Reform and GAFCON respond to Episcopal Church marriage decisions

Updated to add Ugandan statement

Reform has issued this press release: Reform Response to the US Episcopal Church Resolution on Marriage

July 7th, 2015

The Episcopal Church in the USA redefined the definition of marriage and approved liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Reform shares the Archbishop of Canterbury’s deep concern about the stress this action will cause the Anglican Communion. We echo his call to respond to the Lord Jesus’ prayer for his followers, that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17.21).

Jesus’ prayer for unity was “for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] message.” (John 17.20). The unity for which Jesus prays is built on the foundation of the teaching he revealed and entrusted to his apostles, recorded for us in the Scriptures. Jesus is not silent on the definition of marriage. “Haven’t you read,” he said to the religious leaders who sought to redefine marriage in his own day, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19.4-5)

In rejecting this definition of marriage, the bishops of the US Episcopal Church have rejected Jesus’ own teaching. As such, they have denied the faith they profess to teach, forfeiting any right to be regarded as true bishops of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us to “watch out for false prophets” who come in his name (Matthew 7.15, 22)

Their actions will entrench still further the division in the Anglican Communion. We are grieved at their dishonouring of Jesus’ name. We are distressed by their discouragement of faithful believers, especially those who struggle with same-sex attraction and those who live in cultures where pronouncements from liberal Western church leaders endanger their lives and discredit their witness to Jesus Christ.

We stand with faithful Anglicans in the US and around the world, who continue to pray to Almighty God: “grant, that all they who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity, and godly love.” (Book of Common Prayer).

GAFCON has issued this press release: TEC decision ‘a mistake with serious consequences’.

TEC decision ‘a mistake with serious consequences’

A Response to The Episcopal Church of the United States’ (TEC) decision to make ‘Same – Sex Marriage’ official

The recent decision of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, to remove reference to gender in the marriage canon and introduce rites for conducting ‘same-sex marriage’, is a mistake with serious consequences.

The problems for the rest of the Anglican Communion have already been noted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. But the fundamental reason that it is a mistake – and the reason why it is so destabilizing – is that it is a significant departure from Holy Scripture. This is a departure which Christians are not at liberty to make.

With this action, TEC has officially rejected the Anglican Communion’s standard, Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which expresses the Communion’s received and historic understanding of marriage and sexual relationships. TEC has now taken the pattern of behaviour which Lambeth describes as ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and equated it with Holy Matrimony.

It may be claimed that TEC is modelling ‘two integrities’, but the Church of God finds its integrity in teaching and living according to the received Word of God. The determination of TEC to press ahead with changes which ignore the serious concerns of many others in the Communion, in some cases for their physical safety, shows very clearly the inadequacy of initiatives designed to create reconciliation without repentance.

The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court that claims ‘same sex marriage’ is a constitutional right puts pressure on all churches in the United States, but in different ways all of our Provinces face the temptation to compromise with the surrounding culture. It is within this context that we commend the Anglican Church in North America for their willingness to speak with courage, truth, and charity. Being part of a global Communion should always be such a source of mutual encouragement to faithful witness, not a source of hurt to that witness.

The GAFCON movement remains totally committed to the renewal of this global witness and the restoration of its integrity, knowing that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that all need to hear the good news of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ. It welcomes and recognizes Anglicans who through no fault of their own have had to disaffiliate from their original province over serious matters of biblical truth. The struggle and spirit of the remnant church must be kept alive.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of Kenya and Chairman, The GAFCON Primates Council

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria and Vice Chairman, The GAFCON Primates Council

6th July 2015

The Archbishop of Uganda has also issued a statement: Abp’s Statement on same-sex marriage in TEC and USA. The full text is copied below the fold.

Archbishop of Uganda’s statement

The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America to change the definition of marriage is grievous. There is a saying, “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.” As a religious leader in Uganda, I want to assure all Ugandans that we will do everything we can to promote the good moral health of our people and resist such immoral viruses that may try to infiltrate our people.

Likewise, the most recent decision of the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) to change the definition of marriage is even more grievous. At best, it sprang from a desire to extend pastoral care to members of its church who experience same-sex attraction. Pastoral care, however, that is contrary to the Bible’s message is, ultimately, cruel and misleading.

The Church of Uganda broke communion with the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) in 2003 when they unilaterally changed the received Biblical and moral teaching of the Anglican Communion on ordination. The Primates of the Anglican Communion unanimously agreed – including the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church – that, should TEC proceed with the consecration as Bishop of a divorced father of two living in a same-sex relationship, it would tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level, which is exactly what has happened over the past twelve years.

