Category : – Anglican: Commentary
…there is one development I wish to comment on: the announcement of a GAFCON Bishops Conference June 8-14, 2020 in Kigali Rwanda (prior to the July 2020 Lambeth Conference).
Of the Lambeth 2020 Conference of Bishops, the GAFCON Primates wrote:
“We were reminded of the words of Jeremiah 6:14, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored. They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility.
We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. We note that, as it currently stands, the conference is to include provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10 thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation.”
Let’s not forget the context. The 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops passed Resolution I.10 upholding faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman for life, abstinence in all other cases, and rejected as incompatible with the Bible homosexual “practice,” the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions and the ordination to Holy Orders of those in same-gender unions. This Resolution was passed by a vote of the overwhelming majority of bishops of the Anglican Communion (526-70).
Ten years later at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to suspend the practice of Anglican bishops declaring the official teaching of the Church through resolutions. For the first time, the Lambeth Conference engaged in small group Indaba discussions that resolved nothing. The 2002 institution of rites for the blessing of same sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada) and the 2003 consecration of a Bishop in a same gender union in New Hampshire USA (TEC), in defiance of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) were allowed to stand unchallenged by the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Over 300 bishops….[declined to compromise the gospel and declined the invitation to attend] in protest of that advance decision by Canterbury, published the Jerusalem Declaration and formed Gafcon instead.
(AAC) Phil Ashey–The Anglican Consultative Council: Adding Dysfunction To The Broken Instruments Of Communion
At the January, 2016 meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Primates said The Episcopal Church (TEC) would not be permitted to participate in ecumenical conversations or any decisions on the doctrine or polity of the Anglican Communion. This consequence was declared by the Primates because TEC had made decisions that unilaterally violate the teaching of the Anglican Communion. Therefore, the Primates reasoned, TEC shouldn’t be allowed to represent Anglicans anywhere.
Less than four months later the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-16) met in Zambia on April 8-19, and “received” the report of the Primates. In fact, they ignored it. The Episcopal Church participated in every vote on every resolution that came before ACC-16, including every matter relating to the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. You can read the facts in detail here. A spokesperson on behalf of Episcopal Church Communications reported that the ACC deliberately refused to implement the recommendations of the Primates. Even the delegates from TEC to ACC-16 publicly refuted Archbishop Welby’s claim that ACC-16 had honored the decision of the January 2016 Primates meeting and admitted to doing whatever they pleased during the meeting!
The refusal by the Anglican Consultative Council to implement the recommendations of the January 2016 Primates meeting is prima facie evidence that the Instruments of Communion are at odds with each other – broken systemically, and unable to reach the “conciliar consensus” that has characterized Anglican decision making at every other level of Anglican Churches other than this global, Communion level of governance. In fact, the Anglican Consultative Council is a major part of the problem, and not the solution.
The Anglican way of decision making is conciliar, and finds it roots all the way back to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Yes, in conciliar decision making every voice in the church must be heard – not only Bishops and clergy, but laity, male and female, theologians and more. But the place for this to happen is in a Synod where all voices come together in the decision making, and where Bishops exercise a unique role in guarding the faith and order, doctrine and discipline of the Church.
The Anglican Consultative Council is NOT such a Synod. According to its own Constitution, the Anglican Consultative Council has power only to assist Primates and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops “as and when required to do so.” (Art. 5.12) That is not the language of a Synod. It is the language of a subordinate and advisory body that serves the bishops rather than contradicting and usurping their authority. This becomes even clearer in the language of Article 5 where the ACC is referred to multiple times as an “advisory body” only: with power “to advise on inter-Anglican, Provincial and Diocesan relationships” (Art. 5.3 at page 4), power “to advise on matters arising out of national or regional Church union negotiations,” (Art. 5.8, at page 5) and power “to advise on problems of inter-Anglican communication.” (Art. 5.9, at page 5). The powers enumerated to the ACC in the rest of Article 5 are what we would expect for the Board of Trustees of a charitable organization—in language that facilitates the exercise of their fiduciary duties.
But here’s the rub: The Anglican Communion is more than a charitable organization under the UK Charities Act. It is a Church – led by Bishops who have an ancient, conciliar responsibility to guard the doctrine, discipline and order of the Churches they lead, and Primates to guard the faith and Godly order in the relationships among those Churches. This authority is recognized not only in the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference but also in The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. One hardly knows how to characterize the repudiation of the Primates gathering by the ACC – arrogance, rebellion or legal fiction, it’s all the same.
