Archbishops and False Teachers

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. (2 John 1:9-11 NIV)
So the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited the Bishop of Edinburgh to be a special guest next week at General Synod, which has, not surprisingly, upset many orthodox believers as it is this Bishop who proposed the motion in the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the marriage canons to allow same-sex marriages.

As a Church of England minister, one of the most difficult aspects of the Church of England is to work out how to deal with the false teachers (there are really quite a lot of them, after all!). It seems to me that John helps us out in fairly clear terms in his second letter. The false teaching in question is related to the incarnation and deity of Christ, but it is interesting that in the verses above this seems to be broadened somewhat to, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ." It would seem reasonable to think of this passage when anyone comes who denies aspects of the apostolic and biblical message. Someone, for example, who denies the Bible's message on same-sex relationships, thus undermining the gospel (1 Corinthians 6:9).

So what do we do with such people? Well you don't take them into your house and welcome them. House here according to some of the commentators might well refer to the church given the context of the letter. Either way Marshall in his commentary is surely right when he says we "should not give any kind of practical encouragement to false teachers." It's hard not to see this invitation as an encouragement to a false teacher. It feels very much like the Archbishops are saying something like, "we still welcome you, even though you have encouraged the SEC to teach something antithetical to the gospel."

So what if you choose to ignore John's teaching? Well you become like the false teacher, because you share in his work. What does that mean for the Archbishops? Well you can join up the dots!

It's worth saying that far too many of us have fallen into this trap. We've invited bishops and archdeacons and so on to speak in our churches to appease the institution and not rock the boat. We need to repent. One might suggest that we have accepted false teachers in our dioceses and deaneries without protest and without clear separation. I suspect we need to repent! We must not share in their wicked work.

I pray our Archbishops will act and rescind the invitation. Perhaps we can hope in some sense they are not behind the invitation and now they have been made aware of what has been done they can respond. If not, until we see signs of repentance, with a heavy heart, it seems we know where they stand and where we stand with them.


  1. "As a Church of England minister, one of the most difficult aspects of the Church of England is to work out how to deal with the false teachers."

    This is exactly the problem with Anglican polity, and I speak as someone who loves the wonderful good Anglican churches have done over the centuries (my own conversion included!). In Corinthians, Paul exhorts them to "expel the immoral brother", but how could the Church of England ever obey such a command? When has it done such a thing in the last century? I realise this is an emotive subject, but if our church/denomination/polity makes it literally impossible to obey an Apostle's command, isn't it time to start serving in a context where the gospel of Christ is allowed to shine unhindered?

    1. I totally understand what you're saying. What's frustrating is that the framework is there in Church of England polity, but it is not applied. That makes the question of working for a reformation or leaving more difficult.

    2. Out of interest, why does it make leaving the denomination more difficult?

    3. Just that if it was clear that it was impossible to be faithful in an Anglican polity, then leaving would be obvious. I don't think it is impossible, nor do I necessarily think it impossible the C of E could be reformed. There are undoubtedly huge hurdles, but one way or another I think there will be a faithful Anglican church in the UK. It's just that how that comes a bout and how to be faithful to the flock you have etc. is hard sometimes to work out.


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