Wednesday, 19 July 2017

British Anglicans meet to plan ‘faithful ecclesial future’

An open letter has been published on Anglican Mainstream by a number of clergy and laity. The full text and list of signatures is copied below the fold.

British Anglicans meet to plan ‘faithful ecclesial future’
Jul 18, 2017
To the Anglicans of Great Britain:

Many will share our dismay at the recent decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England and the pursuing principles, values and practices contrary to Holy Scripture and church Tradition.

Given the persistent failure of the majority of the House of Bishops to fulfil the God-given duties which they have sworn to discharge these tragic developments were, sadly, not wholly unexpected.

Accordingly, and in preparation for such eventualities we, as some of those committed to the renewal of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism have already started to meet, on behalf of our fellow Anglicans, to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future.

We now wish that we have done so to be more widely known.

Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration.

We will meet again, as planned and with external facilitation, mediation and episcopal advice, in October.

It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors.

We would value your prayers and any expressions of interest from those who feel they might be able to make a valuable contribution to our deliberations.

Anyone desiring to contact us can do so through any of the organisations or churches listed.

Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, Former Chaplain to the Queen
Mrs Lorna Ashworth, General Synod of the Church of England, Archbishops’ Council
Revd Nigel Atkinson, Vicar St John’s, Knutsford and Toft
Revd Andrew Bawtree, Chair of the House of Clergy, Diocese of Canterbury
Revd Mark Burkill, Chairman of Reform
Rt Revd John Ellison, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Rt Revd John Fenwick, Bishop Primus, Free Church of England
Rt Revd Josep Miquel Rossello Ferrer, Free Church of England
Ven Dr Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, Vicar St Mary’s Harmondsworth & PiC Anglican Igbo Church of the Holy Trinity, London
Rt Revd Paul Hunt, General Secretary, Free Church of England
Canon Nigel Juckes, Incumbent, Llandogo, Monmouth
Mr Daniel Leafe, Gafcon UK
Mrs Susie Leafe, Director of Reform
Rt Revd Andy Lines, ACNA Bishop with Special Mission
Revd David McCarthy, Coordinator of the Scottish Anglican Network
Revd Lee McMunn, Mission Director, Anglican Mission in England
Revd James Paice, Trustee, The Southwark Good Stewards Trust
Rt Revd Jonathan Pryke, Senior Minister Jesmond Parish Church, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Convenor of Anglican Partnership Synod
Ven Dr Will Strange on behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales
Revd Andrew Symes, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 9:02am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church in Wales | Church of England | Scottish Episcopal Church
Comments

The tl;dr is "we're going to scream and scream until we're sick".

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 10:53am BST

Simon, does this crowd really deserve your publicity?

Posted by: Jonathan Clatworthy on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 11:50am BST

Another big nothingburger. Mail them a "dummy" and send them on their way.

Posted by: Choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 12:15pm BST

When are the Archbishops going to do something about these so-called members of the Church of England who are sitting in dioceses undermining their properly consecrated Bishops and preaching of a bigoted God who bears no relation to Jesus Christ? Rouse up sirs!

Posted by: Cathy on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 12:20pm BST

Deserve publicity? Why not?

If people want to leave, they should.

And the general public might appreciate the CofE more, if such departures were better known.

One wonders, however, whether Mrs Lorna Ashworth is acting in accordance with her fiduciary duty of loyalty to the Church of England? Ditto Revd Andrew Bawtree and his fiduciary duty to his diocese?

This question in and of itself is good reason for their announcement to be publicized.

And one more: Given the announcement, what is the duty of the Archbishops?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 12:33pm BST

"Given the announcement, what is the duty of the Archbishops?"

That's a very good question, but not one with I suspect the answer you imply. The people signing this letter are opposed to pretty well every improvement in attitudes to same-sex relationships since 1967, and I suspect not a few of them would be quite keen on a return to the pre-1967 status quo ante. They are associated with Gafcon, which is quite happy to condone and, indeed, encourage violent hatred towards gay people.

So, what makes you think that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wouldn't support them? Neither of them are prepared to condemn the murder of gay people, neither of them are prepared to distance themselves from advocates of the murder, neither of them see any reason to improve the rights of gay Christians (or, in the case of Welby, the rights of gay atheists, as he opposed same-sex marriage) and both of them would be quite happy if all gay people would leave the church tomorrow morning.

You I suspect think they should take disciplinary action against schismatics. I agree: they should. However, I think that the archbishops would be very happy to welcome the above list into their houses, and think that the view expressed are normative Christianity.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 12:53pm BST

Jonathan Clatworhy asked “Simon, does this crowd really deserve your publicity?”.

In my opinion this is a significant posting and it needs to be noted.

For many years the fault line in the church has been between two extremes. At each end of the spectrum of opinion on LGBTQ issues there were a small percent of churchgoers who felt strongly enough to be actively engaged in the debate. In the middle were the vast majority of Anglicans who had various views, but who kept quiet about it. Both groups of activists assumed that this broad centre-ground (the silent majority) were quietly conservative.

But this is no longer the case. Over time the centre of gravity of the centre’s beliefs and opinions has moved significantly in the liberal direction. Some major opinion surveys have reported that the majority of churchgoing Anglicans are now comfortable with same sex relationships and even same sex marriage, and a number of recent General Synod debates and decisions have gone against the conservative world view.

It is vitally important that we all notice this significant shift of mainstream opinions and react to it.

The conservatives have certainly noticed. I think the recent thread “Conservative reactions to General Synod debates” is fascinating in this context. Both Rob Munro and Susie Leafe have noticed this change, as has Ian Paul. The long debate in the comments section below that thread has been about how to find reasons to discard and ignore sections of scripture you disagree with (by labeling it ceremonial rather than moral, for example). It seems to me that Susie Leafe and Ian Paul are now searching for reasons to discard and ignore those decisions of synod that they disagree with (“Meaningless except as tokenism”).

This new letter about a “faithful ecclesial future" is one more indication that the conservative groupings within Anglicanism are fully aware that they have now lost the argument on LGBTQ issues within the church, and are positioning accordingly. Those of us in the more liberal end of the church should note that with care, and think about the implications for us.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 12:54pm BST

i wonder why there is facilitation and mediation planned? Are they falling out already? It is also interesting to see who is not party to this letter. No +Maidstone or any Evangelical in the CofE hierarchy as far as I can see.

Posted by: Duncan Swan on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 1:07pm BST

A read through of the armours affiliations of these people "Anglican Mission in England", "Reform", "Free Church of England", not to mention "Jesmond" makes one wonder how many of these people identify at all with the actual Church of England or have any loyalty to a diocese or a bishop. It's rather sad to see this kind of threat and blackmail, and even sadder that it's all about keeping those nasty gays away. Catering or capitulating to these people will only make things worse. We've heard it all before and they should just continue to pool their ignorance and keep it to themselves.

Posted by: Adam Armstrong on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 1:58pm BST

I'm sad to see Will Strange on this list. When he was teaching at Wycliffe he always used to hammer home the importance of 'balance'. That's a long while ago now....

Posted by: Janet Fife on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 2:25pm BST

How sad and negative all this is. Yesterday I was at a brilliant conference at CMS Oxford on Pioneer Ministry on Housing Estates - multi-denominational and and a wide churchmanship. We heard stories of Christians engaging right at the edge, with other Christians, other faiths and no faith. This is what the Gospel is all about, not the gnat-straining of these self-appointed guardians of 'truth'. Perhaps the sensible clergy in the Canterbury Diocese will have a vote of no confidence in their chair? Similarly will members of the Archbishop's Council censure Lorna Ashworth? I hope so. It really is time that this vocal and threatening minority were challenged.

Posted by: John Wallace on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 2:57pm BST

I totally agree with the above comments. I hope the sensible voice love and compassion will come over strongly and that common sense will prevail. I wonder if the anti slavery movement had the same conservative backlash in times gone by?

Posted by: Paul Johnson on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 4:06pm BST

I think the game's up. The Free Church of England disapproves.

I know they're not part of the Anglican Communion and went into schism (and obscurity) in the 19th century, but hey...

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 4:18pm BST

Interested Observer, in this context I am not asking about agreement or disagreement as to political/moral questions.