As I contend in Anglican Conciliarism, this is the heart of the “ecclesial deficit,” the inability of the existing global structures of the Anglican Communion to say “no” to false teaching or any other violation of faith and order. There was some hope that the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant would provide a means for addressing this deficit. But those hopes were dashed at the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Kingston, Jamaica.
Officially, the chief focus of the week is evangelism. But, as ever, there are other, unofficial currents flowing through the week, and so the other prominent thread will be human sexuality – both the work under the title ‘Living in Love and Faith‘ (long-term, official) and the ongoing rows about liturgy to be used with people who have undergone a gender change (current campaigning, unofficial).
We’ll get to the transgender row in a minute. But first of all, note the time being given to evangelism-related debates this week:
- On Wednesday, three contributions from Anglican leaders from elsewhere – North India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.
- Thursday is an evangelism-free day. But on Friday we have three major items – Evangelism and Discipleship, evangelism on estates, and the Growing Faith debate on ministry among children and young people.
- On Friday we return to the subject with a Private Members Motion from Church Army’s Mark Russell about encouraging youth evangelism.
This frightening agenda, inviting us to march boldly into the lions’ den, is exemplified almost at once as Jesus stands before Pilate, and argues with him about kingdom, truth and power. Our world is just as confused as Pilate was on all three counts. Different forms of kingdom have been tried and found wanting; truth has collapsed again and again into fake news; the only constant – as with Pilate – is the power of violence. The Farewell discourses and the trial before Pilate, ending with Jesus’ own death, constitute for me the centre of the New Testament’s political theology: Jesus gathers his followers and charges them to a life of unity and holiness, not so they can forget the world but so that they can hold the world to account, even as they are living out in themselves the new creation, the new way of being human, which will carry its own conviction.
I could give many examples of communities that are doing this, though as I said they don’t normally make the news headlines, so the church can easily be portrayed as stuck in its own ever-shrinking mud. I think of food banks, educations projects, drug rehab centres, marriage counselling, peace-making and so on. A high proportion of volunteers in our country, in these and other areas, are Christians. But I want to finish with this. The vision of new creation, and of Jesus’ followers as the new humanity called to model, announce and implement that new creation already in the power of the Spirit, will flow out of and flow back into worship.
I am deeply concerned about the unthinking slide, in the last evangelical generation, into a free-floating, disordered non-liturgical worship in which the Psalms are seldom if ever used, in which scripture is not read extensively in public, in which the sacraments are often perfunctory and apologetic, in which most of the sung lyrics, and the music which carries them, are essentially postmodern, with deconstructed fragments of dogma and devotion matched by the deconstructed fragments of tunes. This postmodern format, though perhaps a necessary protest against an over-formal earlier style, cannot be the right place to stay. Non-liturgical or even anti-liturgical worship is the liturgical equivalent of Brexit: it may be making a protest against the formality of an earlier modernism, but it cannot express or point the way into that post-postmodernism which our culture, our politics, desperately needs. Good liturgy isn’t everything, but bad liturgy isn’t anything.
You see, our culture is stuck because we have the wrong story in our heads. Non-liturgical worship allows that wrong story to go unchallenged. Good liturgy acts out the right story, that world history reached its climax in Jesus. Our culture is stuck in an Epicurean mode, the split-level world in which heaven and earth are held apart. Much evangelical and charismatic worship allows that to go unchallenged, merely relying on Plato to get the soul in good shape and on its way out of here. Good liturgy holds heaven and earth together, relishing the points at which, in physical beauty and movement, the life of heaven is portrayed here on earth (yes, with all the attendant dangers). Our culture imagines that ‘progress’ – social, cultural, even moral! – is automatic. Good liturgy challenges that with the drama of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the ever-fresh outpouring of the Spirit.
To put it starkly: if you never sing Psalm 72, how will you be reminded that Israel’s Messiah is already ruling from one sea to the other, from the River to the ends of the earth, and that his reign is what the world needs because he, and he alone, will deliver the poor when they cry, and rescue the widow and the orphan? The EU won’t do that, and neither will the Brexiteers. The Arab Spring didn’t do this, and neither will Trump or Putin. If you never live through the eucharist as the enacted drama of salvation, how will you be able to challenge the dominant narratives of our culture?
