The Telegraph headline is not overwrought. The Church of England is now indeed facing a crisis as a CofE priest, the Rev. Canon Jeremy Pemberton has legally married his male partner. The crisis is that the Church of England is now forced to decide whether a priest entering a gay “marriage” will be disciplined or not, with difficult consequences no matter what the church decides.
As I’ve said a year ago, a church that does not care enough about truth to discipline does not care enough about truth, period. And, although the American church setting differs from the English, we have seen time and again in this country what happens to churches when they refuse to defend truth with church discipline. Apostasy, once openly tolerated, gains more and more power and drags churches down into the pit. Look at how my former denomination, the mainline Presbyterian Church, and The Episcopal Church have imploded in recent decades. The implosions began when open moral and/or doctrinal apostasy (which are often the same) was not disciplined.
Perhaps readers think I am making too much ado about the issue of marriage. But marriage is certainly important enough to the Lord to be a prominent part of the Creation account and to be made an icon in scripture of the relationship between Christ and his church. Literally perverting that icon is apostasy indeed.
Not to mention that gay marriage is a key presenting issue between the orthodox and libchurchers in England and worldwide. The Church of England may continue to try to please both sides, but Pemberton’s act hastens the day when the CofE must choose. And at least one side will be very unhappy no matter what the Church chooses. I assert there is a right choice; but there is no easy choice in this matter.
If the Church of England does not wish to follow the well trodden and broad path of apostate and increasingly irrelevant denominations, it must discipline the apostasy of Jeremy Pemberton.