My question is based purely on fiduciary duties to the Church of England.

Two of the signatories to the above letter are officers of Church of England entities. Mrs Lorna Ashworth is a member of General Synod and also of the Archbishops Council. Revd Andrew Bawtree is Chair of the House of Clergy, Diocese of Canterbury.

In those capacities, these two individuals owe duties of loyalty to the organisations of which they are officers.

Isn't a basic aspect of the duty of loyalty the obligation not to plan an alternative to the organisation you lead?

Think about that for a minute.

Even just taking the open letter at face value, if I want to express interest in this "faithful ecclesial future"--for which I read "faithful ecclesial alternative"--am I to contact, as the signers urge, the Archbishops Council? Or the Diocese of Canterbury?

Are we therefore to understand that the Archbishops Council and the Diocese of Canterbury support these discussions of a "faithful ecclesial future"?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 4:35pm BST

Where is Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams? I would have expected her to sign this type of document.

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 4:36pm BST

It does seem that the break-up of the Church of England is beginning. This looks rather similar to what happened in the USA ten years ago. I expect we will end up with an Anglican Church in England modelled on ACNA, and the residue of the Church of England which will always be mired in controversy.

Posted by: Paul Waddington on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 5:13pm BST

This appeared on Facebook:
from the Free Church of England:

Some responses to the letter have focussed on the possibility of a new Anglican jurisdiction being formed.

In fact there is nothing new about the idea of an alternative Anglican jurisdiction in the British Isles.

Such a jurisdiction already exists. The Free Church of England has maintained an orthodox Anglican witness here since the 1840s. There is nothing secret about it. The Church of England has had dialogues with us from time to time and recognises our Orders.

The Free Church of England’s witness has recently been augmented by the appointment of the Right Revd Andy Lines as a Missionary Bishop. Andy is a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, which is in full communion with the Free Church of England and the FCE bishops are in regular contact with him.

Earlier this year the Free Church of England hosted a Forum for Anglicans concerned about developments in the Church of England and Scottish Episcopal Church in particular. That meeting was attended by some who believe it right to continue to witness within the ‘official’ Provinces and those who are either already outside them or are considering taking that step. As the statement says, further meetings are planned. All involved are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of orthodox Anglican jurisdictions. The precise form those jurisdictions might take is one of the areas of discussion. The priority is to ensure that they enable the proclamation of the biblical Gospel within the Anglican patrimony.

+ John Fenwick
Bishop Primus

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 5:43pm BST

I think Jeremy is being a bit naive. If I want to show interest in this amazing initiative, do I contact the bishop of Newcastle or the curate of Jesmond who thinks he's the real bishop? Obviously, these self-important people are suffering from delusions of grandeur but are, in fact, irrelevant and have no authority within the Church of England.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 5:46pm BST

"In fact there is nothing new about the idea of an alternative Anglican jurisdiction in the British Isles. Such a jurisdiction already exists. "

Excuse me, are you the People's Front of Judea?

20 churches in England. 20 churches abroad. If the English churches have half the membership that was estimated for the FCE four years ago, that will be a sum total of 450 people in total, in England which is almost certainly very generous estimate. I suspect more people are members of your local bowls club.

I don't wish to be down on the small guy, but to suggest that is an alternative jurisdiction is rather like suggesting that the Monster Raving Loony Party are an alternative government in waiting.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 6:25pm BST

I believe that Andrea Minichiello Williams is a barrister and therefore that she may understand how self-incriminating this letter is.

I'm not being naive, FrDavidH; I'm simply pointing out how the signers themselves have invited inquiry to Church of England entities that should have nothing to do with this process.

Bishop Fenwick says, "The precise form those jurisdictions might take is one of the areas of discussion."

So, we now have it from one of the people involved. It's not just the "faithful ecclesial future" that's being discussed. More specifically, it's a "faithful ecclesial" _alternative_.

And that has, or should have, consequences in law.

You can, of course, plan a new jurisdiction. You can't do that and, at the same time, remain an officer of an entity that leads the Church of England.

I think Mrs Lorna Ashworth and Revd Andrew Bawtree should resign from their Church of England roles.

As South Carolina showed, the foxes must not be left in charge of the henhouse for long.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 6:35pm BST

"Isn't a basic aspect of the duty of loyalty the obligation not to plan an alternative to the organisation you lead?"

it is. For example, people have been thrown out of the Labour Party not merely for membership of proscribed organisations like Militant, but for the rather more banal "crime" of discussing electoral pacts with Greens at constituency level. It's quite clear that you cannot be a member of the Labour Party if you flirt with, never mind anything more substantive, other parties.

But the "right sort" of opposition to Labour is looked on more benignly. Ken Loach has recently funded and campaigned for a party which stood candidates against Labour, but that's excused on the grounds that he only opposed the "wrong sort" of Labour candidate, and he's pally with the leadership. Which is precisely what I'm accusing Welby et al of: that incipient schism is against the principles of the CofE and should be acted on immediately, but if you're the "right sort" of schismatic (evangelical and homophobic) then it's different and you'll be given latitude.

In Jesmod, someone declares themselve a bishop, and Welby and Sentamu do nothing. If instead they had conducted a same-sex marriage, we'd never hear the end of it. Different standards, you see.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 6:36pm BST

"As South Carolina showed, the foxes must not be left in charge of the henhouse for long."

Fun rhetoric, but

Not relevant and confusing analogy within CofE.

Posted by: crs on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 8:00pm BST

"It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors." diversity??!! maybe they mean more than 2 women; diversity of views - now that is unlikely!

Posted by: robert on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 8:16pm BST

"I wonder if the anti slavery movement had the same conservative backlash in times gone by?" Brother Paul, it certainly did in these United States - justified at length from Scripture.

"In fact there is nothing new about the idea of an alternative Anglican jurisdiction in the British Isles." Bishop Fenwick, that is a matter we across the pond will know less about. There are in North America any number of ecclesial communities identifying as Anglican or Episcopal in heritage, and most have some claim to the historic episcopate (albeit some quite dubious or at least convoluted; and hardly ever related to Canterbury). We have no church "by law established," and so the scandal of denominationalism is our norm, often publically lamented but rarely actually challenged. I don't know that we would know, over here to the west, about the scene in the UK. Perhaps that is a more active context for the Church of England than we would know.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 8:22pm BST

Simon Dawson, the recent Synod motions are significant progress, but we should remember that advocates of LGBT rights haven't yet won the argument: every single diocesan's signed up to the official position that all sexual relationships outside hetrosexual marriage are sinful, and all LGBT people must be celibate for life. Pressure's certainly building to overturn this odious doctrine, but with not a single diocesan willing to speak out against it, and any new teaching document not only delayed until at least 2020, but almost certain to reaffirm the position, it appears a long road ahead. (Unless it suddenly collapses, which is also possible.)

Why then are the con-evos panicking? 'Cause, like you say, they sense the middle ground's shifted, and the CofE's official position's soon gonna be flouted as openly as its canon on vestments. However long the road ahead, they see only one destination.

Far from condemning this, all advocates of equality should heartily welcome the exodus, and do all they can to assist them in setting up new structures. Sooner they're walled up in their City on a Hill, sooner they'll stop trying to impose their views on the rest of the land.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 8:23pm BST

The Paul Waddington comment seems to be saying that there will be two Churches in England: One will be aligned with ACNA and the other will be the "residue of the Church of England, which will alwasy be mired in controversy". In other words "The ACNA Church will be a glorious edifice of true faith where all are of one mind and will go from strength to strength, excluding and judging the unworthy sinners, while the residue, the small insignificant remainder, or the detritus of the CofE will survive in a perilous, fractious, and conflicted state. The Church of England will sink as a wreck, having foundered on the rocks of the error of supporting gay people and showing God's love for all. Fortunately the lifeboats sent by ACNA will be filled and little will remain of those who dwell in darkness and error. Really?

Posted by: Adam Armstrong on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 9:24pm BST

"every single diocesan's signed up to the official position that all sexual relationships outside hetrosexual marriage are sinful"

In the same way that every Catholic is signed up to the idea of using no contraception, presumably.

The Anglo-Catholic T S Eliot wrote, in The Hollow Men, "This is the way the world ends // Not with a bang but a whimper." And at the moment, the CofE is heading that way. No explosion, no implosion, no dramatic schism, not a gentle fading into irrelevance.

