Well, OK, but just this once ...

Today is almost certain to see the appointment of the first Anglican woman bishop in the UK. Stockport in Manchester look to be the unlucky winners. It has been declared: "The time is right." A break with tradition, we are told, but the only reasonable thing to do. The Archbish has said in that typically flaccid way of the hierarchy that it is "a new way of being the church." As is typical of such movements, this is the little drip before the great flood, a fairly low key appointment, testing the waters, getting people used to the idea, and so on.

I am sure that there are many grieved Anglicans at this further demonstration of the abandonment of biblical Christianity within the Anglican communion. I think it is fairly well attested that - despite my appreciation for many Anglicans - I am no friend of Anglicanism as a system. I am always fascinated by conversations in which sincere, believing Anglicans assure me that their commitment to the church has nothing to do with principle, they just don't see certain issues as being matters of principle (I am not saying all feel this way, but I have heard it several times).

But my concern is, more generally, how very practiced evangelical Christians seem to be at backing down. I imagine we believe that it is gracious. Do not resist the evil person, turn the other cheek, give your cloak to him who wants your tunic (not as catchy, I admit), go the extra mile, give to him who asks, surrender every point of principle ... oh, hang on!

I do think Anglicanism may be a case in point, though I am not suggesting that this is by any means restricted to them. Many seem irremovably attached to Anglicanism's peculiar structures and practices; they are wedded to the institution, regardless of its form and substance. Others have their own such commitments. And so a stream of excuses is made to remain within the organisation or denomination regardless of its drift. The line in the sand is drawn, a respectable "Harrumph!" is issued as yet another matter of conviction is swept away, and another line in the sand is drawn, with the assurance, "But this time we mean it!" Meanwhile the encroachments on scriptural truth and practice continue year on year, until the religious landscape is utterly altered. And meanwhile, the evangelicals sit there saying, "Well, OK, but just this once ..."

Surely we need to ask ourselves, and one another, "At what point do we actually say, 'Enough is enough?'" What will make vigorous, penetrating calls to repentance replace tame capitulations? When does that line get crossed that makes us say, in effect, "I must come out from among them, and be clean"? It is easy to swing with the rhetorical hammer from outside, but all of us - whatever our ecclesiology - face many such moments in the life of the church. They are rarely easy moments, but they are crucial moments. They may seem very minor (e.g. the tacit acknowledgement that gathering with the saints on the Lord's day actually isn't that big a deal when it comes to being a member) or greatly significant (e.g. overlooking a matter of public and even scandalous sin, with the corresponding failure to discipline) and far-reaching (e.g. altering the whole constitution of the ministry that God has appointed for his church). How bad do things need to be before we realise just how far down a godless road we have travelled? At what point do we recover that zeal for the house of God that refuses to allow men to trample any longer upon the church of Christ?

Whatever our affiliations or commitments, denominationally or relationally, there must come a point at which we say, "Enough is enough." That point ought to be whenever and wherever the Word of God is evidently breached or abandoned. The way forward at that point may not be immediately clear and may be profoundly costly. But surely that is the point at which it must be acknowledged, a way forward - we might almost say, a way back - must be found and followed.