Trocmé fascinates me because I see aspects of our time and church in his witness. Debate and anxiety is now bubbling up, especially among more traditional Episcopalians, in the face of this summer’s General Convention, as it proposes to alter the definition of marriage and perhaps even change of the Book of Common Prayer to reflect this new understanding. Older priests — and I am still a priest of the Episcopal Church — wonder where this will leave us. Younger priests wonder what will become of the church they have committed themselves by oath to serve. And those who have felt the call to ordination now wonder if there is a viable future for them in a church that may not only reject their understanding of deep Christian truth, but will in any case lurch further onto a path of conflict and promised decline.
For me, the issue of marriage is not adiaphora; it is bound to the central claims of the Christian gospel. This is not the place to rehearse the arguments. But the simple axis of Genesis 1-2, Mark 10, and Ephesians 5, which speak to the creation of man and woman, their union, and the nature of the body of Christ, seems to form a scriptural scaffolding of divine purpose and destiny that any redefinition of marriage must intrinsically deny. Trocmé liked to speak of “absolutes” — and in the case of nonviolence, he considered this to be an “absolute.” I do not like the term, for various reasons. But if I were to use it, I would certainly apply it to the reality of marriage between a man and a woman: this is an “ontological absolute.”
The question for me, then, is how we shall properly witness to this absolute in the face of our church’s rejection of its meaning. This is where Trocmé’s example is such a challenge to me. When one of his deepest theological convictions was not only challenged but rejected by his church, and as he watched his friends led away to prison with questionable support from their ecclesial authorities, he chose to carry on his pastoral work where he was.
I heard a strange argument recently. When the question of sexual ethics and the teaching of the Bible was raised with a senior leader, the reply was – well look how bad your church is. There followed a long list of sins and offences, some of them very serious: corruption, adultery, strife, false teaching. This is all very tragic. But it is not equivalent to changing the doctrine of the church and actually blessing what God condemns.
I am sorry to say, having been Bishop now for many years that nothing would surprise me. Indeed, knowing my own heart, nothing would surprise me. Indeed knowing the Bible, nothing would surprise me. Our own doctrine tells us how bad we are, even though the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts. Our own Prayer Book majors on the confession of sins and with very weighty words indeed. And I hope our practice assumes the possibility of sin and even crime in our midst – it is always wise for two people to count the offertory for example.
Of course this is not the whole story. Christian people, blessed by the Holy Spirit of God are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. The Christian church so often shines in the darkness and Christians live for God sacrificially and lovingly. But this side of eternity we are far from perfect.
But that is what puzzled and worried me about this argument. It was as though the person did not know how bad the church can be and is in his own culture. You can find tribalism, sexual immorality and false teaching in all the churches. You may even find the leadership turning a blind eye to it. But–it is one thing to point to the sins of the church. It is another thing altogether to justify an official change in doctrine and practice to incorporate them! After all, no-one is pretending that greed is good or that corruption is Christian. But many are actually officially changing the teaching and practice of the church in a way which denies scripture. That is the problem.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Believing the Bible to be the Word of God and actually interpreting it are two important but distinct activities. Confessing the primary authority of the Bible puts us, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, on the right road, but we still have a long and dangerous journey ahead and we need an interpreter to help us along. The way of interpretation which historically and theologically corresponds to the doctrine of verbal inspiration of the Bible is the literal sense. “Literalism” is a badge of pride or abuse nowadays, like the word “fundamentalism.” Just as those who would take their stand on the fundamentals are not necessarily fundamentalists, so reading the Bible literally does not necessarily make one a literalist. Since no hermeneutical label is without its difficulties, I prefer to stick to the classic use of literal sense.
“Literal sense” is the linking together of God’s written Word, our hearts and minds made and restored in his image, and the Truth to which the Bible points (Ps 19:1, 7,14; John 15:26). The literal sense depends on a complex but real intentionality: God as the final author inspired the receiving, inscribing, editing, and collecting of his revelation so that it would convey true meaning. Although the greatest thinkers can mine Scripture and never exhaust its ore, the plain truth of God’s salvation is publicly declared (2 Cor 4:1-4; John 18:10) and available to those (and only those) who approach it as little children (Matt 11:25-26). Finally, literal interpretation does not imply worship of the Bible because language, while it is a complex symbol system, refers not to itself but to something or Someone else. Having said that, literal interpretation guards against spiritual bypasses around the text as a vehicle of meaning, for the Spirit inspires and illumines with and under the written Word.