The Catholic Church in Ireland still has a lot of residual power, but same-sex marriage was approved by a referendum over the heads of vile bigotry from Catholic hierarchy (who sensed it was a tidal shift in their authority). Birth rates are higher than in the other post-Catholic countries but nonetheless below replacement. And as similar referendum outcome over abortion is likely in the next ten years, leaving Northern Ireland as, ironically, more papist than the papists.

There was no moment that historians can point to and say "on this day the Catholic Church lost its authority in Ireland", but over the course of a generation it just ebbed away, never to return.

The CofE is not as embedded in English life as the Catholic Church is in Ireland, and the process of disengagement has been going for longer. Outside the fetid imagination of the signatories to this letter, there is no longer public support for homophobia, and an openly homophobic church would become a quaint, but rather nasty, cult, held in something between grudging toleration and open contempt by the rest of the population. Like the BNP, banning it would be illiberal, but decent people wouldn't have anything to do with it. And that would be, it goes without saying, a tragic end to 500 years of history. And I use "tragic" in its fullest sense.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 10:40pm BST

"an openly homophobic church would become a quaint, but rather nasty, cult"

The Church of England would have been all that, but for Synod's actions this year.

Episcopally "led," but synodically governed. Thanks be to God!

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 3:09am BST

"Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration."

Note that a political rump often employs grandiose rhetoric.

"Rump, n. 1. The hind part of a mammal esp. the buttocks 2a. a small remnant of a parliament or similar body...." (The Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 4:20am BST

What I and many have learned about Christianity in general and a portion of Anglicanism is that nothing matters more than treating gay people as filth. The whole GAFCON/ACNA "movement" will make many other excuses for its existence, but excluding and hating gay people is what actually drives them. It's a sad caricature of Christianity that many see as the real thing. What does it say about the Gospel of love and compassion when large numbers of people see it instead a licence to exclude with absolutely no regret or concern. It seems to be a kind of homophobic sickness that consumes them. It's very discouraging in the 21st Century to see this kind lack of charity and outright venom directed against one group, whose only sin is to have been born. I'm very sad to see this never ending silliness. Sometimes it makes one question what really does motivate some people and what kind of Gospel they have heard, let alone practice and teach. They may be a minority, but a vocal and determined one with no scruples or principles when it comes to keeping the doors shut and the drawbridge up.

Posted by: Richard Grand on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 4:26am BST

From past experience, I know it is risky saying anything here in support of "traditional marriage". Judging by the present comments, one risks being condemned for "vile bigotry", "treating gay people as filth", "encouraging violent hatred" and at the very least guilty of homophobia. A letter in last week's Church Times referred to the intolerance displayed by some "liberals" in General Synod and that intolerance seems to be growing. As for some of the remarks made on this site, I only know of gafcon representatives here in my Diocese of Sydney and they certainly have never encouraged "violent hatred". Gafcon of course represents a very large number of world-wide Anglican and Episcopalian bishops (not necessarily a very large number of individual Anglicans)- and it is the ACNA that is recognised by my Diocese (and, for many years, both the C.of E. in South Africa and the Church of the Province). I am myself theologically more radical and agnostic probably than almost all of the commentators (though obviously culturally conservative)- a priest of the Australian Church, an adherent of the Uniting Church, and a long-time member of the historic (unitarian Christian) King's Chapel, Boston - and ministering at 81 still to all sorts and conditions as an honorary hospital and ex-service chaplain. I have suffered from the intolerance of Sydney, holding the Archbishop's licence but for many years barred from doing anything in my local church because of alleged heresy - a Diocese still not quite monochrome but so often still truly ignorant and unloving. However, the Christian Church in general and our Anglican Churches in particular have never been always neat, nice, and tidy - nor was the Church in the 1st century where there were great divisions on major issues. I can live with that, without it worrying me, happy to worship in any moderate Christian Church, whether in communion with Canterbury or Calathumpia or not, but welcoming the moves by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others in the Church of England, with diverse views, to speak more courteously and to walk more gently and inclusively (in a very wide sense), seeking to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace... and not getting too fussed, as the disciples did occasionally, about others who minister in the name of Jesus in their own way and alongside. (And remembering in our world today, there are Christians of all sorts who in more than one part of the world really suffer in very large numbers hunger, homelessness, desolation, violence, rape, removal, and unrelieved sicknesses, and whose need is so great. Every week I meet some who have managed to get here, from Iraq and Syria and Egypt - and they are the Christians who impress me above all others and help one to get some sense of proportion.)

Posted by: John Bunyan on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 8:02am BST

James Byron. You are right to say that although the centre ground of opinion within synod, and within the membership of the CofE, has shifted significantly in a liberal direction on LGBTQ issues, we have not yet won the argument. The House of Bishops and those at a senior level of Church management have not yet caught up with that change, although they seem to be aware that they have lost control, and lost authority, in this area.

That as why I wrote "Those of us in the more liberal end of the church should note [this change] with care, and think about the implications for us."

I would argue that it needs a change of behaviour from us. We need to stop obsessing about the words and actions of the increasingly powerless conservative minority (an obsession demonstrated in the comments on this thread), and obsess with equal intensity on the words and actions of those with the power, the bishops and archbishops. We need to demand that their behaviour reflects the new reality in the church.

Many years ago I was a member of the group that campaigned for, and achieved, the overthrow of the ban on homosexuals serving in the UK Armed Forces. One significant stage in that campaign came after the European Court ruled that the ban was unlawful. The Ministry of Defence hierarchy realised that they had no choice but to develop new policy to manage how gay men and women would be employed, and that they needed expert help in creating this policy. And so they invited members of our campaign group to advise them. After many years of campaigning against the senior management of the Ministry of Defence, we then put on our best suits, traveled to Whitehall, and sat in various groups and meetings to help develop the new policy. It was anamazing turnaround, but a credit to those mandarins that they could ask for, and accept, our help.

We now need to persuade the senior management of the CofE that we are the experts here, and the only way thta this situation will be resolved is if those of us with experience of living as LBBTQ people within the church are within the meetings and commitees where these things are being decided.


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 8:59am BST

Simon Dawson - "Some major opinion surveys have reported that the majority of churchgoing Anglicans are now comfortable with same sex relationships and even same sex marriage"

Where are these opinion polls? I only saw polls that included vast numbers of non-churchgoing Anglicans...

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 10:16am BST

The signatories are of course free to dissent from the line taken by Synod, and take whatever action they see fit; there have of course been many people over the centuries who have found the Church of England to be 'pursuing principles, values and practices contrary to Holy Scripture and church Tradition' but then often got into a lot of trouble for challenging it. This is only the latest in a whole host of doctrinal disputes, many of which are still around, but rarely discussed these days!

The Church has usually accommodated profound social changes, not just in relation to marriage or gender identity, so the unanimous voting of the House of Bishops in the February Synod only accentuated how out of step they seemed to be, not only with society as a whole but with their own direct reports - the non-episcopal clergy. It looked pretty awful for them, not just in terms of the discrepancy of voting between the houses, but also due to the strong reactions against the take note report expressed in the debates.

The decision to take the progressive side in the most recent Synod suggests an attempt to engage in listening and pragmatic reasoning. But it is against a backdrop of a deep estrangement between the Church and nation. Much ink has been spilt over the last couple of decades on the hermeneutic interpretation of Lambeth 1:10, referencing a tiny set of biblical verses but generating a slew of documentation and associated discourse. The more papers that are added to the pile - which have increased in volume, frequency and ferocity over the years - the harder it becomes to proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation: Issues then Some Issues; the Windsor Report and Anglican Covenant; the House of Bishops' official responses to equality legislation, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage; the Pilling Report; the Pemberton vs. Diocese of Southwell judgment; the report on the Shared Conversations and now the threatened 2020 teaching document.

The accretion of all these (what are bound to be interpreted as) fundamentally anti-LGBT texts not only alienates many within the Church but accentuates the separation between the Church and wider society. But even more damagingly, their combined effect on a large body of individuals is more widespread than on the relatively few people who undergo conversion therapy. So taking the archbishop of York's advice to vote first and work out the theology later so that consciences can be preserved might be the least harmful course of action in future debates on equal marriage.


