Friday, 10 November 2017

Lay member resigns from General Synod

Updated again Wednesday 15 Nov

A lay member of the General Synod, from Chichester diocese, has announced her resignation from the synod.

The full text of her letter of resignation is below the fold. There is also a press release:

Press release: Mrs Lorna Ashworth, an evangelical member of General Synod and a member of the Archbishops’ Council, resigned yesterday, saying that she was “no longer willing to sit around the table, pretending that we, as a governing body of the Church of England, are having legitimate conversations about mission.”

As she said in July, in what will now be her final speech at General Synod,
“as a corporate body we have become unable to articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ which fully encompasses the reality of sin, repentance and forgiveness – without this message we do not teach a true gospel and people do not get saved.”

In her resignation letter she blamed, “an ongoing and rapid erosion of faithfulness” and “an agenda of revisionism which “is masked in the language of so-called ‘good disagreement,’” for her decision. She is not alone in her concerns, and she said that many were calling on the bishops of the Church of England to offer clear and courageous biblical leadership.

Lorna Ashworth has been a member of General Synod for 12 years and was elected by the Synod as a lay representative on the Archbishops Council [1] two years ago.

Mrs Ashworth’s speech at General Synod in July can be read here (page9)

[1] The Archbishops’ Council provides within the Church of England a focus for leadership and executive responsibility and a forum for strategic thinking and planning. Within an overall vision for the Church set by the House of Bishops, the Council proposes an ordering of priorities in consultation with the House of Bishops and the General Synod and takes an overview of the Church’s financial needs and resources.

There is a statement in response from the Archbishop of York:

Resignation of Lorna Ashworth

10 November 2017

In response to the announcement that Lorna Ashworth is to step down from the Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said:

“I was very glad when Lorna was elected to serve again on the Archbishops’ Council.
“Her prayerfulness, magnanimity, and her grasp of all matters in hand has been a great asset to us all, and I am sad that she has decided to resign.
“Those who elected her were of the view that she had much to give to the working of the Council, especially in the area of Renewal and Reform.
“However, I do not share her doubts that the Church of England will be part of God’s renewal of the Christian faith in this nation.
“I am convinced that the Church of England remains faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and will move forward rooted in the Christian faith as we have received it.
“I share Lorna’s passion to make disciples in all nations and her conviction that God will continue to build his Church in this nation.
“I certainly will miss her in our partnership in the Gospel.”

The archbishops of Canterbury and York are joint presidents of the Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod.

There is also a response from The Rt Revd Rod Thomas, the Bishop of Maidstone, who said:

“I am very sorry that Lorna is resigning.
“She is a good friend and has been a brave, lively and winsome voice in the General Synod and Archbishop’s Council, as she has urged us all to remain faithful to the Word of God.
“She goes because she does not want to be drawn into compromise with those who seek to revise the plain teaching of Scripture.
“I pay tribute to her sincerity and courage.
“The doctrine of the Church of England – and its liturgy – are based squarely on the authority of the Bible and I support every effort to sustain, promote and defend this.
“For me, that means continuing to minister within the Church of England, defending its historic commitment to Scripture.”

Updates
There is now also a lengthy response from Bishop Andy Lines of GAFCON UK.

The Bishop of Chichester has issued this statement:

“Lorna has been a courageous and committed member of the Archbishops’ Council and the Church of England will be the poorer for her departure from that body.

“In the company of voices that makes for an authentic expression of the Church, it is vital that we continue to hold to a conviction of the love of God revealed in the experience of repentance, forgiveness and change that leads to a better and a happier life. That is the pattern of our enrichment as individual Christians and as the Church. It is also the way in which society is called to recognise and change its institutional failings.

“Lorna’s testimony is a timely reminder of the Church’s call to be, within the society of our own time, conformed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom.”

+Martin Cicestr:

Full text of Lorna Ashworth’s resignation letter.