In spite of TEC’s 2006 resolution that expressed their “regret” at “straining” the bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion, they have, nonetheless, continued their march toward dismantling the Christian faith and morals, culminating in their recent decision to change the definition of marriage – something that was “given by God in creation.”

Likewise, Jesus said, “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10.6-9).

The definition and meaning of marriage is not something that can be defined by voting. It is something that is given by God in general revelation and in special revelation, and it is for us as human beings and, especially, the Church, to simply receive and follow. The fact that 2+2 equals 4 cannot be changed by a vote or decree. Neither can the meaning of marriage between a man and a woman be changed by a vote.

What St. Paul wrote to Timothy is as relevant today as it was almost 2,000 years ago. “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” (2 Timothy 4.3-4)

The Church of Uganda was blessed to play a small role in the creation of the Anglican Church in North America as an alternative and biblically faithful Anglican Church in North America. Through our GAFCON fellowship, a number of Archbishops from Global South Provinces recognized the validity of the Anglican Church in North America, and we support them in their resolution to promote healthy and spiritually strong families and marriages between one man and one woman.

Sadly, the so-called “Instruments of Communion” in the Anglican Communion have not been able to restore godly order to the Communion, nor do they seem to have the will to do so. While we despair at the path TEC has taken and their imperialist commitment to export it to the rest of the Anglican Communion, we do not lose hope. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13.8) “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4.5)

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali
Archbishop of Church of Uganda.
7th July 2015


  • FrDavidH says:

    Ever since the consecration of people such as Barbara Harris and Gene Robinson, TEC has been a source of inclusive inspiration and example to so many in the Church of England. With the election of gifted Bishop Curry as Presiding Bishop, we see further evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. TEC always seems to be on the right side of history. The fact that our American brothers and sisters have annoyed Reform and GAFCON should be a cause of great rejoicing.

  • James Byron says:

    Nothing unexpected there!

    I guess, if you believe that you possess God’s revealed will, such unquestioning obedience is justified. It scares me silly, and, given the damage done by ignoring evidence, shows why liberal theology is so vital to the church’s health.

    The sleep of reason produces monsters. These are they.

  • Cynthia says:

    🌈💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🌈 Love wins!

    Fortunately, we have Jesus telling us clearly not to judge. So I find it impossible to believe that His wish is for Reform, +Wabukala, and +Okoh to judge me, my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, TEC, the US Supreme Court, et al. Especially +Okoh, who is a supporter and enabler of human rights violations in his country. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” That’s from Thomas Jefferson on slavery in the US. It also applies brilliantly to Nigerian “jail the gays laws.”

    Jesus’ supposed “definition of marriage” was primarily a story on divorce. He was addressing the vulnerability of women who don’t live under the protection of a man’s house; it left them vulnerable to violence, poverty, and abuse. So if we want to take that passage seriously, then please, let us join to work together to eliminate violence against women and girls.

    Reforms only reference to the suffering of gay people is about “those who struggle with same-sex attraction.” I can rest assure them that it isn’t much of a struggle for many of us in the West, now that we have our human rights and are happily married. But thank you for your concern.

    🌈💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🎉 💗 🌈 Love wins!

  • Peter Mullins says:

    It won’t matter a jot taking this conversation forward across the liberal / conservative divide – but it seems quite a stretch for Reform to take

    “Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    and claim Jesus was talking “to religious leaders who sought to redefine marriage” or to claim that he was offering a “definition of marriage”.

  • James Byron says:

    Cynthia’s analysis of the divorce pericope illustrates the folly of stripping away context and universalizing a story bound inexorably to a given time and place. What protected women in 1st century Galilee oppressed them when other options opened.

    Jesus wasn’t a Delphic Oracle, nor did he claim to be: he was a man of his time, rooted in eschatological Judaism, proclaiming what he took to Adonai’s imminent judgment on the world. He wasn’t brilliant in spite of that, but because of it; but that being so, his brilliance isn’t universal in every regard. In other words, Jesus could be wrong, as regards his own context, and certainly as regards ours, of which he had no knowledge.

    To abdicate the responsibility of assessing and reasonably applying Jesus’ teaching, as Reform and Gafcon would have us do, is a dereliction of the church’s duty. We shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

  • Roger Antell says:

    Have I missed something here? If our Lord pronounced against divorce and the CofE and CiW allow the marriage of divorcees in church, why have we not been cast out of the Anglican Communion and roundly condemned for departing from Scripture and renting the church asunder?