Posted by: Andrew on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 12:29pm BST

Simon, My first reaction to this post was , let them go boil there heads, here they go again, sound and fury signifying nothing.. But today have just read your post. All credit to Whitehall and the Military in doing the sensible thing, and seeking your views and advice.
Yes it would be positive if the 'management' of the Church of England did a similar thing. But they are afraid so to do. Even more so when they now look north across the border, and see the results of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Brought about by meaniful cascade conversations, where LGBTI folk were listened to, and the positive move forward to make us all welcome as per the Gospel.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 2:39pm BST

@John Bunyan: I am aware that the phrase "treating gay people as filth" seems extreme. But it is accurate and it may help to be blunt in telling the truth.

Posted by: Richard Grand on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 2:42pm BST

Andrew, that is well put--though many would say that the theological work has already been done, many times over.

The bishops want to temporize, but as you point out, with each round the CofE just keeps painting itself into a smaller corner.

There's a lot of distinctly unattractive archiepiscopal and episcopal virtue signalling at work here. And the signals are designed to be received not by anyone in England, but by the Global South. Naturally this leads to a widening gap, in England, between church and society.

As you rightly say, each round of signalling--and each passing year--has a human cost in England (where, of course, the bishops' flocks are).

Unlike the Arch/bishops, the Houses of Clergy and Laity have no Communion role to maintain. In that sense, the clergy and laity are unconflicted; they therefore find it easier to act.

Here's to more leadership from below.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 4:06pm BST

I think that over the long haul episcopal leadership tends to react and is shaped by the church as a whole and the direction it is moving in. The notion that bishops can impose a view doesn't hold water. They also know that subsidiarity if not granted will ultimately be claimed. There is now a clear direction of travel, led and endorsed by the North Western bishops (Bayes, Walker but not yet the +Chester). The road will be bumpy. A lot also depends on the course of action that the very conservative evangelicals take. If the bishops can't hold them then they will become free to take a more progressive stance.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 7:21pm BST

In the light of a reference to my case in Andrew's comment it is perhaps worth reminding TA readers that this case is not yet over. It comes before the Court of Appeal early next year.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 11:33pm BST

This vision of a "faithful ecclesial future" rather reminds me of the old medievalists' joke about the Holy Roman Empire: an entity that notoriously was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.

Posted by: rjb on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 4:21am BST

Andrew, the current Bishop of Chester is now 67 years of age and has been in office for 21 years. He has less than 3 years to go before he reaches his three score years and ten and may well wish to complete a quarter of a century as Chester's diocesan. My guess is that he will be replaced by someone of a more liberal outlook, someone who holds views not dissimilar to those of the present bishops of Liverpool and Manchester. In the 1960s we used to talk about Southbank Christianity. In the 21st century there appears to be emerging a North Western Christianity.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 9:14am BST

I regard myself as socially and theologically radical, and liturgically conservative. It’s the liturgical aspects of what goes on in the contemporary C of E that give me a smidgeon of sympathy for these people. I think liturgy matters: common actions, choral speech, ritual of some sort, whether flag-waving, censing, or whatever. Liturgy held the C of E together for centuries. BCP collects taught people in the absence of a magisterium. Both have gone to varying degrees—almost entirely in some places. So what is left? My psychopathology is such that I like reading profiles of parishes seeking priests. Many give the impression of being embarrassed about the few services remaining that use formal liturgy. Many are extravagant in their enthusiasm for messy church, pet services, and so on. Many seem proud that the clergy do not robe. The profligate use of exclamation marks gives me a whiff of patronising in-jokes that would make me run a mile, and scream of “Sunday morning at the London Palladium”. And I’m struck by the enthusiasm with which chocolate and cake are viewed as mission tools, or rather, perhaps, as feeding the complacency of those whose Sunday morning hobby is attendance at that particular church with that particular group of people.

I contrast this with my former professional life as a professor of anatomy in which practicals were run on liturgical lines where students were secure in the rituals of how the cadavers for dissection should be treated, and what they, the students, were expected to do in, and gain from, each practical. This framework of ritual allowed a relaxed and widely praised (by students) atmosphere in which each student learnt as best suited him/her, and the staff had the sense that they were valued and respected.

At the age of 67 I look around and wonder which church will suit me in retirement. I see no real alternative in this town but to join the Catholics. The liturgy is there, the preaching is sound, and the magisterium is what it is. I can take or leave bits of that.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William) on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 9:30am BST

Laurence Tibbet, thanks for your question about opinion polls questioning the views on homosexuality and same sex marriage amongst Anglicans. I agree that it can be difficult to determine whether those who define themselves as Anglican within the survey are active churchgoers or not.

It is very clear that a majority of self defined Anglicans (whether church goers or not) are now sympathetic to same sex relationships. For example:

http://www.natcen.ac.uk/news-media/press-releases/2017/february/half-of-anglicans-believe-there-is-nothing-wrong-with-same-sex-relationships/

Of the surveys I am aware of, only Linda Woodhead attempts to separate out church going from non church going Anglicans. She reports that in her survey "Despite the churches’ official opposition to gay marriage, British Christians who identify as Anglican, Catholic or Presbyterian are now in favour of allowing same-sex marriage by a small margin. Amongst active churchgoers, support for allowing same-sex marriage is slightly lower, but still high. Forty percent of Anglicans are in favour and 47% against. Forty-two percent of Catholics are in favour, 48% against."

But that survey was conducted in 2013, and it is (I think) safe to assume that attitudes have shifted slowly in the favourable direction since then.

http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/events/programme_events/show/press_release_do_christians_really_oppose_gay_marriage

Best wishes

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 10:52am BST

@rjb: Excellent point, but I think the old medievalist was Voltaire.

Posted by: Froghole on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 12:24pm BST

@ Jeremy: "Here's to more leadership from below".

But the House of Laity voted *for* taking note of the bishop's report...? When have the bishops and laity been on opposing sides on sexuality motions in Synod this year?

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 3:26pm BST

Couldn't agree more about ignoring the semi-schismatic ultra-conservative rump, Simon. They don't hold the keys to change in England (and with it, the wider communion): as you rightly say, it's the bishops. Good point about convincing them that LGBT-affirming groups are the experts here.

With the carrot needs to be the stick that, if they refuse to budge, they'll be bypassed. Evangelicals leave bishops under no illusions about who runs the church, and don't hesitate to use cash and numbers as incentives. The affirming camp must be every bit as unflinching, and make clear that the cowed, ashamed people who allowed Higton and 'Issues ...' through are a distant memory.

Thankfully, with affirming evangelicals now so prominent, that change is fast coming.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 6:34pm BST

Heres some additional facts..the free Church of England ( which had a thousand members and about 22 churches) split after John Fenwick became a bishop....he was too high church, and there are now two Free Church of England's and neither side can afford to sue each other.The evangelical faction against Fenwick has a bishop who is former Roman Catholic priest.

The Free Church of England only acknowledges 37 articles of religion.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 7:42pm BST

Thank you for that Jeremy. I had been wondering ever since Justin Gau's reference to it in a recent address in Cambridge (Thinking Anglicans 31 May 2017). May it go well for you.

Posted by: RPNewark on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 8:54pm BST

Re Stanley Monkhouse, "The liturgy is there, the preaching is sound, and the magisterium is what it is. I can take or leave bits of that." Just like most Roman Catholics, so you will blend into the cafeteria very nicely.

Re Robert Ian Williams, "The Free Church of England only acknowledges 37 articles of religion." Which is way more than acknowledged by most Anglicans.

It is unfortunate to see good people become so obsessed about one issue that they would join a marginal break away entity. It would be much better if they invested in therapy and/or joined one of the major existing bodies i.e Orthodox (since A.D. 33) or Rome.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 21 July 2017 at 11:42pm BST

Laurence Tibbet, you are correct in terms of numbers but not I think in terms of energy.

And of course in the take-note debate it only took one non-episcopal House to show the leadership from below that was required.