Unfortunately, many conservatives and liberals have an atrophied understanding of the literal sense. They approach the text like Sergeant Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am!” Or “Did it really happen that way?” (Conservatives answer Yes, liberals No). If Scripture is more textured than a flat reading would allow, it is because its component strands are tightly spun into a three-fold cord of literal meaning. To distinguish the strands of each thread, I would ask three kinds of questions of any biblical text…
There is much Anglican dynamism outside of Africa. But as we look towards Lambeth 2020, Anglicans (especially in the Global North) need to recognise that African Anglicans make up the majority of the Communion. And African Anglicanism is incredibly dynamic, as a recent paper by the Kenyan Professor Joseph Galgalo showed.
In addition, observers in the Global North need urgently to take account of the dramatic changes that have happened within African Anglicanism. South African Anglicanism has markedly shrunk as a proportion of African Anglicanism whilst other centres have grown, sometimes in highly surprising places.
To say this does not mean that African Anglicans should dictate to the rest of the Communion what Anglicanism is. But it does mean we should be profoundly concerned to ensure that African Anglicans are heard. Will Lambeth 2020 be a rerun of Lambeth 2008, which large numbers of African bishops did not attend, and where indaba rhetoric was a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed appropriation of the least vigorous part of contemporary African Anglicanism?
If Lambeth 2020 is to be different from Lambeth 2008, the Global North needs to guard vigilantly against the Spong reflex, of looking down upon whatever is disliked theologically. Especially in the Global North, we need to remove the plank of our colonial mindset from our eyes.
(AAC) Phil Ashey–Who decides membership in the Anglican Communion? Not the Secretary General of the ACC!
“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine” is a phrase that comes directly from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and its ordinal service for ordaining deacons and priests and consecrating Bishops. It is part of the charge given one who is consecrated to serve as a bishop in those Churches in the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the 1662 BCP and its ordinal (among other doctrinal statements) as “fundamental declarations.” The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) also uses this language when it consecrates a Bishop. The weighty phrase reminds us of the universal and ancient responsibility of Bishops to guard the faith, worship, order and discipline of Christ’s Church.
For the last two days I have been in Kenya as part of a teaching team for the third GAFCON Bishops Training Institute. One of the first talks I heard here was a brilliant exposition of Galatians 1:1-9 by the new Bishop of Lango Diocese (Church of Uganda), the Right Rev. Dr. Alfred Olwa. I have known +Alfred as a friend and brother in Christ, a gifted preacher and Biblical theologian—and I was not disappointed by his sermon! In this wonderful passage that many believe Paul penned on his way to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul makes an unequivocal defense of the Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. As +Alfred noted:
- The good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone needs no addition;
- The good news must NOT be distorted (Gal. 1:7);
- Only this gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone saves people from eternal separation from God (Hell); and
- Any distortion of this Gospel is, in reality, dangerous, leads people away from God and therefore stands under God’s curse (Gal. 1:9)
The decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in the matter of the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina vs. the TEC Diocese of South Carolina (Heard September 23, 2015 and filed August 2, 2017) appears to be such a case. The net effect of this case seems to be the transfer of the property of 29 congregations from the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina to TEC. Ultimately this could mean the displacement of thousands of families from the place where they have worshiped for generations. It could mean the loss of all the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina offices, the bishops residence and more.
The legal effect is to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in All Saints Parish, Waccamaw v Diocese 385 S.C. 428 (2009) that neither the then Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina nor the national church (by the Dennis Canon) can create a trust in favor of themselves in any church in South Carolina unless they already have an express property interest in that church. This 2009 decision was based on long settled common law principles of trusts in South Carolina law. The legal effect of the Court’s August 2 decision is to reinterpret the facts of this case de novo, and by bare majority of 3-2 to reinstate the validity of the Dennis Canon by turning the “neutral principles” approach to church property disputes (see Jones v. Wolf , 443 U.S. 595 (1979)) into a “deference to internal hierarchical church law,” approach—turning “neutral principles on its head.” As Justice Kittredge concluded in his opinion (dissenting in part and concurring in part): “The message is clear for churches in South Carolina that are affiliated in any manner with a national organization and have never lifted a finger to transfer control or ownership of their property—if you think your property ownership is secure, think again….”
