Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Archbishop of York - First and Last

I only recently became aware that there is an archbishop of York as well as an archbishop of Canterbury in England. The latter has a higher standing as he is the number one minister in the Church of England, but both bishoprics have existed since Christianity was established in England. That means, of course, that these bishops were once Roman Catholics; they are now Protestants.

Anyway, I found out about the archbishop of York, the first one, while reading Bede's history of the English Church. Bede was a priest in England in the eighth century who chronicled the development of Christianity in England. Bede describes that first archbishop and how he had a ministry of divine healing. (When I use the term, 'divine healing', I mean God healing people directly without the use of medicines, etc.) Today, we would call him a healing evangelist similar to Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn.

In fact, Bede speaks of many prominent ministries back then as ones that had healing and miracles in abundance. Today we would call them charismatics, but we need to understand that at that time spiritual gifts were common. Priests and bishops often exercised spiritual gifts and every Christian believed in supernatural manifestations.

After reading about the first archbishop of York, I read an article about the present archbishop of York. (I assume he is still archbishop.) The funny thing is that the brother of the archbishop is a charismatic, healing evangelist. Apparently, the archbishop is embarrassed about his brother's healing ministry. He reportedly has mocked it. My question is, why? Does he not approve of the practice of divine healing? If that is the case, has he not undermined his own office? This man's brother is more like the original archbishop of York than he is.

It seems to me that for a church where tradition is so important that it has left behind the most important tradition of all - being Spirit-filled and walking in the spiritual gifts. When did that get lost? Do we no longer expect God to do signs and wonders or is that all in the past? No, it is not in the past. Others, like the brother, have picked up the 'traditions' that some churches have left behind.

Now the American version of the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, does lay hands on people for healing or anoint with oil. That is true. But do they expect people to get healed? Not from what I can tell. When I was in college, I went to a nursing home with a group from school. I used to go talk to this one man who seemed to like my company. On one visit, I just about interrupted a lady from the local Episcopal Church who was praying for this man. She had anointed him with oil and prayed for his healing. When I came up to them and realized that she was praying, I bowed my head and waited for her to finish. Afterward, she introduced herself to me and told me where she was from and what she was doing. She told me that part of their church's ministry was to anoint with oil and pray for the sick. When she said this, I brightened up hoping to hear some good reports that resulted from this ministry. She seemed a bit disconcerted at my reaction and immediately assured me that though they did this, they did not expect anything to happen. It was just a rite that they performed. That is sad.

Performing a rite without the expectation of anything happening is nothing but empty religion. Please understand that I am not saying that they should not perform their traditional rite. I am saying that they should do it with the expectation that God will fulfill the promise associated with this rite. It comes from the fifth chapter of James. It says that the elders of the church should "pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." It then says that "the prayer of faith will save the sick." Notice that it is faith, and not anointing with oil, that brings healing. No expectation means no faith. No faith means no healing. I know this seems harsh to some but it is what the passage says. We can do all the rituals we want, but without the expectation that God will do what He said He would do, it is not pleasing to Him. He does not honor rituals devoid of faith.

I do not mean to belittle the Episcopal Church or the Church of England or the archbishop. We all have done this. We do things because we have always done them but without faith or expectation. I think the problem is that no one has taught us to expect anything, as if were presumptuous to expect God to fulfill His promises. It is just the opposite. It is dishonoring to God not to expect Him to fulfill His promise.

Think of this from a natural point of view. If you promised someone that you would do something and they figured that you probably would not do it, would you not be insulted by that? I would. Honorable people fulfill their promises. We fulfill our own promises and expect others to fulfill their promises. And we should expect God to fulfill His promises when we meet His conditions.

I have to say that I feel sorry for the present archbishop of York. He is upholding the traditions of the church while his brother is upholding an even greater tradition, the tradition of expecting God to do what He said He would do, the tradition of desiring spiritual gifts and seeing them in manifestation. Go and study what the founders of your tradition did. You might be surprised what you find. You will find spiritual gifts in operation. You will find healings and miracles and speaking in tongues among the early Baptists and Methodists. The early reformers, Luther and Calvin, believed and sometimes experienced miracles. Every move of the Spirit has been accompanied by "signs following". It is time to "stir up the gift of God" which is in us. That's a tradition that we should uphold.

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