Perhaps I am optimistic, but I do believe that the House of Laity is persuadable.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 12:55am BST

Correction ..the evangelical faction of the Free Church of England has now lost its bishop. He is now advertising his church as liturgical and congregational.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 8:24am BST

Fr William: I sympathise with your dilemma! As a retired priest with a phobia for exclamation marks, I mourn the disappearance of the Church into which I was ordained 44 years ago. What was once a dignified Church for grown-ups has become an "Evangelical Sect for Dummies"; lacking in a sense of the numinous, it's become more like a Sunday morning entertainment, with simplistic and pat explanations for life's mysteries, where an Alpha course with a pasta salad will easily provide the Meaning of Everything. If I were you, I would simply help out when and where you can in retirement. As for the homophobic and superficial "Sunday Morning at the London Palladium", it's best to close one's eyes and pretend it isn't there.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 10:28am BST

'It is unfortunate to see good people become so obsessed about one issue that they would join a marginal break away entity. It would be much better if they invested in therapy and/or joined one of the major existing bodies i.e Orthodox (since A.D. 33) or Rome.'

Conservative evangelicals are hardly likely likely to join RC or Orthodox churches. FIEC (Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches), maybe?

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 11:54am BST

Well said Fr David. As a Lancashire born lad (Blackburn) I would like to see the North West in the vanguard of a more progressive and radical Christianity with southern allies in Southwark and Salisbury with other dioceses finding their confidence.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 12:53pm BST

Re Janet Fife, I was thinking in part about the comment by Stanley Monkhouse, "I see no real alternative in this town but to join the Catholics." But sure, whatever.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 1:56pm BST

FrDavidH, I was thinking more in terms of being ministered to, to which I look forward. But yes, I shall help out as and when. As for being or becoming a cafeteria Christian/Catholic, I've been one of them since I found out that the earth isn't flat and snakes don't talk. So that's 60 years, give or take. Not a bother.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 9:02pm BST

Getting away from gay people by joining other churches seems a strange way of dealing with the issue in one's own life. Your worship and spiritual life have no deeper basis than this? This is the one issue above all others in this world that would demand such drastic action? Refuges, climate change, violence and oppression, human trafficking, poverty, etc.,,are easy to manage (or avoid), but same-sex issues are quite another thing.

Posted by: Richard Grand on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 9:58pm BST

Do add +Lincoln's (uncalled) speech for Synod (now on the dicoesan website and to which TA posted a link some weeks ago) to the roll of those calling for change.

Posted by: David Rowett on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 10:11pm BST

They won't leave. They will stop paying more than the minimum they have to cover their costs in their parishes.

Posted by: SCooper on Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 11:51pm BST

Re: Stanley Monkhouse, "... and snakes don't talk." But if they could just imagine the stories they might spin ( :

Biblical mythologies notwithstanding, I simply wanted to encourage your notion that joining an existing ecclesial body, is preferable further rending the Body of Christ with yet another Christian boutique. In the end we all practice a selective Christianity, no?

Re: Richard Grand, " Getting away from gay people by joining other churches seems a strange way of dealing with the issue in one's own life." Quite right. Besides, you can run but you can't hide, not even in Rome.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/new-ways-ministry-sees-hope-and-frustration-lgbt-catholics

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 12:40am BST

There are over 20,000 ordained priests in the Church of England, and yet we focus so much attention on this little press release by about 14 of them?

Also, I question their use of the word 'tragedy' which is a frequently over-used word. The death of 80 people in the Grenfell tower was a tragedy. Banning gay conversion therapy really isn't.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 12:00pm BST

Rod Gillis, yes indeed! Agree 200%

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 4:55pm BST

Re: Susannah Clark, "...yet we focus so much attention on this little press release by about 14 of them?" Good question. Wonder what forms the basis of an adequate answer?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 5:49pm BST

Rod, I suggest that part of the answer is to just keep concentrating on what our own consciences and beliefs tell us, and act according to that conscience, rather than obsessing on what a small coterie of people believe, affording them disproportionate attention and significance. I believe, people just believe what they believe, and the call on our lives is to open our hearts to God's love and God's grace whatever way we can. I don't believe the signatories of that little press release are 'others'. I believe they are Christians, and as such, may God bless them on their journey. But the focus of this person's conscience (mine) is to try to find grace to live according to my conscience, and to try to open to the love of God. The answer is nearly always: opening our hearts to the love, the grace, the healing of God.

For those of us who are LGBT+, that means treasuring and valuing who we are, and who we love, and it also means loving people who think differently to us, but not letting them sway us from championing the decent and God-given lives we try to live.

This championing - and demonstration of good living - becomes a creative force, a dynamic, and may change the kind of Church we belong to, and the absolute key is love, even towards those who alienate our lives and identities. Because God, after all, is love.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 10:52pm BST

Re: Susannah Clark, good answer!

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 2:57am BST

"and yet we focus so much attention on this little press release by about 14 of them?"

Yes, we do. For at least 3 reasons.

1. Their interpretation of Synod's decisions proves that this year is one of momentous change in the Church of England's understanding of itself. The take-note debate was like a dam bursting, and the theological conservatives are having trouble processing what they regard as a breakdown in natural order and divine authority. So this release is interesting as an example, a case study, of the church-culture dialectic.

2. How these open-letter-signers resolve this (to them) crisis shows every sign of liberating the Church of England from their influence. How many times has, e.g., Mrs. Lorna Ashworth sought to play Synod warrior at the expense of LGBT people, and to represent the CofE in the public press? If she departs, the CofE will be relieved of one of its heaviest public-outreach millstones.

3. The implications for Lambeth 2020 could be very interesting. Just as elements within the Church of England must now make a choice, so too must elements of the Anglican Communion. They will be whispered to by the CofE departers, desperate to justify their departure in stark terms. The more credulous and authoritarian may stay away from Lambeth 2020--because they realize that the liberal provinces will ignore conservative Lambeth resolutions, and that Cantuar is in no position to play enforcer. As a result, the Communion may become smaller, but it will be more theologically Anglican, better able to offer the charism of Anglicanism to the larger Church. I for one can't wait.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 4:30am BST

My time away from "Planet Church" on Sabbatical leave is now drawing to its conclusion. To
re-acclimate myself back into the Church of England and all its ways, through the good offices of Amazon (Incidentally, in addition to being the name of a river and a book depository that was also the name given to Arthur Lowe's favourite drink. An Amazon consists of Gin, Ginger Ale and one slice, not two, of cucumber) I have just received the third volume in the Lindchester trilogy by Catherine Fox, who is married to the Bishop of Sheffield (Pete Wilcox). I've just finished reading "January". In this section, Chapter 4, page 25, Dr. Jane Rossiter (Lecturer at Linden University, married to Matt Tyler, Archdeacon of Lindchester) imparts this particular pearl of wisdom:-
"'Basically, if we hadn't exported our English obsession with criminalizing buggery, we wouldn't have this headache now, would we?'
'Mmmm.'"
I think this academic may well have a point as this particular issue has dominated the ministries of Archbishops Carey, Williams and Welby to the exclusion of much else. Not that I am suggesting any kind of reversal but the issue does tend to take up and control much Anglican thought, time and energy, not least on the T. A. blog.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 9:04am BST

Thank you for that response, Jeremy - and for your views and insightful perspectives week by week on this website.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 9:11am BST

Susannah Clark, thank you so much for bringing us back to the essentials and core of our faith. I am printing out your answer and putting it up in my study so I am constantly reminded where my focus should be:

"But the focus of this person's conscience (mine) is to try to find grace to live according to my conscience, and to try to open to the love of God. The answer is nearly always: opening our hearts to the love, the grace, the healing of God"

Posted by: Anne Lee on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 10:33am BST

Thank you, Susannah. You tend to be more eirenic than I, which is admirable.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 24 July 2017 at 5:04pm BST

Simon Dawson - Thank you. So the statement, "Some major opinion surveys have reported that the majority of churchgoing Anglicans are now comfortable with same sex relationships and even same sex marriage", is not true, is it? We have absolutely zero 'major' opinion surveys that say that.

I don't doubt that there is high support among churchgoing Anglicans in the UK, but the evidence we do have suggests that support is still in the minority. And that's before getting into the nitty gritty of what 'churchgoing' means. If 'churchgoing' makes for a statistical difference against support, it's safe to assume that greater churchgoingness will amount to a greater difference (i.e. the more regular and committed churchgoer is less likely to be in favour of same sex marriage than the casual churchgoer).