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    “[Jesus} was a man of his time, rooted in eschatological Judaism, proclaiming what he took to Adonai’s imminent judgment on the world.” — James Byron on Tuesday, 7 July 2015 at 5:50pm BST

    Spot on analysis! IMHO

  • robert ian williams says:

    Roger,the reason is simple because Reform hedge the divorce issue as thee are two schools of interpretation which conflict. One teaches marriage is indissoluble and the other that divorce and remarriage are allowed.They actually leave this out of their covenant…as it looks ridiculous if they are fighting ssm and they cant agree what Jesus meant as regards marriage.Interestingly Acna and other churches within Gafcon are even more liberal on divorce and remarriage.

  • Dennis Roberts says:

    Most people, inside and outside of the church, have decided that the authoritarian religious conservatives don’t speak for God. They speak only for themselves and their own insecurities and psychological complexes. So all of this is just words, words, words, of no importance, and only serving to make the declining number of religious conservatives think that their pronouncements have some impact.

    Fundamentalism presumes that the rest of us will forget that Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, Einstein, computer science, the rise of clinical psychology, anthropology and sociology, and the trips to the moon ever happened. If religion is going to have any relevance going forward it has to take the new knowledge into account. Our advances in knowledge are the modern expression of revelation, and they are as binding on us as the pronouncements by prophets were to bronze age societies. Our advances in knowledge tell us that same sex attraction is a normal part of human existence, not a “sin,” and full access to marriage equality follows from this.

    Those who make pronouncements like these two are still living in a pre-modern era when everything could be decided on the basis of dogma without consulting science and human knowledge. The majority of us, living in the modern age, don’t have the luxury of living in the dead past with the fundamentalists and the conservatives.

    The Episcopal Church is making a valiant effort to live in the modern world. The GAFCON, “Reform” (stealing that term was quite the con, eh?) and ACNA people are still trying to live in the 14th century.

    Good luck with that project.

  • I am in communion with The Episcopal Church and give thanks for its courageous integrity.

    If the Bible has to be taken literally, then Adam and Eve had no ancestors, science and evolution are wrong, and God desired the slaughter of the children in Canaan when it was ethnically cleansed.

    All the direction of history teaches us that the bible has to be contextualised and interpreted.

    Interpreted in the context of the primary command to love.

    Scriptural dogmatism, and idolising holy text as God’s direct dictation or automatic handwriting is potentially harmful whether it is the dogmatists of the Bible or the dogmatists of the Qur’an.

    The bible was written by fallible human beings, writing from within the culture, prejudices, and assumptions of their own time. It is wonderful and it is profound.

    But it requires the exercise of our own consciences in each age, as we search for the ways of love and faithfulness.

    Gay marriage is one such dedication to faithfulness.

  • Both Reform (which might better be named ‘Stasis’) and the Gafcon leadership, when quoting the need to conform to the call of Jesus for Church Unity, ought perhaps to have taken his call more literally for themselves – before their divisive activity which has so largely contributed to the demise of Anglican solidarity around the world.

    Jesus had similar problems with the Scribes and Pharisees, whom he denounced as ‘Whited Sepulchres’. They, too, resisted Jesus’ inclusion of sexual sinners among those He wished to redeem and save. Self-righteousness, in Jesus’ eyes, seemed to be a greater problem for the righteous God than those whom they despised as ‘greater sinners’.

  • Pluralist says:

    Don’t get me wrong: I agree with the thrust of James Byron and peterpi above, but to say what they have doesn’t redefine marriage, but it does redefine ‘God the Son’. If he is the very deity, God, then one supposes he has God proclamations. If he is a man, only a man, like ordinary thought would suppose, then he is as time-limited and mistaken as the rest of us, and indeed with his supernaturalism and eschatology even more so. So what then would Reform or the entryists think of that? This is what gives them the definitional trump card, in your communion, once you slip away from trinitarianism.

  • Lorenzo says:

    I think, Mr Roberts, that the problem is a tad more complex. Most evangelicals I know are thoroughly nice and can reconcile themselves to all these scientific advances… but then start doing moral theology as if creationism were true. I can’t understand it either, this being said.

  • Perry Butler says:

    I wonder what pastoral care of homosexual given by the Church of Uganda would actually be?

