The programme of “Shared Conversations on sexuality, Scripture and mission” officially begins this week in the South West region. 60 people, selected by the Bishops, from the Dioceses of Truro, Exeter, Bristol and Gloucester are meeting for three days to talk, listen, pray and worship together.
A podcast has been released of a talk along these lines given to the Chichester Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship on March 7th by Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes. Bishop Richard is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council.
The Bishop is respectful of the genuine Christian discipleship of those who disagree with his traditionalist position, sees their points of view and is not sure that this is a “red line issue” about the core Gospel message. Because of this he will not “leave the Church of England” even if the church changes its doctrine of sex and marriage. He does not appear to say anywhere that he will fight to maintain the current teaching, but rather suggests that change is inevitable, and that arguing over this issue divides rather than unites, and is a bad witness to the world.
This gives us a clue about what is happening in the minds of at least one theologically orthodox Bishop in the C of E. He will strongly promote the Gospel of Jesus crucified and risen, and will defend this against revisionism which undermines basic Christian theism. But lets be honest, these views are not going to be attacked on Twitter or the comments pages of the Guardian, the Independent and Pink News. Bishops such as Richard Jackson know they will be attacked if they defend the historic Christian position on sex, and so he has backed off; saying that he personally has not changed his position supporting the current Church teaching on sex and marriage, but he respects the views of others and will respect the outcome of any Synod resolution. Unity of the Institution, and protection from hostile media attack comes first. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy ”“ how can the orthodox teaching of the church be defended in Synod if those regarded as the leaders of the orthodox do not contend for it and essentially abstain from the debate?