Best

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 9:07am BST

@Jeremy - "you are correct in terms of numbers but not I think in terms of energy".

I'd have thought it unthinking to get into "energy". We had energy about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign! Perhaps there's a (good) chance that this "energy" will translate to hard facts indicating that the bishops are out of touch. For now, the hard facts indicate that the House of Clergy are the ones who are out of touch - with those above and with those below.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 9:17am BST

"We have absolutely zero 'major' opinion surveys that say that." 'Laurence Tibbet'

The British Social Attitudes survey is about as major as you can get short of the Census.

I'm really not sure why you wish to distinguish between 'non-churchgoing' and 'churchgoing' Anglicans. Anglicans are not Calvinists. The ecclesiology of an established church ( in England at least) is such that those who self-identity as Anglicans *are* Anglicans,regardless of how often their bum touches a pew. Some Anglicans are not more Anglican than others. The Anglican Church is not the property - temporal or spiritual- of those who hog the pews (or comfy seats) every week: all Anglicans have a vested interest. I thought this Puritan ecclesiology had been laid to rest after the devastation it caused this country in the 17th Century. Evidently not.


"For now, the hard facts indicate that the House of Clergy are the ones who are out of touch"

Would you care to provide references for these 'hard facts'?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 4:57pm BST

"For now, the hard facts indicate that the House of Clergy are the ones who are out of touch - with those above and with those below."

Where do you get this notion?

The "hard facts" include the June votes. Those show the House of Clergy in the middle ground between the Bishops and the Laity.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 5:41pm BST

@Fr Andrew - the British Social Attitudes survey can be as major as it wants to be. Only it doesn't say what Simon Dawson says - I.e. that "the majority of churchgoing Anglicans are now comfortable with same sex relationships and even marriage".

If you look above you'll see that I'm only responding to someone else using the adjective "churchgoing" Anglican. If you don't like the adjective because of what it implies, you're free to take it up with Simon Dawson. Fwiw, it's a pretty obvious distinction that a survey rightly picks up on. There's room in the established Church to distinguish between communicant members and others, while Anglicans who sit on PCC, give financially and have a deep psychological attachment to the Church are more likely to shape the Church than those who don't.

Again, if you look above, the "hard facts" are the only Synodical hard facts we have about how those "from below" currently feel about same sex issues in the Church - in the take note vote in February, the House of Laity voted in favour of taking note. Contrary to Jeremy's assertion, it is the House of Clergy that are out of touch with the laity, not the bishops.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 8:56pm BST

@Jeremy - But earlier you conceded that I was correct in terms of numbers...? Where do the June votes show that the bishops are out of touch with those "from below"? It seems they voted in unison on the major gender and sexuality motions.

In the February vote, however, the House of Laity voted with the bishops. Your original assertion is that the bishops are out of touch because they are too concerned with the wider Communion. But when we look at the vote (the hard facts we have available - preferable in any case to "energy"), the clergy did their own thing while the bishops and laity voted together. Yes, more leadership from below please.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 9:06pm BST

As I understand anglicanism the key to how it thinks is based on scripture, tradition and reason.

Conservative anglicans seem to argue that for the bulk of the christian era tradition and how scripture is interpreted means we shouldn't accept LGBT arguments.

If I've characterised their arguments fairly - then what I've never understood is why conservatives aren't arguing for the return of slavery.

Can anybody point me at how they argue scripture and tradition = no to LGBT but not yes to slavery?

Thanks in advance to any pointers ....

Posted by: Jon Smith on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 9:26pm BST

@Laurence, you were correct in terms of numbers on the February take-note vote. You were not correct in terms of energy, as the June procedure (and votes) proved.

The vote in February was on a report from the bishops. It failed.

The votes in June were on (1) a private member's motion (from a lay member) and (2) a diocesan synod motion. Both succeeded.

Looks like leadership from below to me!

Perhaps this is the way for the Church of England to keep moving forward the ball that the bishops want to kick into the long grass.

All power to Synod members and to diocesan synods.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 11:55pm BST

Jon, it's not an Anglican book, but in terms of handling the biblical material on the two issues from a conservative viewpoint, William J. Webb's book 'Women, Slaves, and Homosexuals' (IVP, 2001, also available on Kindle), addresses the question you have raised. I'd hesitate to attempt to summarize the reasoning of the book, but I thought your question deserved a reply.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 12:11am BST

Jon - this very issue is currently being debated on this site: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-church-changed-its-mind-on-slavery-why-not-on-sex/#comments

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 6:44am BST

Mr Smith -- this might help you. Chattel slavery was held as evil and unscriptural by vast swaths of Christians, which is why it was brought down as an institution. The link will point you to the relevant historical works.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-bible-and-same-sex-relationships-a-review-article

Posted by: crs on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 6:45am BST

Laurence Tibbet. For the sake of clarity here - I fully accept your challenge to my use of survey results in my comment above. I was insufficiently clear about the distinction between "Anglicans" and "Churchgoing Anglicans" within the various surveys. So you were right to question what evidence can be gained from such surveys.

But I still stand by my main thesis, that we should act as if the broad centre ground of opinion within the Church of England has now moved strongly in a direction very sympathetic to LGBT+ issues, and is now in favour of same sex relationships and marriage.

I base my comments not only on survey results, but on the actions within synod and other such bodies, and on the personal experiences of those of us who live openly in the church as same sex married couples.

I also base my comments on my experience (mentioned above) of working on overturning the ban on homosexuality within the UK Armed Forces. It was interesting then that we were so focused on the implacable opposition of the small conservative pressure group that we failed to pay attention to the broad but silent centre ground of opinion, and we totally failed to notice that its opinion had shifted over the years, and was now in our favour.

Perhaps within the church, now, the biggest obstacle to change is a failure on our part to believe that such a change is possible, or a failure to recognise that such a change is happening, or has already happened.

With best wishes

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 9:20am BST

@Jeremy - thanks for clarifying. The bishop's report failed because the House of Clergy opposed it. I'll say it again: laity were with bishops and voted for it to succeed (a majority in Synod altogether).

On the July Synod, there are two issues. Firstly, no motions were passed that the bishops didn't overwhelmingly vote for. It's illogical to say that these votes prove that the bishops are out of touch, given that nothing was proposed that they were not happy to vote in favour of. Secondly, the claim about energy and momentum doesn't hold as easily as you'd like it to. Both motions weren't in any real danger of not passing - of course the vast majority in Synod are not in favour of invasive gay cure therapies, and of course Synod wouldn't stand in the way of the HoB merely "considering" whether they might commission a new liturgy (the odds are they won't - why would you be optimistic that they will if you're so convinced that they are out of touch?). In truth, they are hollow motions that achieve nothing more than a symbolic victory. They're great at spooking conservatives, sweeping up synodical swing voters and creating a false sense of "energy"; but they don't of themselves actually achieve anything. The bishops will kick it into the long grass and wait for the next quinquennium --> little for you to celebrate.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 10:26am BST

> At the age of 67 I look around and wonder which church will suit me in retirement. I see no real alternative in this town but to join the Catholics. The liturgy is there, the preaching is sound, and the magisterium is what it is. I can take or leave bits of that.

Surely the whole point about the magisterium is that if you become an RC you have to swallow it whole?

Posted by: Robin on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 11:06am BST

'Surely the whole point about the magisterium is that if you become an RC you have to swallow it whole?'

Only in the same sense that any Anglican has to 'swallow' the Anglican magisterium on same-sex marriage etc? Or am I missing something?

If I became a Catholic I'd be gritting my teeth about lots of things. But as an Anglican I have to do that too. We've just got to get on with living out our faith in the most congenial context.

Posted by: David Emmott on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 1:24pm BST

@Simon Dawson - I'm sympathetic to what you're saying and it's certainly possible that your sense is correct. I'd only caution against putting too much stock on personal experience. Recent political events have taught us at least two things: that the silent centre is less progressive than we imagine; and that the our own subjective sense of how "common people" feel about things often arises from the impenetrable ideological silos we create for ourselves.