For the past 12 years, I have had the privilege of being elected to serve on the General Synod of the Church of England. This role offered further opportunities to serve on other bodies, most recently the Archbishops’ Council and the Business Committee.
During this time I have observed within Synod, an ongoing and rapid erosion of faithfulness “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). Instead, an agenda of revisionism is masked in the language of so-called ‘good disagreement.’ In fact, ‘good disagreement’ and ‘unity’ have trumped the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.

In my last speech given at the General Synod in York, July 2017, I expressed this frustration by saying that,
‘as a corporate body we have become unable to articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ which fully encompasses the reality of sin, repentance and forgiveness – without this message we do not teach a true gospel and people do not get saved.’

I have been humbled to serve alongside men and women, lay and ordained who long to see the mission of the church remain true to it’s calling: to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This means following the unadulterated teaching of Christ even when it contradicts the spirit of the age.

It is these people who have recognised that the gospel of Christ Jesus is a matter of eternal life or death – it matters what we believe, what we say, and how we live. This message is very good news.

In light of this revisionist agenda and the heretical teaching that comes with it, I am no longer willing to sit around the table, pretending that we, as a governing body of the Church of England, are having legitimate conversations about mission. I refuse to be mistaken as one participating in the fanciful notion of ‘good disagreement.’ As such, I am standing down from the Archbishops’ Council with immediate effect and all subsequent bodies, including the General Synod.

There are many like myself, who long for clear and courageous biblical leadership from the bishops of the Church of England and we will pray to this end. Some will choose to remain as part of the Synod and they have my full support, but others will not. Whatever is decided, be rest assured that God will not be without witness in this nation and He will build His church – the question is will that include the Church of England?

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Comments

Praise the Lord! The fewer homophobes
on the General Synod the better

Posted by: FrDavidH on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 7:16pm GMT

We are back to the plaintive cry from Bishop Thomas and those he represents that the problem of the Church of England is found in the fact that we have abandoned the ‘plain teaching of Scripture’. I must be reading a quite different book from the Bishop. My Bible is not plain in its teaching by any stretch of the imagination. Because it is rooted in ancient cultures and is a translation of languages more than two thousand years old it is far from ‘plain’ in its meaning. In my Bible I find nuance, mystery, paradox, ambiguity and sometimes complete obscurity. How can anybody who actually grapples with the Bible text not encounter some of these issues? If my Bible really were ‘plain’ no doubt I could have a constructive conversation about what is its unambiguous message on say the topic of sexuality. No, my reading of the Bible is and always will be a work in progress. I will listen respectfully to every understanding of Scripture that is offered to me. In return I ask that the other person will listen to my understandings and insights. Should I be ashamed of the fact that these are constantly evolving and changing as the result of study and reflection (as well as growing older!)?

Posted by: Stephen Parsons on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 8:07pm GMT

Let us remember that it was Lorna Ashworth who in 2010 proposed the private member's motion, 'That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America'.

This is of course the same ACNA that has now commissioned a "missionary bishop for Europe," including the UK.

In July of this year, when Mrs. Ashworth signed a statement expressing carefully worded hope for an alternative ecclesial structure in England, I asked here:
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/007622.html
'whether Mrs Lorna Ashworth is acting in accordance with her fiduciary duty of loyalty to the Church of England'?

Given Mrs Ashworth's public statement in July, I think it only right that she resign her Church of England offices.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 8:52pm GMT

Anybody can leave the Church of England, and its synods, but arguably it takes more faith and courage to remain - to remain and share in community with people with different views to our own.

Love is always possible. And love is exactly what's needed when people have divergent views. It may be easier to run, and to jettison the so-called 'heretics' with whom we disagree, than to seek love, seek grace, seek Christ, and keep on in fellowship, in prayer for one another's flourishing, in patience, in goodness, in service of people in the secular communities around us.

