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Amazing Appeasement, how sweet the sound, that saved an evangelical wretch like me!

Let me say this without an iota of irony. The Church of England’s evangelical bishops and clergy are decent, gracious and godly. They are refined and respectable—gentle, genteel, and gentlemen. They are steeped in the English tradition of courtesy and fair play. “It’s not cricket,” they’ll tell you if you put a foot wrong. They can spot a split infinitive a mile away.

Most have been to public school and Oxbridge; those of less noble upbringing managed to make it to the London School of Economics. One of my former parishioners, who attended Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon, would joke about how no one there ever enquired which university you went to, but what college you were at. “They presumed we all went to Oxbridge; I never quite felt at home because I went to Uxbridge,” he would say with a grimace and a chuckle.

These honorable men (they are all biological men) also have a zeal for biblical doctrine and liturgy unadulterated by Popery. They’d suffer a fit of asthmatic wheezing if they inhaled a whiff of incense; candles on the altar would prompt an iconoclastic purge, and a priest wearing a chasuble would be seen as embracing the Whore of Babylon. Some of these courageous men refused to don even a stole at their ordination.

Not surprisingly, conservative laypeople in the CofE have looked to these leaders to remain as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar and as brave as the English reformers who chose to be barbecued rather than bought for a price. Recent events, however, have left us a tad disappointed.

The juggernaut of Archbishop Welby’s progressive Panzers has stampeded like rogue elephants into the heart of the evangelical Sudetenland. How have these our evangelical bravehearts responded? Surely they haven’t been frozen into ice sculptures by the vulturine glint from Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, as in Tennyson’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner?

Bishop Mullally holds him with her glittering eye—

The conservative evangelicals stood still,

And listened like a three years’ child:

Bishop Mullally hath her will (adapted).

I had waited with great expectations for these gospel champions to hunt down heresy with horses and hounds and blaring horn in a full-blooded foxhunt (ignore Oscar Wilde who called it “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable”).

Surely they would rise in pulpit and media and with full-throated Churchillian fortissimo goad their troops: “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the pulpits, we shall fight in the parish church and in the cathedrals.” No? Perhaps not like Churchill, who was vain as a peacock, volcanic with his insults and an indefatigable consumer of tobacco and alcohol—All Souls Langham Place would give him the bum’s rush.

So who might be a more fitting exemplar of our conservative evangelical leaders? How about Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain, who was hailed as semi-divine? His Munich deal with Hitler led journalist Godfrey Winn to exclaim:

“Praise be to God and to Mr. Chamberlain. I find no sacrilege, no bathos, in coupling those two names.”

Opening and closing to the strains of the song “A fine old English Gentleman” Harry Roy and his Orchestra recorded this song in praise of Neville in 1939.

God bless you, Mr. Chamberlain

We’re all mighty proud of you,

You look so swell holding your umbrella,

All the world loves a wonderful fella.

Historian John Charmley, Chamberlain’s greatest defender, presents him as most people in the 1930s saw him—a “far-sighted” and decent man doing his best for his people, while Churchill is a war-mongering opportunist with terrible judgment.

“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time … Go home and get a nice quiet sleep,” Chamberlain says, waving his umbrella, on his return from his Munich meeting with the Führer. Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, chimes in: “We sincerely hope that this measure of appeasement may lead to others in its train.”

Historian Telford Taylor defines appeasement as “a conciliatory, yielding approach” to conflict resolution … reflecting a “foolish faith in the pacifying effect of concessions to a foe bent on aggression, or a gullible reliance on promises from a source already established as untrustworthy”. Churchill puts it more pithily:

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Evangelicals who until very recently were troubled by Justin Welby’s mantra of “good disagreement” suddenly find themselves making “good appeasement”, treating their sworn enemies with the same degree of distrust Bertie Wooster would have for Steggles the bookmaker. Are these examples of appeasement?

  • The President of the Church of England Evangelical Council Bishop Julian Henderson appeases the transgender lobby by overseeing and blessing the baptism-based liturgy for transgender initiation.
  • Bishop Rod Thomas, the only evangelical bishop who rejects women’s ordination, tacitly endorses a woman bishop by his presence at Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol’s enthronement (and trumpets it on his website).
  • William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, who refused to cede authority to Bishop Mullally until she had affirmed an orthodox position on sexuality, steps forward to rake in armfuls of dosh and offers his church as a ‘national resource church’ (along with a merry band of evangelicals from All Souls Langham Place, et al).

I asked Bishop Rod for clarification. He says he attended Faull’s enthronement because he’s an assistant bishop in the diocese. He writes: “I am intending to clarify with Bishop Viv what her standpoint is on same-sex relationships.” Hasn’t Rod heard of Google?

