From The Daily Telegraph letters
SIR – This wire that the referendum result is coming down to – is it anywhere near the plate that we must all step up to on Thursday?
From The Daily Telegraph letters
SIR – This wire that the referendum result is coming down to – is it anywhere near the plate that we must all step up to on Thursday?
The Chairman and fellow Primates of the GAFCON Council are pleased to announce that the third GAFCON conference will be held in Jerusalem in 2018.
Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of the GAFCON movement as it was the location of the first conference in 2008. Moreover, Jerusalem stands as a constant reminder of the birth of the Gospel and the movement’s determination to remain true to the teachings of our Lord and his Holy Word.
GAFCON was greatly blessed by both the initial conference and the second meeting in Nairobi in 2013. When Anglicans from across the Communion come together in unity it is a tremendous blessing, and we are excited to see the Church built up in the land where it was given its foundation.
Dates and further details will be announced in due course.
..Parts of the Anglican Communion continue to be in turmoil as the unbiblical theological and moral viruses of Western Churches and the secular culture continue to spread and divide the Church. The revisionist agenda is well-funded, and there is a strategic effort on their part to target under-resourced Provinces of the Anglican Communion.
As you know, the Archbishop of Canterbury called a meeting of the Primates of the Communion last January to discuss the discipline of the Episcopal Church for changing its marriage canon, and to see if we could find a way to hold together as a Communion. I was invited, and with the rest of the GAFCON and Global South Primates, attended the Canterbury gathering in good faith. We left the meeting believing that, while all we had hoped for had not been accomplished, at least something potentially positive had come out of the meeting to restore Godly order and discipline to the Communion. However, since that time the developments have not been positive, and as the Chair of GAFCON, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, said recently, “our hope has been brought low.”
Since the Canterbury Gathering in January, the agreements that were made have not been honored. We in the Anglican Church in North America are committed to remaining faithful to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles as found in the Bible, to Biblical reconciliation, and we will trust the Lord for the future. We are committed members of the GAFCON movement and remain in partnership with orthodox leaders of the Global South who are seeking to bring repentance, renewal, and reformation to the Anglican Communion.
What is tragic about all of this is not just the divisions within the Anglican Communion. What is most tragic is that because of false teaching, millions of souls will not hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, or they will hear a Gospel that appears to the be the Gospel, but in reality is contrary to the very Word of God ”“ which is no Gospel at all. Souls are at stake. Lives are at stake. Eternity is at stake. It reminds me of what the prophet Isaiah said to the people of his day: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Is.5:20, ESV)
Not long to go now until General Synod in July. The first part will involve normal business, and then the members will move into a closed session of Shared Conversations on sexuality and mission, guided by facilitators. I am not a member of General Synod and so will not be there, but I took part in the regional version of these Conversations and my report of my experience, the process and its implications can be read here.
”˜Grace and truth’ from ”˜affirming evangelicals’
In the lead-up to the Conversations, lobbying from groups on both sides of the debate has been taking place. Books and articles have been sent to members, and one such is ”˜Journeys in Grace and Truth’, from the newly formed Via Media Publications, which is a collection of essays by C of E leaders who describe themselves as evangelical but who have come to accept that same sex relationships are positive and worthy of celebration. Jayne Ozanne, who has edited the collection, has been doing a now familiar round of media interviews to promote the book and its main idea; Paul Bayes Bishop of Liverpool and the most senior ”˜evangelical’ to publicly endorse the ”˜affirming’ stance, was on the Radio 4 Sunday programme explaining why, in his view, the Church needs to change. He expressed his understanding of mission in this way:
“Since we’ve been called to be there for England as it is, how do we look at what we’ve got, in order to make it available to people who want to love God but who also want to be faithful to who they are?”
This idea that the church’s role is somehow to uncritically affirm the culture and hold out the love of God without any call to repentance is at the very least a defective view of New Testament Christianity and certainly cannot be called evangelical. But for me to say such a thing is itself the problem, according to another Bishop, Colin Fletcher who has been acting Bishop of Oxford for the past 18 months. Christian Today reports that Fletcher, who recently authorized an Oxford clergywoman to officiate at a celebration of a same sex marriage and wrote the foreward to the ”˜Grace and Truth’ book, accuses evangelicals who hold to the traditional position of causing pain to gay people. He calls for conservatives to continue to engage in conversation, and not to marginalise and write off those with a different interpretation of the Bible.
how can the very different opinions of Alan Wilson, Jayne Ozanne and someone like myself be held together to ensure continued unity in the church? Answering this question is the task given to the authors of a major new report from the Faith and Order Commission, approved by the House of Bishops to resource the Synodical Shared Conversations, entitled ”˜Communion and Difference’.