We don't have to agree, in order to open our hearts to the love of God. But we do need grace and graciousness. I regret the suggestion that so-called 'revisionists' lack faithfulness. Whether evangelical, liberal, catholic, charismatic, contemplative, baptist, or orthodox we can walk our paths and pour out our lives for God. We really can.

And there are all kinds of ways to live faithful lives, to serve, to give love.

May the God who knows us all bless Lorna on her continuing journey, drawing her into love and community, and helping her be the unique person God is calling her to be.

God's grace be with us all.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 9:05pm GMT

++Sentamu refers to her "magnanimity" but Lorna's discourtesy to the Episcopal Guest from Scotland who was sitting before her in the Synod was quite disgraceful

Posted by: Malcolm on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 10:55pm GMT

There are no words. What can you say to someone who is so utterly convinced that she is correct and everyone else is wilfully blind and disobedient to God's will? I guess all that can be said is, "Sister, go in peace".

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 11:21pm GMT

I find it sad that Lorna has resigned. We need all voices in the church to influence from their particular standpoint and to witness to unity in diversity - just like the NT churches. Even more sad is the implication that those of us who hold a liberal position are not keen on spreading and preaching the Gospel. 1 Cor 9:16 sums up the position that many of us hold. Why the preoccupation with sexual and relationship matters has overtaken the burning desire to share the good news that 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself' I do not understand. Many of those in the Old Testament that we account as heroes of faith, would fail the current conservative test.

Posted by: John Wallace on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 11:27pm GMT

The fact that schismatic 'Bishop' Andy Lines is wont to defend Lorna Ashworth's decision to resign from the Archbishops' Commission, should alert us all to the fact that it is well she has done so.

Mr.Lines has shown himself to be averse to the Church of England's struggle to be relevant in the diverse world of today - simply by seeking to undermine its Gospel mission in the U.K. Thus, his support for Ms Ashworth must signal a like ethic.

I was interested in this excerpt from Mr Lines' statement on the GAFCON page:

' “I refuse to be mistaken as one participating in the fanciful notion of ‘good disagreement’”, she says in her resignation letter. She saw that her presence as a conservative on Archbishop’s Council was no longer a moderating influence, but being used to legitimize the revisionist agenda on which she believes the Church of England has embarked.'

What the Church sees as a revitalised Mission to ALL people (including LGBTQIs), both Andy Lines and Laura Ashworth see as 'Revisionist'. This is proof positive that the C. of E. must be doing something positive in its mission.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 12:14am GMT

Might we see the Revd Dr Ian Paul resign from the Archbishops' Council for the same reason?

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 12:34am GMT

And yet the Church of England is, I understand, more Evangelical than it has ever been.

Perhaps Lorna Ashworth is not alone in her dissatisfaction of the Evangelical bishops ?

.... though for very different reasons in detail, of course.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 2:04am GMT

Whilst I agree with others that different shades of opinion are needed, hatred and bigotry are not. If those who hold such views choose to leave rather than change then that is sad, but nowhere near as bad as them continuing to expound their hugely damaging views from within.

Posted by: Jo on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 7:12am GMT

Rod Thomas ‘she has been a brave, lively and winsome voice...’ Winsome? What a curious term to use.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 9:18am GMT

This resignation can only compound the impression that conservative evangelicals no longer have a convincing case to make in the Church of England (which is sad, even if I disagree with them profoundly), and that they are incapable of forging a generous and imaginative way forward, that acknowledges that Scripture does not speak with an uncomplicated voice on the issues that they have decided are the litmus test of orthodoxy. The history of the Church is full of these moments, and Lorna Ashworth's position on bodies representing the wide breadth of the Church of England had become untenable. It is right that she resigned. The issues over which she has resigned are not so easily resolved by her words and actions, either now or in the past.

Posted by: Graham Steel on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 11:51am GMT

Gavin Ashenden resigned from the CofE a few months ago, and now Lorna Ashworth has resigned from the General Synod. No doubt there are many people with a lesser profile doing similar things. It is all evidence that the CofE is in decline, as the statistics demonstrate.