I am reminded constantly of the example of The Falls Church Anglican in Virginia. Under years of costly litigation and appeals, they planted three churches in the DC Beltway (Arlington, Alexandria and Vienna) and one on the outskirts of Northern VA, in Winchester. All are thriving. TFC lost their buildings, but their congregation grew even as they gave away hundreds to these church plants! Now they have a location and a building that exceeds what they had before, as they are growing in mission and evangelism where God has planted them.
How tragic it would be if litigation and appeals took our eyes off God and the things that delight him—especially reaching those who do not yet know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.
At the heart of the divisions which have beset the Anglican Communion since 2002 is a profound disagreement over sexual ethics, in particular whether same sex unions can be blessed by God in the light of the teaching of the Bible. The teaching of GAFCON is that the Bible is clear on three vital points.
First, that sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage is forbidden by God and not in the best interests of humans.
Second, that persistent behaviour of this sort puts those who engage in it outside the kingdom of God and therefore at risk of losing salvation.
Third, acceptance of this behaviour in the church means that the full gospel cannot be preached, since the full gospel requires repentance from sexual sin.
But there is more to it than that. The Bible tells us that in a society in which the truth about God is supressed, the consequence is godless sexual licence. This is a sign of an unhealthy community in deep trouble.
Within the next 3-7 years I anticipate three tumultuous and tragic events:
1-There will be a major split in the Church of England over sexuality issues. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is, apparently, willing and ready to accept that.
2-There will be deep division between the orthodox who choose to remain in the Church of England and those who choose to leave (whilst remaining Anglican within the Anglican Communion or leaving the denomination entirely)
3-There will be a more formalised split in the global Anglican Communion, along with the continuing re-alignment between the orthodox across all Christian denominations.
It is time for deep reflection and prayer and we need to prepare for the evil days ahead. But for the faithful, whatever the tribulations, we can confidently trust in the God who is ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’
Susie Leafe, Director of Reform UK, on the C of E General Synod–6 steps away from Biblical Christianity
In the space of four days, the General Synod of the Church of England have, in effect, rejected the doctrines of creation, the fall, the incarnation, and our need for conversion and sanctification Instead we have said that we are ‘perfect’ as we are, or as we see ourselves, and that the Church should affirm us and call on God to validate our choices. No wonder we do not want to proclaim Christ’s unique identity and significance for all people.
We have chosen to understand the world through secular reports, unconscious bias training, the teaching of other religions and the results of polls and media headlines, rather than the unchanging word of God.
Take the time to watch and listen to it all.
Last July my wife and I went to the UK for my graduation from Cardiff. While we were there I couldn’t resist visiting the Imperial War Museum (Julie graciously came along and humored me!) I have always been fascinated by the history of World War II, the great moral and political issues that were at stake, and the incredible valor of “the great generation” in saving democracy in the west from totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan. The Imperial War Museum did not disappoint me. But there was one exhibit in particular that caught my eye—the smallest boat that evacuated beleaguered troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, the Tamzine.
The boat is not much for the eye. It’s hard to imagine how it survived the constant strafing of British troops from the Luftwaffe as they faced almost certain annihilation on the beaches of Dunkirk. Bravely it forged through the surf, this little boat, carrying not many troops back to the bigger warships that lay offshore. But with every life it saved it gathered another soldier to fight on. Again and again it returned to those beaches and, miraculously, it survived. I can only imagine that its pilot drew courage from the flotilla of other ships, small and large, that braved those same beaches.
Dunkirk has been an enduring metaphor for our own formation as the Anglican Church in North America…
(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Adrian Hilton on the Jesmond Mess–‘If a schism be schismatic against itself, that schism cannot stand’
On 31st October 1517, an obscure Catholic monk called Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’, the Castle Church in Wittenberg, protesting at the sale of indulgences and other abuses – an event taken as marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On 2nd May 2017, an obscure Anglican curate called Jonathan Pryke was consecrated bishop under the aegis of Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle, by the extra-juridicial authority of the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (formerly known as the Church of England in South Africa), protesting at the wishy-washy approach to issues of sex, gender, sexuality and marriage – an event taken as marking the beginning of the Great Anglican Schism in England.
