otherwise would be too strong a perfume for them to countenance. It could perhaps be said that most heresies in the modern church have come about through a desire to impress people and appear relevant and draw them in, to make the Christian faith more appealing. The motivation may be right (not always, but sometimes). However, this is a mis-step because, diluted and distorted, the great good news of Jesus Christ is robbed of its supernatural, explosive - Genesis 1 type - creation power (2 Corinthians 4:6) which the world so desperately needs. When we know what God is doing through the proclamation of the authentic, biblically faithful, gospel message, there’s no need to manipulate or massage it. As we proclaim the Lordship of our Saviour Jesus Christ over all things (including our humanity and sexuality), God is powerfully and supernaturally at work, shining the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into the hearts of men and women (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). There is therefore no need to trim or tamper with message. No tricks required. All that is needed is a simple, straightforward, open statement of the truth. We speak and live that Jesus is Lord and God wields his universe-forming power in individual lives. The bishops of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GFSA) seem to understand and grasp this. Their statements have been in marked contrast to the Lambeth organisers. With clarity and conviction, they have called the Communion to a renewed commitment to the authority of Scripture. In fact, they can and should echo the apostle:
‘We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’ (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Thank God for them! The choice for all Anglicans after the conference is obvious.