The Catholic Church has long since overtaken the CofE in terms of church attendance; and the British Social Attitudes surveys suggest that by about the year 2023 more people will describe themselves as Catholic than CofE.
How much longer can the status of Established Church be maintained? Indeed, hpow long will the CofE survive?

Posted by: Paul Waddington on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 12:55pm GMT

Well said, Stephen Parsons. It is astonishing and depressing how Bible-bashers like Mrs Ashworth can see so much certainty where so little exists. The Bible may indeed contain 'all that is necessary to salvation', as ordinands are required to attest, but anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear must surely acknowledge that it contains a great deal else besides, much of which latter is mutually contradictory with the former. And who is to say which is which?

The older I get, the less I find does certitude of any kind appeal, particularly when it is taken, unquestioningly and out of context, from the pages of a very old book. We are all, I hope, seekers after the truth, but none of us should be deluded enough to suppose that we have found it. As an engineer trained in the sciences, I used to think that the laws of physics were immutable. So they still are, I suppose, but recent scholarship and experimentation has shown that our understanding of them is imperfect and incomplete, and needs to change to be nearer the truth. Why should it be any different in other spheres of learning?

Mrs Ashworth's proposed way forward will not lead us to the promised land, but rather will condemn us to becoming a declining rump of 'old believers', increasingly derided, dismissed and ignored. If she wants to take the separate and pure church she espouses down that route, that's up to her, but I hope she is not allowed to take the CofE with her, which is why her departure is to be welcomed. But it may already be too late, because the thinking she and her ilk cling to has already made our religion into a 'toxic brand' in which it is increasingly difficult for the great mass of the unchurched to see any good news at all.

But what of 'Bishop'Pryke, who almost certainly holds the same views as Mrs Ashworth, but of whom I have heard nothing in despatches for some time. Is he still masquerading as a bishop in Jesmond and thereabouts? And does he still hold a licence to practice as a priest in the CofE, despite claiming to be a bishop in another church?

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 2:30pm GMT

Paul Waddington I don't know how things are there, but in the US the Roman Catholic Church can only maintain its membership level through immigration. Without that it would be in decline... as are all the other denominations... even the evangelicals. Decline is much more complicated than how you handle the hot button issues.

Posted by: Tom Downs on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 4:52pm GMT

He still appears on Jesmond Parish Church's website so presumably is ministering in the C of E whilst being consecrated as a bishop by another denomination. It’s a neat trick. I am not sure why the C of E should tolerate this. If I was accepted into say the Roman Catholic or Baptist churches would I be allowed to continue to provide priestly ministry in the C of E? So, what's the difference here?

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 5:07pm GMT

"but in the US the Roman Catholic Church can only maintain its membership level through immigration"

The comment is sensible, but what does it really mean?

1. The RCC is able to minister to "immigrants" successfully, and others are less successful?

2. TEC isn't able to keep its numbers at a good level because it cannot attract immigrants? Why not?

3. Attracting immigrants is a kind of "easy play" and so the RCC is better at it?

Posted by: CRS on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 7:39pm GMT

Andrew - good question. I asked about this at General Synod....

Posted by: Charles Read on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 7:57pm GMT

'What can you say to someone who is so utterly convinced that she is correct and everyone else is wilfully blind and disobedient to God's will?'

That point of view is not limited to conservative evangelicals, Jeremy.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 7:59pm GMT

Paul Waddington I don't know how things are there, but in the US the Roman Catholic Church can only maintain its membership level through immigration. Without that it would be in decline....

Posted by: Tom Downs on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 4:52pm GMT

This is completely true of the RC Church in England & Wales; and also in Scotland.

For example, half of the priests listed on the Liverpool Arch-Diocean website are retired.

Further, at Wrexham Cathedral, there are nearly as many masses in Polish as in English.

