Reading in The Economist about women bishops soon to join the Lords in England, I came across this line:
The change was overwhelmingly favoured by the leadership of the church,
the clergy (one-third of which is female), and by public opinion—which
matters for a church which aspires to be the spiritual voice of a whole
nation, however diverse or secular.
The author got it right. A church which aspires to be the voice of a people, the voice of a nation, or even the global voice of a world will inevitably no longer be the voice of God. That is the problem. We live in an era in which churches aspire more to be that voice of the populace than the voice of God. And who wouldn't? To be the voice of God is to speak the unpopular and unwelcome voice of repentance. We would much rather be the voice of the people who speak what they want to hear, who herald the progress of modernity, who insist that if we keep the course th e world will be better and you will also improve, and who tell us what we want desperately to believe -- that all is right with us, with our desires, and with our feelings. No matter that this is always the voice that leads the unwitting to their demise.
It is much harder to be the Church that aspires to speak God's voice to the world, either the small part around you or the broader whole. It is much more difficult to speak against the prevailing norms and habits of a world caught in sin than it is to herald the call to righteousness, repentance, and renewal. It is much easier to get distracted by the political and social justice agendas that purport to be important and essential in creating a better world than it is to herald the world to come. It is much harder to be the voice of God that heralds virtue and condemns sin and all its immorality of life, thought, and speech.
But you do not have to be a state church like the good ole C of E to aspire for grandeur before men -- oops, people. Little and inconsequential church bodies are also tempted and give into a cause they deem greater and more urgent that the voice of Law and Gospel in the world. Yet therein lies the rub. The world has many voices to prompt its improvement and many voices to promote its agenda. The Church was created to be captive to the Lord and His agenda by being captive to His Word and knowing Jesus and Him only, preaching Jesus Christ and Him only, and raising up the cross and the cross only before the world.
For the C of E it is perhaps too late. But it may not be too late for the rest of us to wake up and smell the roses. God established the Church to be His creation, to do His bidding, and for His glory. Period.