“The blessing of a gay relationship is not theologically a problem for me personally, but I’m under the discipline of the Church, and I keep the rules,” says Faull. In an interview, she reveals that though she follows the rules banning official wedding-like services for gay couples, she has previously “found ways” of celebrating gay and lesbian couples’ civil partnerships. What more does Rod need to know?

You see the problem? The Achilles Heel of the entire evangelical leadership is their “foolish faith in the pacifying effect of concessions”, a “gullible reliance on promises” and their Chamberlain-like naïveté in the face of totalitarian progressive forces “already established as untrustworthy”. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator said:

“Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.”

Evangelicals are responding to the crossing of the Maginot Line by the baptism-based transgender liturgy. The godly Lee Gatiss conducts a skillful autopsy of this liturgical cadaver and gravely states that “we continue to have extremely serious concerns”. He regrets that people will “find themselves more estranged from the Church of England”. So, Lee, what do we do now? Because this middle-class English circumlocution leaves us neither here nor there! Like Lee, evangelicals issue statements; so far not a single evangelical leader has issued a call for action.

How do they think the progressives in power will respond to evangelical huffing and puffing? In India, when an elephant walks the streets, dozens of stray dogs begin to bark and howl. But the elephant knows one thing. The infernal racket will only last a few minutes. The pachyderm doesn’t pay the slightest attention to the diminutive canines. He walks on unruffled.

Anglican social media sites are abuzz with the usual mix of debate, whining, and fake bravado. But none of those shielded by their computer screens are willing to go public. Some parishes stopped funding the diocese a long time ago, few say they are making exit plans, but there is no notice of D-Day yet. Do they think the powers-that-be will take the slightest note and change their course of action? No! Nein! Nada!

Why? Because conservative evangelical Chamberlains are plentiful, but there isn’t a single Churchill calling for “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and offering “hunger, thirst, forced marches, battle, and death” and loss of stipends, buildings, pensions and privilege in return.

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I’m going to hazard a prediction. Not a single conservative evangelical cleric or parish will begin its Exodus from the CofE in days or months or even years to come. The progressives will continue their rampage through the Church of England destroying everything holy, true, righteous, orthodox and biblical. This is what cultural Marxists do—they destroy what others have built.

Conservatives, on the other hand, conserve; they also build and create. But because conservatives are too cowardly to oppose the new Anglican realpolitik, they will appease and ultimately acquiesce. I so desperately want my prediction to be proven wrong, so Lord hear my prayer!

We already have a striking illustration of this capitulation. Last year when the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) amended its canon law to allow same-sex weddings, a smaller congregation left but St Paul’s and St George’s one of its largest and wealthiest evangelical congregations remained even though the denomination had crossed the “red line”.

Its 2018 financial statement reveals that the congregational giving increased by 4% to £1,020,170. Ps and Gs Church gives £78,197 to the Edinburgh Diocese and the SEC. “We will continue to encourage the Diocese (together with the leaders of other churches) to establish mixed-mode training for ordained ministers. We want to train and equip younger ordinands, mission-minded leaders and worship leaders,” it proudly announces.

Bruce Thornton, in his book The Wages of Appeasement, offers three reasons why we appease powerful and tyrannical forces: fear, self-interest and ideals/ideas. The first two are self-explanatory in the case of Anglican evangelicals. The third is a delusional ideal that remaining within an apostate church is to be preferred for the cause of the gospel.

There was once an evangelical Churchill—Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. On 18th October 1966, he addressed a packed meeting in London and pleaded with evangelicals to leave denominations corrupted by false doctrine. Chairing the meeting was John Stott, Rector of All Souls. Stott had already spoken at the meeting. But just as Lloyd-Jones finished his address, Stott arose not to close the meeting, but to contradict what Lloyd-Jones had just said. Stott was afraid that many evangelical leaders would respond to Lloyd-Jones and would leave their denominations—particularly the Church of England.

I hold both John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the highest esteem. Both had a profound impact on my life and ministry. It was difficult for me to takes sides in an issue that divided two of my Christian heroes. For years I believed Stott was right. But as false teaching began to poison the Church of England, I was forced to admit that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right. If clergy had heeded his call and left the Church of England, we wouldn’t have evangelicals appeasing the bishops like a chorus of Chamberlains.

“Appeasement, then, did not happen just once, in the England of the Thirties. It is an eternal temptation for all peoples who for various reasons lose their nerve in the face of an enemy who wants to destroy them,” warns Thornton. The wages of appeasement is death.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

Isle of Man