In his preface, the Chair of the Commission Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, explains that the document doesn’t attempt to resolve questions about sexual ethics (in fact it hardly refers to them at all), but serves as a reflection on “Scriptural, historical and doctrinal perspectives”, to analyse what happens when Christians disagree, and to look at possible options for continued conversation based on what is held in common. Written in careful, nuanced, academic language, the report reflects in detail on the meanings of Communion, the types of conflict in the church throughout history and in the present, and outlines some paths that might be taken towards resolution.
I will not attempt to make a full critique of the report (others better qualified than I will do that in due course). But I will say that it is very frustrating to read; although Scripture is used throughout, verses are often taken out of context
The report gives a tentative steer towards using the agreement reached over women Bishops as a model for future resolution (paras 67 and 68), ie a solution whereby change happens but there is protection and respect for those who disagree (similar to what has happened in the Episcopal Church of Scotland, perhaps?). Although the authors admit that this may result in a substantial number of people breaking communion over the issue, they feel that those who want to separate would be to blame, and would be acting like the Donatists of Augustine’s day (para 87). Rather, Christians are obligated to continue in communion with one another because of a commitment to love.
Unlike the Pilling report, this document does not openly advocate a change to the Church’s teaching and practice regarding same sex relationships, but in focusing on the priority of peace and unity at all costs and in questioning the possibility of knowing truth, it is intended to break down any resistance to incremental and inevitable change from the conservative side. It provides further evidence of the senior leadership of the Church’s complete lack of confidence in being able to articulate the key doctrines of creation, sex and marriage, the authority of Scripture and the Gospel of salvation which Anglicans claim to still espouse.
..It seems likely that in the months to come there will be strong pressure on Evangelicals in the Church of England who are not willing to go all the way in accepting same-sex relationships to at least adopt this kind of third way approach and so in this post I want to explain why I think the three arguments for this this approach noted above are mistaken.
The reason that the first argument is mistaken is because it does not do justice to what St. John is saying in John 1:14.
For advocates of the third way approach grace is understood to mean unconditional love and acceptance and so living a life of ”˜grace and truth’ means showing unconditional love and acceptance to those with whom we disagree even while upholding the truth of our own position. In terms of the current debate about sexuality this means that Evangelicals who hold a conservative approach to sexual ethics should be willing to love and accept those who take a more liberal position.
The problem with this argument is that it fails to read John 1:14 against the background of the Old Testament. As a number of commentators have pointed out, the pairing of ”˜grace’ and truth’ in John 1:14 is a deliberate echo of the regular pairing of ”˜steadfast love’ and ”˜faithfulness’ as a description of God in Old Testament passages such as Genesis 24:27, Exodus 34:6 and Psalm 25:10.  God’s ”˜grace’ is his steadfast and merciful love to his oppressed and disobedient people and God’s ”˜truth’ is his faithfulness to his promises to be merciful. Both of these are manifested in Jesus, the person in whom the God of the Old Testament is incarnate, because through his death and resurrection he delivers God’s people from sin and death and thus shows God’s faithfulness to his promises and hence his truthfulness.
The relevance of this to the debate about sexuality is that sexual sin, including the sin of same-sex sexual activity, is part of the life of sin and death from which God in Christ has delivered his people (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Romans 1-8 throughout) with the corollary that such sin should no longer form part of their lives. As St. Paul puts it in Romans 6:12-14, because the grace of God means that we have died and risen with Christ:
”˜Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.’
A church, therefore, that is willing to accept same-sex sexual activity (or any other form of sexual sin) is a church that has ceased to truly believe in the grace and truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ…
Members of the Church’s decision making General Synod have been issued with a manual setting out how to discuss the fraught subject of sexuality without offending each other too much.
