Last Sunday (the 14th of August 2022 AD), the Diocese of the Southern Cross was formally launched in Canberra. The new diocese (Essentially a new denomination) is the result of a split in Australia’s Anglican church.
Conservative Christians who oppose the progressive and liberal Anglican affirmation of “same-sex marriage” have responded by launching a breakaway movement led by former Sydney archbishop Glenn Davies.
The split, of course, happened a long time ago in heaven when Christian men and women began rejecting the pure Word of God in favour of their progressive lusts. And now, what is true in heaven has become manifest on the earth – which it always does.
For many believers the split is being described as a great leap forward and comes as really good news. And it is good news, as far as it goes.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that liberal and progressive Christians within the Anglican church were devastated by the news – a thing which surprises no thinking Christian. Those who cling to bad theology are easily shaken.
But what really would have been shake-worthy would be the news that this break-away group had come out from under an even more serious compromise than that of affirming same-sex sins. That compromise being the churches compromise with, and submission to, the state.
The Kingdom of God started outside the gates of Jerusalem, external to the corridors of state power. It was established in the death and resurrection of a despised Jewish carpenter hanging from a cross. It was inaugurated in somebody’s upper room at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
By contrast, The Diocese of the Southern Cross headed for Canberra, registered with the charities commission and got themselves an ABN (an Australian Business Number). In doing so, they put themselves squarely under the government of the state, and subject to all the laws and regulations of the corporation’s act.
The net result is two institutions (one liberal, one conservative) who will soon be fighting over the deck chairs on the Titanic. They will be independent of one another, but still be totally subordinate to the state – which is the point.
For the first three centuries of Christendom, the persecution from Rome did not arise from the churches’ choice of God among the gods. Anyone could start their own religion in Rome, you just had to register it with the state. You had to become incorporated.
But the church refused to do this because it considered itself already incorporated by God (corpus, “body”) into the body of Christ, the King. This incorporation, independent of the state, is proclaimed every time we eat the bread and drink the wine.
Put simply, the state cannot incorporate the body of Christ. Cannot bring it under its wing. At least, not without a serious compromise over who is Lord.
And that’s the heart of the matter. Jesus is not just a King. Jesus is the King of Kings.
A faith that takes the crown rights of Christ seriously poses a genuine threat to the sovereignty of the state, and this threat is clearly understood by those in power. The modern state, like modern man, has accumulated power and has no intention of relinquishing it.
The state seeks a church that it can use, that is subordinate to its own authority. It can tolerate a church that dutifully goes through its ritual motions without disturbing the power structures the state has painstakingly amassed over time. Rubber-stamp religion is acceptable to the power state; a faith in a sovereign God that is actually taken seriously presents an ungodly state with a big problem.
A secular government likes religion to bless its acts, crown its dictators, sanction its laws, and give legitimacy by appearing at its national ceremonies. Quietness and contemplation in religion they can tolerate. A people zealous for the Lordship of Jesus, they cannot.1
Under state sovereignty, we are allowed to rearrange the furniture and listen to Bach, but that’s about it.
The early church acknowledged the reality of Christ’s Lordship and lived accordingly. This is what made them outlaws. They were operating outside the laws of Caesar by conducting a religion not incorporated by the state. They were considered illegitimate and without status. But who wants to be described as illegitimate?
And so we find ourselves in the awkward position of proclaiming Jesus as Lord and King over marriage, yet attempting to place His body under the law, lucre and lordship of the state.
Why would we do that? Why, on God’s green earth, would the body of Christ be seeking an Australian business number?
We should rejoice when believers publicly acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over marriage. But we should also be praying earnestly for the day when God grants us the repentance and courage to declare the total Lordship of Christ over His own body, over caesar, over creation and over all things in-between.
1 The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century, 1990. Owen Chadwick (University of Cambridge).