Whether this is indeed the beginning of “a new timely reformation” or just an embarrassing ecclesial damp squib remains to be seen. It is worth surveying some useful background analysis (see Ian Paul here and Peter Carrell here), but it seems to this Anglican mind that a rebellious schismatic consecration in the Church of England which isn’t even contiguous with the rebellious schismatic movement in the Church of England is doomed to failure. It isn’t so much that Jonathan Pryke didn’t have the courtesy to inform the Bishop of Newcastle or the Archbishop of York of his intentions; he didn’t even inform GAFCON UK or the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE – on whose executive he sits). If a schism be schismatic against itself, that schism cannot stand.
Peter Carrell’s comments [which are excerpted and which are posted at the start of Ian Paul’s blog post]…say almost everything that I would want to about the event itself. But there are some wider issues that it is also worth reflecting on.
First, I get the impression that those supportive of a GAFCON move to consecrate a bishop in England from within the Anglican Communion look on the events with a mixture of disdain, frustration and probably some anger. Whereas they had a considered plan which operated within the Communion as a whole, this move has jumped the gun without proper consideration or consultation. And I suspect that GAFCON supporters hope that everyone can see the difference between the two initiatives. But they won’t. Most of those within the Church of England will not be able to tell the difference, and the same will be true of all of those outside the Church. Both initiatives will appear to all but the best informed (and most highly motivated) to be petty, fracturing and unhelpful interference from people outside the Church of England. (I am not claiming that this view is correct—just that this will be the widespread perception.)
Secondly, it is becoming abundantly clear that this sort of approach to dealing with the perceived drift in the doctrine and teaching in the Church is singularly unhelpful.
Read it all and note carefully the links provided in the piece.
As we evaluate and critique the Secretary-General’s position on these matters it’s important to focus on the views themselves, representing those of the senior leadership of the Anglican Communion, rather than the person himself. In reverse order:
a) ”˜African antagonism to homosexuality has been taught by American conservatives’. This is simply endorsing the narrative of Western LGBT activists who themselves have been campaigning to introduce their views into Africa with the powerful support of Western governments and even the UN. When they find resistance they assume it to come from the other side in their home culture war, as they cannot conceive of African leaders being able to think for themselves.
b) The harsh, blanket criticism of African church leaders (“unChristlike, despotic, corrupt”) is generalizing and inaccurate.
While of course some Church leaders are like this in Africa as in other parts of the world, there are many godly men and women who lead sacrificially and wisely. To suggest that they focus on sexuality while neglecting issues of deprivation and suffering is, again, simply not true, and again appears to be repeating the views of liberal Westerners who have never seen the heroic work going on all over the continent by churches.
c) The comment that “GAFCON is not a movement of the Holy Spirit” needs to be measured against the gracious forbearance shown by GAFCON leaders towards those with whom they disagreed at Canterbury in January 2016, and the wonderful unity displayed in the Cairo meeting of early October. Such an erroneous and harsh judgement of GAFCON sadly shows a determination not to reconcile with the movement, but to discredit it completely in the eyes of a Western audience. But GAFCON is a movement to hold the Anglican Communion together around the word of God, in line with the classical position of Anglicanism. It has not created schism, but has actually enabled loyal Anglicans to stay in the Communion. Following the teaching of God’s word, it refuses to have fellowship with those who have compromised the faith on matters of salvation. They have abandoned Communion, not GAFCON. This is the true logic of being a ”˜conservative’.
d) The emphasis on reconciliation between people holding different views, so that institutional unity must be preserved at all costs is at odds with the New Testament. According to Ephesians 2 and 3, people from warring human religious and cultural backgrounds, alike estranged from God, are brought together by repentance, faith in Christ and obedience to God’s word. There is then one church and one faith. Serious disagreement over core doctrines is not good diversity which can be managed by institutional control and re-organization, but a sign of serious sickness in the body.
Josiah Idowu-Fearon, appointed secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council last year, said his commitment to reconciliation remained firm.
But on the issue at the root of the disagreements, human sexuality, he admitted there was “no way” of finding agreement. “It’s not possible,” he said. The alternative to finding a way to live together was to allow separate “splinter groups”.
Idowu-Fearon also criticised the leadership of Anglican churches in Africa as ineffective.
He said he was speaking from experience, and described them as “despotic”.