It comes ahead of a special series of “shared conversations” on the issue set to take place behind closed doors when the Synod meets in York next month.
“Facilitators” trained in conducting negotiations in warzones have been called in to help Anglicans resolve their differences over issues such as same-sex marriage after a similar tactic helped break the deadlock over women bishops.
Press and the public are to be banned from the three-day session in which bishops, priests and lay members with differing views and backgrounds will be asked to join in small-group discussions to speak frankly away from the glare of publicity.
The 14-page booklet, entitled “Grace and Dialogue”, amounts to an etiquette guide for the talks, advising members on everything from where to sit to body language and even facial expressions.
The special sessions are being organised by Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chief of staff, who helped lay the foundations for the Northern Ireland peace process through talks with paramilitaries in the 1990s.
He said that while they might not ultimately avert a split in the church over sexuality, they might at least make it less acrimonious.
“I’ve never said that the shared conversations process should be measured on its ability to stop fracture,” he explained.
“I’ve always said that it should be measured on its ability as to even how you fracture.
“Because the reality is that throughout Christian history there have been deep issues about which we have differed at various points and it has not always been possible to maintain the unity of the church in those contexts.
“That is the history of the church, that is the reality.
“What these conversations are about is to show ”¦ that even when we disagree deeply we disagree well.”
At next month’s General Synod, the Church of England will try a new approach to avoiding a disastrous formal schism over homosexuality. After two days of discussing legislative matters in open session and once all outsiders have left, the 550 representatives from around the world will break into groups of 20 for three days of intensive and personal discussions about sexuality.
The idea is not to reach agreement ”“ 30 years of wrangling have established that this is quite impossible ”“ but to try to bring people on both sides of the debate to see their opponents as fellow Christians. Conservative evangelicals have denounced the scheme as an attempt to manipulate opinion, which of course it is. The question is whether it will work.
What’s new about this approach is that the manipulation that Justin Welby’s strategists have in mind is not to be carried out from the top down. It is hoped that the process of facilitated conversations will allow the church’s activists gathered in the synod to take note of the social changes that are happening in their own congregations and their own families, where acceptance of gay people is becoming much more common.
This week a book of evangelical reflections on sexuality was published in which the bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, announced he had been “profoundly changed” by encounters with lesbian and gay Christians in his own family…
A new congregation to provide an opportunity for worship, mutual support and encouragement for Christians in the LGBTI community is being launched this summer.
“There has been a need for something like this for some while” says Revd Monica Arnold. “While debate rages on, passionately, at the highest levels of the Church of England, LGBT people continue to live with the realities of their daily life and the mixed reception many receive in parishes. An opportunity to worship and enjoy fellowship without hiding or denying a fundamental aspect of their identity is so important to all aspects of healthy life.
The Bishop of Wolverhampton, Rt Revd Clive Gregory warmly welcomed the initiative:
“Enabling this congregation to meet is important and I am delighted to hear of St Matthew’s offer of hospitality. I understand why LGBTI Christians feel the need for a place to meet and worship where they can feel secure and supported in their God-given sexual identity.
..The process of appointing a new diocesan bishop is long and complex, and one of the last hurdles has now been passed in the appointment of [the] Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave as the 99th Bishop of Lichfield..
First, we might well offer a prayer of thanksgiving that we live in a democratic society, where our vote really counts, and where we can freely and safely exercise it. A vote is a valuable commodity!
Second, we might well offer a prayer for wisdom, as we make our decision. This is the kind of decision usually delegated to Parliament alone. The referendum gives us a sense of the vital and life”“changing decisions with which we entrust our politicians, and on which we often comment from the safe distance of not having to make them ourselves. Now it is our turn.
Third, we might intercede with God that his sovereignty would reign above all other sovereignties in this knife”“edge of a vote.
Mark is married to Sally and they have three adult children. They met in Kenya while volunteers with the Church Mission Society and have a lifelong commitment to mission.
Mark trained for ordination at Ridley Hall Cambridge after working in the catering industry in Edinburgh. Sensing a call to serve in urban areas, Mark was ordained in Manchester Diocese in 1982 and served as a curate in Burnage. Mark and Sally then went to Kenya with the Church Mission Society where Mark taught in a Theological college, later becoming the Principal. Returning to UK, Mark was appointed Rector of Christ Church Harpurhey where he served from 1996 to 2009. He was then appointed Archdeacon of Manchester. Mark’s role as Archdeacon of Manchester included being a Residentiary Canon at the Cathedral and significant involvement in Greater Manchester Churches together.