  • JCF says:

    Weep not for TEC, weep for GAFCON-area LGBTs (deprived of a supportive church, esp. where many need it most: in the midst of a brutally hostile state). Keep them safe, Lord, keep them safe—one day a change gonna come…

  • John says:

    Pluralist, surely some versions of kenotic Christology cope with your point?

  • Fr John E. Harris-White says:

    Fr David, Your comments spot on. You lifted my heart as I read you words

  • Daniel Berry, NYC says:

    I’m sick to death of people who evidently believe that because Bronze-Age barbarities are included in “holy scripture,” the church ought to be abiding by them.

  • Jeremy says:

    “and those who live in cultures where pronouncements from liberal Western church leaders endanger their lives”

    “changes which ignore the serious concerns of many others in the Communion, in some cases for their physical safety”

    Let’s be clear about this. We have here, once again, the argument that gay marriage causes murder.

    Welby was excoriated for making this argument last year. Reform and GAFCON should be excoriated for making it now.

    Reform makes the actual causal assertion (“endanger”), although where they get this idea is unclear. GAFCON does not go that far, and phrases the argument in terms of some Christians’ “concerns.”

    Which is another way of saying that because some Christians have fears, other Christians should forego the blessing of marriage.

    That argument remains untenable.

    By contrast, Uganda doesn’t mention marriage-causes-murder. Instead, Ntagali likens homosexuality to a disease. Presumably he has in mind HIV, which has ravaged Southern Africa, which lacks gay marriage. HIV is no excuse for poor epidemiology and worse logic.

    Ntagali goes on to make theological assertions that are really assertions about how the Church should work–not by voting, he says, but by “receiv[ing] and follow[ing]” whatever people like him pronounce.

    For Ntagali the real issue may be clerical power. And the real danger may be TEC’s ecclesiological democracy.

    Religious fundamentalism is dangerous, yes — dangerous to people’s lives. But that is no reason for anyone not to marry. And it is true of Christian fundamentalism too.

  • Not everyone thinks that the GAFCON and Reform statements are extreme. Ian Paul, writing here
    says of them:

    “There are several interesting things about these statements. First, they are actually quite moderate in tone, and they are located not just in a biblicist reading of Scripture, but within the context of previous Communion discussions…”

  • Cynthia says:

    I’m a little sick of people with a “Biblicist point-of-view” denying the extensive writings on Scripture that lead to non-bigoted readings of Scripture.

  • From a distance, the real problem I discern, lately, with the Gafcon protest against TEC’s inclusivism towards Same-Sex Blessings, is the fact that the archbishop of Canterbury seems to have capitulated to their exclusivist point of view.He seems to have aligned the C.of E. with their culture of sexism and homophobia, an ethos that many Anglicans have long since abandoned. This makes it difficult for many of us outside the U.K. to defend our connection with Canterbury.

    This, in turn, makes more necessary a re-think of what the future of Anglicanism will turn out to be: Maybe, on the one hand, Protestant Conservatism based on moral puritanism (Gafcon, Acna & Reform) versus Anglican Inclusivism (TEC and most Western Provinces).

    In the light of Jesus mission to and friendship with ‘Sinners’ (the whole of humanity), my feeling is that Gospel liberality wins out over puritanism. At least, it acknowledges our need of redemption by the power of God’s perfection, not our own!

  • JCF says:

    Ian Paul, quoting Rev Jon McGinley: “the Bible … can be used to say whatever we want it to, or simply be ignored.”

    Yes, why DO conservative Evangelicals USE Scripture this way? [Sarcasm/off]

    “The other seeks to submit to Scripture as we interpret it and apply it to our lives and trust in its goodness as God’s word to us, even when it is painful and challenging” . . . to others. Got it, clever ‘phobes.

  • Jeremy says:

    Simon, how can Ian Paul say that “they are quite moderate in tone”?

    Reform says, “In rejecting this definition of marriage, the bishops of the US Episcopal Church have rejected Jesus’ own teaching. As such, they have denied the faith they profess to teach, forfeiting any right to be regarded as true bishops of the church of Jesus Christ.”

    Moderate in tone? Calling more than 100 bishops in another province, in effect, false bishops?

    Moderate in tone? Really?

  • Ian Paul, in other places, writes of the danger of a ‘divided Church’. This reminds me of a placard on the rear window of a car:

    “Feeling the absence of God? Guess who moved!” Neither TEC nor any other liberal Province of the Anglican Communion has actually moved out of intentional Eucharistic fellowship with any other province. SO. Guess who moved!

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