The take note vote in February can be spun as a victory for the affirming side, but the reality of the matter is that the majority in Synod voted affirminitvely on the bishops report. There's little reason to assume that, if a change of marriage doctrine were on the Synodical table, this majority would flip the other way. And to assume that the votes in July signal change on *this* issue (the solemnisation or blessing of same sex marriage) is a non sequitur of the highest order - it's perfectly plausible and reasonable for people to reject invasive gay cure therapy and to want the bishops to "consider" liturgical provision for transgendered people without changing their view on marriage.

Best wishes

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 1:30pm BST

Laurence, you have stated your view. I disagree with it. Time will tell.

And I suspect sooner than you think. Unless I am widely mistaken, the June motions won't be the last instances of leadership from below.

At Synod, the House of Bishops is being led--and not by any bishop. By the other Houses.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 2:39pm BST

Surely the issue WRT slavery is not that people today find it morally wrong, or that some Christians did so in the past, but rather than for centuries slavery was not only tolerated but ardently defended by a majority of Christian church bodies. As recently as the nineteenth century, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont John Henry Hopkins wrote what many considered a definitive defense of the institution of slavery, on biblical, theological, and historical grounds. I commend reading his work on the subject rather than modern analyses, which tend to be skewed by a false perspective. That is, if you want to get an idea of the mindset of his time.

In any case, it is evident that minds can change on subjects regardless of the biblical "clarity" alleged by even considerable consensus of earlier times.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 3:18pm BST

> 'Surely the whole point about the magisterium is that if you become an RC you have to swallow it whole?'

> Only in the same sense that any Anglican has to 'swallow' the Anglican magisterium on same-sex marriage etc? Or am I missing something?

You're missing something. On becoming an RC, the candidate has to aver that he/she believes and confesses all that the [RC] Church believes and teaches. There's no such thing as an Anglican magisterium (thank God), and hence no such undertaking is required.

Posted by: Robin J Angus on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 4:01pm BST

@Jeremy - "the House of Bishops is being led... by the other Houses".

If that perception were true - and your evidence that it is is ethereal - it would be an intolerable state of affairs in an 'episcopally led' Church.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 7:00pm BST

"it would be an intolerable state of affairs in an 'episcopally led' Church"

Why?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 8:20pm BST

Re sundry posts above, slavery was supported by the institutional churches. We have had to apologize for it,as we have had to for so many dreadful things.


https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/feb/09/religion.world

The beginning of slavery in North America, for example, is virtually co-incidental with the founding of the Jamestown colony in Virginia, as one learns when visiting there. If you have not had the opportunity, here is a NPS link.

https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/the-royal-african-company-supplying-slaves-to-jamestown.htm


The abolition of slavery had more to do with the enlightenment and the advancement of machinery over manual labour than it did with Christianity, which has so often been dragged kicking and screaming into modernity.

Hopefully, homophobia will be expunged from one of its last outposts in the democratic west i.e. organized religion.

Regarding the notion of accepting the R.C. magisterium, Catholics are adept and at peace with "cafeteria Catholicism". Church teaching on birth control is almost completely ignored by practicing Catholics. Women, not aging male celibates in the Vatican, are making their own decisions on reproductive rights.

Homophobia in both mainstream and splinter Anglicanisms is largely a male phenomena, no?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 9:26pm BST

"...ardently defended by a majority of Christian church bodies."

This is false and misleading. Nyssa condemned it outright. Read the recent piece by Keller in the link and see the views of Augustine et al. "Ardently defended" by the classic tradition? Hardly.

Debt slavery is also not chattel slavery, and the latter is roundly condemned as kidnapping in the OT. Our reflexive understanding of slavery is in reality kidnapping, or purchase from indigenous muslim slavetraders. Measured against this usual human atrocity, the OT was a stranger amongst grand and ferocious power-wielding on the ANE map.


Posted by: crs on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 7:12am BST

"Regarding the notion of accepting the R.C. magisterium, Catholics are adept and at peace with "cafeteria Catholicism"."

Mr Emmott -- Sounds like you have a green light!

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 7:27am BST

@Jeremy - for the same reason that it would intolerable and nonsensical for sheep to lead the shepherd. You'd have to undo the whole purpose and function of bishops to the point where they'd no longer be bishops.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:06am BST

Re Tobias Haller, " ...modern analyses, which tend to be skewed by a false perspective ...you want to get an idea of the mindset of his time." Not either/ or but both.

One wants a grip on what was going forward in a particular mind. But one would want to compare that with what was going forward elsewhere at the same time. Additionally, one wants to work at what was going forward in both position and counter position in relation to contemporary insight. Otherwise, we are left with raw data without judgement and responsible action.

Notwithstanding, I agree with your position regarding the historic complicity of Christianity with slavery, which the church supported with references to sacred texts, in its earliest canons, in the rationalizations of foundational thinkers, e.g. Augustine and Aquinas.

Truth telling is both a prerequisite to and a consequence of repentance and reconciliation. The truth is we belong to a religion which embraced patriarchy, the doctrine of discovery, colonialism, slavery. The vectors operative in our past on this subject remain with regard to homophobia i.e. failures in the areas of sociological, religious and empirical insight.

Those who lag behind might better join an existing, albeit mistakenly conservative ecclesial one, in that it offers them a shot at continuing dialectic engagement -something they appear to want to avoid.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 3:16pm BST

CRS, Gregory of Nyssa was an individual. I was careful to refer to church bodies, which in their actions and canons continued to preserve and foster the institution of chattel slavery.

I read the Keller article and it is full of more half-truths and outright misrepresentations than I care to waste my time with. (For the present topic, his casual elision of slavery and segregation muddies the clarity of his thesis. He seems unaware that the South African Dutch Reformed Church had to be disciplined by the world Reformed body within living memory for their theological defence of apartheid...)

As to the OT view of slavery, at least as it was understood in the 19th century, I suggest a look at Hopkins' book (link below). He is careful to distinguish the Hebrew slave from the gentile chattel slave, who as property is not to be liberated but handed on to descendants. (Leviticus 25:44ff). Hopkins also documents the many papal, patristic, and conciliar decrees and comments supporting chattel slavery. Gregory of Nyssa was an exception, not the rule.

A link to Hopkins' book:
http://archive.org/stream/scripturaleccles00hopkuoft#page/n3/mode/2up

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 3:45pm BST

Laurence, it is possible to see the role of a bishop as one who supports, facilitates and empowers others, rather than 'ruling' them. Arguably, a good bishop does not try to impose his own uniformity on everyone else, but rather, listens and prays about the diverse positions and views of others, then reflects on how different people can be facilitated and empowered to flourish along differing paths. In other words, rather than focussing on 'dominating' status, perhaps bishops should be seen as servants, using their position and experience to help people lead themselves, along the paths of their consciences and faith.

Indeed in some countries, the shepherd goes at the back, and the sheep lead the way, if we are to follow that metaphor.

One thing I sometimes find disappointing in the Church is when we 'elevate' people, because of their roles, and when infantilism creeps in to the relationship. A kind of institutionalisation, such as I sometimes find in nursing, where a patient starts losing resilience and independence, and becomes kind of dependent and infantilised, preferring the nurse to do everything for them.

There is a danger of that in the Church. I prefer the metaphor of the good nurse, who aims to develop self-sufficiency and recovery, by aiding and supporting, but seeking to transfer autonomy to the patient.

If the Church of England bishops would only do more of that - and let priests and PCCs develop their own positions in relation to their local communities... and let them follow conscience on LGBT issues... and just accept there are diverse views, but pray for human flourishing in different contexts in different ways... then I think those 'servatorial' bishops might see profound shoots of flourishing breaking out in many church communities across the land.

Instead of the 'imperium' model where the bishop tells you and you should obey.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 4:29pm BST

@Susannah - to want that sort of episcopacy is your privilege. But that's not the historic episcopate, grounded in the parental authority figure we see in Scripture and in the Ordinal. Certainly a good Bishop listens and prays about the diverse realities within the flock in order to serve in the best possible way - that's a key part of leadership. That's not the same thing as being 'led' by those they are supposed to be lovingly leading.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 7:35pm BST

Laurence, I think you are reasoning not from scripture or tradition, but rather from authoritarianism as a general principle. That may be your preferred ecclesiology, but it unduly denigrates the laity, so it won't win many adherents.

