Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

5 Feb 2024

The Overlooked Scandal of the Mere Anglicanism Conference

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If you interact with certain segments of conservatism, you may have heard about a kerfuffle at the Mere Anglicanism conference held a couple of weeks ago in SC, which included speakers like Sam Allberry, D. A. Carson, Rebecca McLaughlin, Carl Trueman, and Calvin Robinson. The controversy centers around that last speaker, Calvin Robinson, an ordained priest in the Nordic Catholic Church.

Robinson was invited to speak on the issue of critical theory and decided to focus on ways in which he believes critical theories have gained entrance into the church: feminism (and women’s ordination) as well as Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Because some key individuals connected to the conference were upset by Robinson’s critique of feminism and women’s ordination, he was disinvited from participating in a later scheduled panel discussion. You can find accounts of the controversy here and here.

You can find Robinson’s account, as well as the notes from his talk, here. What is interesting to me (and what seems to be a trend in the church today) is that Christians were upset that people took offense to his critique of women’s ordination, but no one seems upset about Robinson’s rejection of the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation and embrace of sacramentalism. While it is concerning when Christians remove someone for speaking against women’s ordination, it should be just as concerning when they do not remove someone for speaking against sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli deo gloria. Here are some excerpts from Robinson’s talk:

  • “We are all invited to become sons and daughters of God, through repentance of sin and baptism in water and the Holy Spirit.”
  • “Here, we see liberalism at its peak. When Marx says Luther shattered faith in authority because he restored the authority of faith, could it be that he is saying in destroying the people’s faith in the Church, people put their faith in their own consciences. In removing the authority of the Church Universal, magisterium, papacy, et al., people granted themselves authority and therefore made Marx’s job of crushing Christianity all the more easier. He no longer had to battle with a universal Truth; he only had to challenge the subjective perspective of truth.”
  • “The Pope now has even more power than he had then. Sure, he doesn’t have his temporal authority with his Papal Armies and Papal States, but there was a land grab for spiritual authority. He has become an absolute monarch, and as we see the mess in Rome at the moment, this is causing our Roman Brethren great hurt. Take, for example, the issue of a wonderful bishop, Strickland, being stripped of his dioceses. Bishop Strickland, as with every other bishop, derides their authority directly from Christ Himself.”
  • “There is a bad bishop in the Seat of Peter right now, and he has been granted too much power and authority beyond his remit. I think this is probably because the Roman Catholic Church has had good popes for so long; they have been used to deferring to the Pope in matters they haven’t needed to. Well, having a bad pope might make them readdress that situation a little bit.” 

In addition, here are some excerpts from a post Robinson wrote in November celebrating his ordination to the Nordic Catholic Church:

  • “I do believe the Reformation was a mistake.”
  • “I have no time for puritans who protest that Rome is the whore of Babylon or protestants who seem to believe Catholics are not Christians. Both are absurdities. The reformers did not intend to create a new Church; there cannot be a new Church, there is one Church, the body of Christ. What they did by leaving Rome was split the Church. Surely, this hurts our Lord.”
  • “The platform I have been gifted has meant I get the opportunity to speak with Christians across all denominations, with many theological/doctrinal differences, who all believe in our Lord’s death on the Cross for us, and his offer of eternal salvation if we repent and follow him, and are born again through baptism of water and the Holy Spirit.”
  • “Personally, I have always celebrated the Assumption of Mary, as Anglo-Catholics do.”
  • “On a personal level, it means that when traveling outside of the country, I will be able to access the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick, which proves impossible otherwise, and no Christian should be without the blessed sacrament.”

Here are some excerpts from the statement of faith for the Nordic Catholic Church, The Road to Unity:

  • Salvation
    • “The appropriation of salvation in Christ by man occurs by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit and man. The Holy Spirit effects the vocation, the illumination, the conversion, the justification, the rebirth in Baptism and the sanctification in the Church; man, for his part, accepts the grace offered and participates freely by faith and his good works, in other words, by “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6)” 
  • Sacraments
    • “During his earthly ministry, which had its noblest expression in the cross and resurrection, Christ created the salvific means of sharing with us grace: the Holy Sacraments or Mysteries”
    • “The sacraments as specific sanctifying actions lead to the new creation and unfolding of life in Christ through the incorporation of the recipients into the Church as the Body of Christ, this being effected by the Holy Spirit. Through the sacraments of the Church each individual achieves his development to life in Christ in all the manifestations of his or her personal and corporate existence. This whole new existence and development of the believers to life in Christ gained by the sacraments is a reliable way to the heavenly kingdom and leads to eternal life.”
    • “It is the general view of the Church that the sacraments in themselves are effective for salvation.”
  • Baptism
    • “Baptism is that God-given sacrament of the Church through which the one baptized in the name of the Holy and Life-giving Trinity becomes a member of the Church of Christ, is freed from the dominion of sin and is born again to a new creature in Christ by partaking of the mystery of the divine work of salvation in Christ”
    • “Adult baptism and infant baptism effectuate the same gift of divine grace”
  • Penance
    • “In the sacrament of Penance the sins committed by those believers who sincerely repent and confess them to a priest are forgiven”
    • “Sincere hearty repentance and confession to a priest are indispensable for the forgiveness of sins. The original form of public penance was later replaced by a form of private confession before a priest”
  • Church Tradition (Infallibility of the Church)
    • “This supernatural revelation in Christ is communicated in the Tradition of the Holy Apostles, which was handed on in written form in the Scriptures inspired by God and in oral form by the living voice of the Church. The oral tradition is preserved, on the one hand, in the 175 Creed and other definitions and canons of the seven Ecumenical Councils and local synods, in the writings of the Holy Fathers and in the holy liturgy and generally in the Church’s liturgical practice, and, on the other hand, finds expression in the continued official teaching of the Church. 5. Scripture and tradition are not different expressions of the divine revelation but distinct ways of expressing one and the same Apostolic Tradition. Nor does any question arise, therefore, of the precedence of one over the other:”
    • “The Church therefore takes part in the truthfulness, faithfulness and infallibility of God.”
    • “The infallibility of the Church derives from the Lord and from the Holy Spirit. The Church is in Christ and he works in it through the Spirit who is sent into the hearts of the faithful (cf. Gal. 4: 6). This infallibility is not invalidated in its essence by the sin and error of the members.”

Robinson may be a strong culture warrior, but he is no leader of God’s true church, and no Christian organization concerned about the gospel should be having him address the church. When the church becomes too focused on cultural issues, foundational biblical truths are often sacrificed along the way. The fact that someone is right about critiquing feminism and women’s ordination does not excuse their getting the gospel wrong.  

4 Responses

  1. Paul

    I don’t think that it is at all clear that Robinson was disinvited from the closing discussion for his comments on women’s ordination. Robinson has said that is the reason, but no-one else has. It’s notable that most of the speakers agree with him about women’s ordination. I get the impression that the concern was that he might be an attention seeking controversialist whose trade is generating drama.

    I’m sure that his comments about the Reformation contributed to that impression. Read his notes and then imagine what it was like for the authors of books like “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” or “The Gagging of God” or “Luther on the Christian Life” to sit listening to it…

    1. Ben Edwards

      While I cannot say for certain why he was disinvited (though I’m inclined to think his attack on women’s ordination played a significant role, since that is clearly a hot-button issue among conference attendees), I’m less concerned with why he was disinvited and more concerned with the fact he was invited in the first place and why I have seen no one else expressing concern about this undermining of the gospel. The fact that he may be an attention seeking controversialist is less significant than the fact that he is perverting the gospel of Christ.

      In other words, I can’t imagine authors of books like those mentioned above agreeing to speak at a church conference in which Robinson was invited to speak. Nor can I imagine why they would remain silent on this issue. While it might be nice to consider that they were uncomfortable during the talk, their duty to Christ would be to publicly condemn heresy like the Apostle Paul did.

  2. Rhonda C. Merrick

    So, this is what it takes for a Baptist preacher to encounter the perspectives of whole huge chunks of Christianity: that the Bible has to be, inherently must be interpreted, that the faith delivered once for all to the saints didn’t start with or even depend on a Canon of books for many centuries, that the bishops of the catholic Church not only can trace their ordination and consecration back through history to the Apostles, that they are charged with standing in the circle of those Apostles in the spiritual realm — I could go on, but shouldn’t. Before dismissing a different stance on the Bible and its contents and its significance for believers, let’s all be willing to hear from those whose perspective is different but historically valid.