Many churches have been involved in wonderful work in ministering in fearful communities, caring for the suffering and the families of those killed by disease or violence, while at the same time (in the case of bible-based congregations), continuing to teach of the love of Christ, and following God’s design for celibate singleness and faithful marriage as the best way of avoiding HIV. Some churches have been brave enough to challenge, with the Gospel, the toxic culture of machismo which is partly responsible for the high levels of murder and sexual abuse. While of course there are church leaders and nominal Christians who live no differently to those in the communities around them, there are many thousands of godly, prayerful and compassionate men and women who understand that counter-cultural sexual purity and control of anger is not old fashioned prudishness but a literal lifesaver and a witness to God’s goodness.
This background, essential for understanding any discussion about sex in South Africa, did not feature in the BBC programme, which sought to give the impression that people with same sex attraction are uniquely vulnerable. While violence against gay people is appalling and unacceptable, it is sadly part of a culture where women are abused whether they are gay or not, and people are beaten up and murdered for being foreign, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, for having a phone, for looking at someone’s girlfriend, etc, etc. The Western concept of LGBT rights is simply inappropriate in such a context. The church should be speaking up publicly against all violence and abuse, and developing communities of peace, safety and tolerance (as is doing so in many places), not focusing on one particular minority.
Also, given the prevalence of heterosexual promiscuity in society and even in the church, which combined with the sexual abuse has contributed to the devastating spread of AIDS and family breakdown, what effect would an acceptance and celebration of same sex relationships have in the townships and across Africa as a whole? It would surely send the message that the church is controlled by white Western liberalism (not good for mission?); that the Bible is not reliable; and that only ”˜love’, not sexual self-control, is the concern of the church. If a same sex relationship is OK, people will ask, then why is adultery wrong?
So where can we start?
One of the success stories of recent times has been the resource church. Resource churches tend to be found in the cities and typically have been HTB style plants. As Ian Paul has pointed out in a recent thought piece resource churches have achieved rapid growth, through focusing predominately on a discrete group (the 18 to 30 age range). Their astonishing growth in numbers includes a significant number of returnees to church and new converts (around 34% of their congregations comprise these two groups). Resource churches tend to be well resourced in terms of staff numbers and, have demonstrated success in terms of planting, and resourcing, new congregations. They are in other words porous.
So far resource churches have tended to be characterized through a commitment to an evangelical and charismatic expression of faith. Resource churches of this sort are not for everyone but they have been successful; up to a point, or more precisely a geographic point. They have shown an ability to reach from the centre to the suburb, but perhaps no further. But, perhaps, we can learn from the existing model of resource church, amending and extending our understanding of the term? We could, and in my view should, consider extending it to include a wider range of ecclesiologies and geographic territories.
Maybe some real work needs to be done in identifying churches that are potentially and genuinely capable of serving rural England, less we stop at the suburbs? We must invest in potential for real growth, as every good investment manager knows. We must seek out and invest in churches which are currently undervalued and, through a prudent investment strategy seek to release value.
One question which hovered over the initial ET judgment was in relation to the doctrine of the Church in relation to marriage. I was startled when, under cross-examination, Richard Inwood had agreed that the doctrine of the Church ”˜was a busted flush’. But both the ET and the EAT have ruled that, in the context of employment law, the Church’s doctrine of marriage is both clear and enforceable, and that clergy can reasonably be expected to conform to it.
As for the doctrines of the Church, this referred to the teachings and beliefs of the religion and the ET had been entitled to find these were as stated by Canon B30 (“marriage is ”¦ a union ”¦ of one man with one woman ”¦”), evidenced, in particular, by the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The Respondent had applied a requirement that the Claimant not be in a same sex marriage so as to comply with the doctrines of the Church; it was not fatal to the ET’s conclusion in that regard that a different Bishop might not have done the same.
That final comment seems to me to be highly significant. Even if the Church’s doctrine has been applied inconsistently in the past, and elsewhere in the Church, then that does not undermine the action of a bishop who acts on it. In other words, if the collegial support for this doctrine in the House of Bishops collapses, and some bishops decide to declare UDI [Unilateral Declaration of Independence] and ignore the doctrine, then other bishops are still secure in law in enacting discipline based on this doctrine.
Contrary to Bishop Holtam’s assertion, Lambeth 1.10 did not contemplate the blessing of Gay Pride parades or other activities that promoted as a moral good same-sex carnal relations. As it was explained to me by my episcopal masters, paragraph c of resolution 1.10 was crafted to make the following points: There were faithful Christians who experienced same-sex attractions. The church was called to assist these individuals and pray for their transformation. The insertion of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit was suggested by Ugandan bishops who wanted the conference to go on record as stating the power of the Holy Spirit could help transform the disordered relations of Christians who experienced same-sex attractions.