Mark said, “I am honoured and thrilled to have been appointed the next Bishop of Bolton. Greater Manchester is a fantastic place to live and serve, and I am looking forward to getting to know and love the communities and churches of Rossendale, Salford, Bury, Bolton and parts of Wigan for which I will have particular responsibility as Bishop of Bolton.
In 2001 the churches in Europe jointly and boldly pronounced in Charta Oecumenica a support for a process destined to bring Europe closer together. Churches in the same document stated that “without common values, unity cannot endure.” Now, 15 years later, we find ourselves in a situation in which increasingly vocal political parties and groupings argue against further political and economic integration on our continent. What seemed a logical position 15 years ago seems less evident today. Rather, we see a growing body of opinion that has lost faith in the promise of a united Europe, that distrusts political elites, and that would like to renationalise policies….
Reflecting on the forthcoming vote, we recognise the historic nature of this referendum and its implications for future generations. The outcome will have consequences for the future not only of the United Kingdom, but for Europe and for the world.
In our view, three things are essential:
”¢ that we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
”¢ that we all inform ourselves of the arguments on both sides of the debate;
”¢ that we each exercise our vote with a view to the common good of all.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Martyrdom of Saint Albans, First Martyr of Britain, from the Saint Alban's Psalter c.13th century, English. pic.twitter.com/OJqU6U126F
— Edoardo (@EdoardoDFanfani) June 22, 2016
May God, who seeth all things, and who is the Ruler of all spirits and the Lord of all flesh–who chose our Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him to be a peculiar people–grant to every soul that calleth upon His glorious and holy Name, faith, peace, patience, long-suffering,self-control, purity, and sobriety, to the well-pleasing of His Name, through our High Priest and Protector, Jesus Christ, by whom be to Him glory, and majesty, and power, and honour, both now and forevermore. Amen.
–James Manning,ed., Prayers of the Early Church (Nashville: The Upper Room, 1953)
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, ”˜You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ”˜Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ”˜Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ”˜You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ”˜Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ”˜These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ”˜Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
…[Bp Nwokolov] said, “There is a gross imbalance in political appointments in the state. Anglican faithful in the state are shortchanged and marginalised from occupying government positions.
“It’s incumbent on the current administration in the state to strike a balance as well as adopt the principle of equity and fair play in political appointments in order not to relegate any section of the state to the background.”
There will be many here who have worried. Those who will go to their surgeries and worry their friends and families. There are the worries, the anxieties, the deep concerns, around our nation ”“ from different views, but anxieties about its future.
And there are the deep and profound anxieties that are lived out daily by those to whom Jo went in Syria, in Darfur and in so many other places, and where she gave her love, as well as in her own constituency.
The promise is that when all is in the hands of God, our deepest anxieties ”“ even our anxieties about the future of our nation, about its stability and about all that makes it what it has been ”“ even those are overcome by the peace of God, which dispels anxiety, brings hope and enables us above all, at the end of all things, to draw together in the confidence that not only our lives but our history is in the hand of God. That not only our joys ”“ the joy of the life that gave joy ”“ but also our sorrows at their lowest are kept and held by God, who will bless us and bless you; who will bless each life in this nation as we turn to him in our need.
May God’s blessing rest upon us. Amen.
In many ways disagreement is healthy. It shows that people really care about things, and perhaps disagreement is an inevitable corollary of all change: it’s often about who has to change, the cost of change, and who has to pay it.
But disagreement can also be divisive, destructive and dangerous to our health, both individually and collectively. It can disguise the many things we do agree about; it can distort people’s understanding of what being a Christian means; and it can dismay and divert those who would otherwise join us.
If disagreement is inevitable then we have to learn to do it better. This suggests finding ways that enable us to understand fully what we disagree about, and why.
These notes set out some ways to help us turn debate and confrontation into dialogue, empathy, shared understanding and the commitment to love each other even when ”“ perhaps especially when ”“ we are deeply opposed.
Read it all (15 page pdf).