A Church Captivated by the Dogmas of the World
American Christianity is going through an identity crisis. It cannot decide whether it should be a unifying, uplifting, transcendent force or succumb to artificial, narrow and partisan ideologies. Sometimes it’s hard to walk into church on Sunday just to hear the Gospel rather than a political speech with a few Bible verses sprinkled throughout.
One denomination particularly torn by conflict is the Anglican and Episcopal tradition into which I was baptized. This conflict has become global, but in America it is particularly fierce. Locally in the DC area, The Falls Episcopal Church in Virginia has spent years locked in court battles over multi-million dollar properties and bank accounts.
It was a conflict between a majority of local congregations that saw the Bible as the basis of life and a progressive global episcopal leadership preferring a more headline-focused, postmodern approach. Although some Episcopal congregations are much less open in their politics, official Episcopal liberal ideological views of Christianity include endorsing Black Lives Matter and embracing abortion.
After this long legal dispute, the local congregation lost and ceded to Episcopalians millions in cash from local donations, as well as the historic chapel that Founding Father George Washington helped build in 1769. The local congregation, which named The Falls Church Anglican (TFCA), left the Episcopal fold and joined the fellowship of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which has an apolitical, Bible-based worldview.
After seven years of physical homelessness – borrowing space from Catholics, Lutherans and Presbyterians – in the fall of 2019, TFCA opened its doors in a beautiful, lovingly built brick church near the Seven Corners area .
This context is relevant to understanding the enormous pressure and adversity that the folks at TFCA have endured in their quest for truth. So I was shocked to learn that the pastor of the Anglican Restoration Church in Arlington, a daughter church of the TFCA (a small spin-off church raised by TFCA people), was backtracking to Episcopalism in promoting the toxic ideology of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Critical Theory more broadly.
The sad thing is that this pastor, David Hanke, is now up for election on October 15 to assume the powerful office of Bishop for the entire Mid-Atlantic Diocese of ACNA. Given his acclaim for critical theory, Mr. Hanke, a former TFCA staffer, is out of place in this leadership role within the ACNA, where he would have greater influence on the whether the communion is trying to sew the old garment of socialism (which underpins CRT) onto the new garment of the Christian gospel. Bishops should provide eternal moral clarity, not short-term, man-made political misunderstandings.
I moved from New York to the DC area in January 2020 and started frequenting TFCA, but switched to dining since it was within walking distance of my home at the time. The restoration has a warm and friendly congregation, who welcomed me as a violinist on the worship team. It was therefore painfully shocking when, several months later, Mr Hanke from the Sunday Pulpit said: ‘In the academy critical theory has long been a tool which has been taught to generations of scholars. This is useful for testing our assumptions.
While I respect Mr. Hanke who expressed a deep desire to help with racial reconciliation, critical theory does the opposite. As empirically sound research by African American men like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Jason L. Riley shows, critical theory is not helpful. It is a man-made economic theory created by atheist Frankfurt School Marxists who sought to destroy Western civilization. It is harmful to play with fire, to get parishioners to dip a toe in the water of Marxism, an ideology that has led to the death of 100 million people worldwide.
The Restoration Church has also implemented a racial reconciliation ministry where participants at a Zoom prayer group I attended additionally incorporated a CRT lens.
Additionally, at a church fellowship event for young adults, Hanke quoted political writer David French as saying that “critical race theory can be an analytical tool (one of many ) that can help us understand the continuing inequalities and injustice in the United States. ”
To his credit, Mr. Hanke further quoted Mr. French on CRT, stating, “To the extent, however, that it presents itself as a totalizing ideology – one that explains American history in its entirety and prescribes an illiberal antidote to American injustice – it falters and eventually fails. Moreover, as a totalizing ideology, it contradicts fundamental scriptural truths.
So, on the one hand, Mr. Hanke says that critical theory is a “useful tool” but it also “contradicts basic scriptural truths.” He wants to have it both ways, even though James 1:8 tells us that “a double-minded man is unsteady in everything he does” and Matthew 5:37 tells us, “But let your communication be, yea, yea ; No, no: for anything more than that comes from evil.
Regardless of whether Mr. Hanke wins his election, voters deserve answers about this double-mindedness. Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus, not disciples of Marx. Obviously there is no point in expecting perfection from a church, but given the history of the ACNA, this fellowship understands what is at stake when the church falls captive to the dogmas of the world.
• Carrie Sheffield lives in Arlington, Virginia.