Even if the historic episcopate was ever as command-and-control as you seem to think, that day is long gone. Indeed, in some parts of the Anglican Communion, that model of episcopal authority never existed at any time.

In particular, although the shepherd-sheep analogy is a nice image of bishop-lay relations, to reason from the analogy to preferred policy or polity would be vastly misguided. (It's hard to believe I even have to say this today, given the Archbishops' foolish 50th-anniversary statement.)

Have you much familiarity with sheep? I have been followed by a small flock of sheep. This was on a hillside that I had never previously visited. Those sheep did not know me at all.

I actually have a higher opinion of goats.

So think twice about your analogy. It doesn't just insult or infantilise; it animalises. Contra the analogy, members of a church are human beings.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:35pm BST

@Jeremy - what a strange response. You're reading "authoritarianism" into my quite bland resistance to bishops not leading in the Church. To argue that the de facto and de juris leaders of the Church shouldn't 'lead' is so silly as to barely warrant response. You then take offence at one of the principal motifs for bishop-laity relationships in Scripture and the Ordinal (sheep and shepherd, the very place from which the concept of 'pastoral care' arises). So no, I won't think twice about the analogy. Instead I'd urge you to think twice about what the (biblical) analogy means and how far short of its spirit your approach falls.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 7:53am BST

"my quite bland resistance to bishops not leading the church"

Not so fast, Laurence. What you actually wrote above was, "it would intolerable and nonsensical for sheep to lead the shepherd."

If you withdraw that statement, then withdraw it.

But don't pretend I didn't accurately understand your statement that laity shouldn't lead.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 6:34pm BST

@Jeremy - of course I don't withdraw it. It perfectly encapsulates my point that the leadership should lead - a point that is self-evident and to which you have no answer. Instead you take the easy way out by taking offence at a well established biblical motif for leadership and claim it "animalises".

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 9:04pm BST

Laurence, can lay Christians be leaders of the church?

Or may only bishops be leaders?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 10:18pm BST

Jeremy, lay people can be and are leaders in the Church. In fact, the Supreme Govenor is a lay person. But lay people don't have cure of souls and the biblical charge to guard the faith and oversee the Church. Are you saying that lay and episcopal leadership is completely interchangeable, and that there are no areas in which bishops alone must lead?

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 10:15am BST

Laurence, thank you for acknowledging what you seemed to disagree with above--that lay people can and do lead in the church.

No, I am not saying that lay and episcopal leadership is completely interchangeable.

But if the House of Bishops fails to lead, then you should not be surprised that the Laity and Clergy lead instead. That's what I meant by leadership from below, and I look forward to more of it (because the Bishops seem utterly paralysed).

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 3:57pm BST

@Jeremy - but the bishops have led and will lead. The House of Clergy and others just don't like where they're leading.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 10:42pm BST

Laurence, I think you've just described a leadership failure.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 2:56am BST

It's provincial Churches like TEC and SEC who are leading the Church. They are like beacons. Yes, we can all learn from each other's traditions, but they are way out there at the front.

We do have a bit of a cultural problem in the Church of England, to do with obsequious respect for hierarchy. Local parishioners often treat their priest/minister that way, as if they are somehow more elevated and wise, when actually they're part of a team, and fallible, and maybe not as spiritual as others in every case. Same with bishops - some people "look up" to them, when they're actually our colleagues and in many ways meant to be our servants. They are demonstrably fallible, and capable of leading the wrong way. So are we all.

Leadership - in spiritual reality - occurs each day, and each encounter, in prayer, in integrity, in engagement with the person in front of us. Leadership cannot be appropriated from God. It is distributed, I'd suggest, moment by moment, to each person as they open their hearts to the presence and love of God.

Leadership also needs to be visionary... to be able to 'open' to things outside the cultural and conventional box.

Where leadership is a drag and brake on the opening up to vision - albeit sometimes time needs to be allowed - then that's not really leadership at all.

I think the interface between clergy and bishops in the 'take note' debate was a case in question. The non-episcopal clergy were pretty clearly leading there.

I remember, many years ago, when I was a keen young acolyte, I must have got too deferential towards my priest. To his credit, he repudiated me, and told me to stop setting him up on a pedestal. I've always remembered that. I think we can have a tendency to be 'infantilised'... to pass authority and responsibility to hierarchical figures. In this way we can lose agency. I think that tendency operates quite a lot in the Church of England.

The whole idea of having to swear canonical obedience to your bishop is a bit of a nonsense. Unless the bishop is infallible. We all lead together, and any of us can be challenged. In the end, God is sovereign, and can speak through a vagrant who comes in at the back of a cathedral. God apparently even spoke through Balaam's ass.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 9:42am BST

Jeremy - not every rebellion is down to leadership failure, as Israel's time in the wilderness shows us. It could just be that a majority in the House of Clergy and a minority in the House of Laity are correspondingly "hard-hearted".

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 10:13am BST

@Susannah - I wonder what you do with the Ordinal, which 'makes' Bishops and sets out a vision that jars with what you describe. I wonder also what you do with the biblical witness in places like Hebrews 13:17...? These sources presuppose faillibilty and weakness in leaders, but nonetheless charge us to obey them and submit to them in the lawful exercise of their office. This doesn't only apply to Clergy, with the whole issue of canonical obedience; but to lay people too.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 9:51pm BST

'These sources...charge us to obey [bishops] and submit to them in the lawful exercise of their office."

So...either that proves too much, or the CofE should immediately do away with 2/3 of Synod.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 10:57pm BST

I am a nurse, Laurence. I try to make people well, or at least ease their pain. I don't 'do' anything with the Ordinal.

If a doctor comes in, and gives me an instruction, I will work as a team and follow that instruction in most cases, but I reserve the right to disagree if I think he is making a mistake. Obedience has to be partial and conditional, exactly *because* of human fallibility - and also because (in the Church context) bishops don't have a monopoly of wisdom, insight, good judgment. Sometimes, indeed, they may have bad judgment.

In general terms, wherever I've worked, I've tried to support people in positions of hierarchical responsibility, because they have to handle many things, and deserve as much support and loyalty as it's appropriate to give them.

However, we don't have to be servile or infantile in this. As a lay woman, I'm not under orders of a bishop or a priest. I will try to support good order wherever I can do that in good conscience - and try to work for the common good, and seek God's grace and love. I totally reserve the right to disagree and challenge people though. I think priests should too.

Authoritarianism, of the kind you sort of get represented in some biblical passages, is frankly the weak way of trying to exercise leadership. Collaboration, dialogue, negotiation, giving way to others, working as a team of equals... these may feel less controlling, but in that more open dynamic, the true leader *earns* authority.

I agree with canonical 'support' most of the time, but I don't think priests should have to be always obedient. I just think that's childish and a potential surrender of conscience, agency, and personal responsibility.

**I reserve the right to change or develop my thoughts on all this... my job is healthcare, and I can't say I've given much attention to the subject of 'canonical obedience'. When a bishop sanctions a priest because they love a same-sex partner, and proposes they should live celibate lives, my advice would be: tell the bishop to take a running jump! At present our Archbishops' positions on sexuality are frankly untenable, and deserve to be quite rightly resisted. Like the Bible, sometimes they can be wrong.**

People can be too deferential and obsequious, and that course can lack dignity and justice for others.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 11:52pm BST

@Susannah - totally respect your right to view things that way. I think more highly of those biblical passages than current leadership theory, so however I nuance my position it'll always relate to Bishops on the basis that godly submission to spiritual authority is something to aim for. There are of course situations in which that authority might be challenged. But it'd be a terrible prison to inhabit to assume that any time my view clashes with the view of the House of Bishops (or the bible for that matter), then *my* view is the one that is correct. The sort of humility that acknowledges I might be wrong is, I think, exactly the virtue Scripture wants us to grow in when we submit to the judgement of another.

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Thursday, 3 August 2017 at 9:59am BST

@Jeremy - you clearly don't understand the purpose and function of Synod then. It is not there to interfere with or challenge the lawful exercise of episcopal authority. One of those lawful exercises is determining issues relating to doctrine, liturgy and sacraments - things Synod itself has no authority to determine.

"That proves too much". How do you interpret those sources? Just ignore them?

Posted by: Laurence Tibbet on Thursday, 3 August 2017 at 10:06am BST
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