The Bishop of Dallas, seconded by Prof. Stephen Noll, (who bears the distinction of having been one of the minds behind Lambeth 1.10 and the Jerusalem Declaration) asked the condemnation of “homophobia” be removed, as in the American context those who opposed the “gay” agenda were tarred with the brush of homophobia. In its place was substituted the awkward circumlocution “irrational fear of homosexuals”.
The paragraph concluded with a statement the church would listen to those who were struggling with their desires, noting that temptation was not the same as sin, and that all faithful Christians were loved.
Paragraph c stated: [The Conference] recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;”
Bishop Holtam’s interpretation of paragraph d in his letter to the Church Times as permitting the moral normalization of homosexual acts is disingenuous….
This is the situation that faces the Global South gathering next week in Cairo. What can you and I do about it?
1. Pray: Please pray for the Global South and GAFCON leaders who will be gathered in Cairo. Pray for humility among all those gathered, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Pray that these Godly and faithful leaders will find their unity in the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), an undivided mind surrendered to the Father’s will and mission.
2. Share: You know, we’ll never find the cure until we begin with an accurate diagnosis of our brokenness. The American Anglican Council does not write the diagnoses we offer to be salacious””but rather to bring matters into the light so that we may have genuine fellowship, authentic Christianity, with each other and so that the blood of Jesus may cleanse us from all our sins (I John1:7-9). Please share this article, and other diagnoses we have written about so that we can pray with insight and foresight.
3. Recommit yourself and your local Anglican Church to “authentic Christianity” No matter what happens in Cairo, we need to follow Jesus in everything he said and did. We need to make disciples of all nations, sharing the transforming love of Jesus Christ in as many ways as we can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and begin in the neighborhoods and communities God has placed us.
Quoted in the ACNS story is Della Wager Wells, identified as an “Anglican Alliance intern” working with the local diocesan development office “to explore the incorporation of Church Community Mobilization/Umoja approaches to development”.
Wells, a corporate lawyer with the Alston & Bird law firm, is a first-year student at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, where her husband serves in the administration. The attorney has deep roots in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and serves as lead legal counsel and board member of the Compass Rose Society. The society raises funds for the ministries of the ACC, designates contributions for mission projects approved by the secretary general (Idowu-Fearon) and builds “a community of Anglicans that enthusiastically supports the mission and ministry of the archbishop and the ACC”.
Among the Compass Rose Society’s mission partners are dioceses in West Africa (Ghana), Southern Malawi, Jerusalem, Southern Africa (Highveld), Mexico and Brazil ”“ jurisdictions in close relationship with the Episcopal Church. The Compass Rose Society supports Continuing Indaba, a program pairing Episcopal dioceses from the United States with those in the Global South “to wrestle with differences concerning issues such as human sexuality and theological interpretation”. The program has been criticized by the American Anglican Council and other traditionalist groups as a promotion of revisionist views that conflict with a mainstream Christian view of marriage and sexuality.
I have to wonder, in light of the recent stories highlighted below, whether it’s still worth any reader’s time to generate posts about the Anglican Communion.
In aircraft, like in life, problems fall into two categories. Horrible problems and not horrible problems. There are two different approaches to the issue depending on whether the problem is horrible or not.
If it is a “horrible problem,” pilots call that a “Bold Face Emergency.” It is so named because the checklists to handle life threatening problems are written in Bold Print. Bold Face emergency procedures must be learned verbatim. Any deviation in wording, punctuation, or even spelling, is punished by getting a failing grade. Before, during, or after a flight, a flight examiner can ask what the procedures are for one of the Bold Face procedures. Any mistake gets an “F.”
Other issues that are less critical only require a 70% grade to pass. Those situations can be addressed more leisurely and not quite as critically. Naturally, it is very bad to misdiagnose a situation as non-critical when it actually is critical. It is equally foolish to treat something peripheral as though it deals with essentials.
In the Anglican Communion, we are dealing with many problems. Some are in the category of horrific, and deal with issues of salvation. Other issues are more peripheral, and their pursuit does not result in a loss of salvation. Scripture is clear that there are some things which are so egregious that their pursuit separates us from the redeeming love of Christ. When those things come up, we need to treat them like the Bold Face emergencies that they are, and say, “No!” To do less is not loving. It is not loving to offer to bless that which God says should be redeemed.