At my RC parish in east London, around 99% of the Sunday congregations, of over 1000 people, are long-term or immigrants. The parish is now run by a French mission order and of the 6 or so priests one is English and Irish, the others are from Europe and Africa.

Need I continue ?

The Anglican parishes round these parts, are similarly immigrant rich.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 8:49pm GMT

“Whatever is decided, be rest assured that God will not be without witness in this nation and He will build His church – the question is will this include the Church of England”

The arrogant certainty is breathtaking, but I wish her well in whatever God is calling her to do next (outwith the Church of England).

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 10:55pm GMT

CRS, I believe the answer is that many immigrants to the US bring their Catholicism with them.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 11:46pm GMT

It seems from her interview on this morning's Sunday programme Mrs Ashworth is staying put as a parishoner in her conservative evangelical parish.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 7:48am GMT

Tim, of course people believe in the correctness of their convictions. Without that nothing can happen. Stasis and stagnation happen when people either aren't convinced enough to do anything, or act against their true convictions out of fear.

What is tragic is the attempt to avoid living with others and their conscientious convictions by anathematising them. I think Lorna and her ilk are profoundly wrong and damaging, but I think they are entitled to believe as they do. Uniformity of belief and practise has never existed in the Church, and Jesus tells us to let wheat and tares flourish. God will sort it out. That is the difference between us.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 8:45am GMT

Will this lead to an election or will the person next in line in the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system move onto the Council? If so, who is that? If not, people do need to think about standing.

Posted by: Grumpy Highchurch Woman on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 9:14am GMT

Of course they bring their catholicism with them. But why does this somehow mitigate declines in non catholic churches?

Seems a bit anti-immigrant.

Posted by: CRS on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 12:23pm GMT

ALL Churches in the USA are in decline. What point is CRS trying to make?

Posted by: FrDavidH on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 2:03pm GMT

It's not anti-immigrant to point out that church attendance or lack of it may depend on changes in demographics within a population rather than indicating particular success in evangelising and growing in faith on the part of the churches benefitting from those changes. If there were a large influx of Welsh immigrants to Scotland you'd probably see a boost to SEC attendance compared with the Church of Scotland (the balance of Anglican vs Reformed in Wales being what it is) but it would tell you little about the state of either Scottish church.

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 2:52pm GMT

> Grumpy Highchurch Woman - The result of Mrs Ashworth's election to the Archbishops' Council was announced less than two years ago, so the vacancy created by her resignation will be filled by recounting the voting papers. With STV there is not a person next in line, as the result will depend on voters' second and later choices. In particular all of Mrs Ashworth's first preference votes will be transferred to their second choices at the first stage of the recount.

Before the papers are recounted all the unsuccessful candidates in the original count must be asked if they still wish to be candidates. According to standing orders "The vacancy must be filled as soon as practicable and not later than six months after the occurrence of the vacancy."

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 3:35pm GMT

DavidH

"but in the US the Roman Catholic Church can only maintain its membership level through immigration"

I live in France south of Paris and attend Catholic worship. It is robustly multi-cultural. Its priests are often 'immigrants'.

The statement being made in the context of decline in church attendance was that the RCC relies on immigrant numbers. Well good for them.

Posted by: CRS on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 3:50pm GMT

A great deal of fuss and publicity is being generated by this particular resignation. I can't think why Mrs. Ashworth hasn't stayed in order to fight her corner? As Mr. Mandelson once said "I'm a fighter not a quitter"!

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 5:09pm GMT

Thank you CRS. Are you not saying the RC Church simply disguises the fact that millions have left by saying some foreigners have moved in?

Posted by: FrDavidH on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 6:35pm GMT

Do forgive if I'm wrong, but she says against biblical teaching does she mean against my interpretation of scripture. If that's the case then it's sad. It's means she don't what to be challenged in her views. I probably do disagree with her on a lot of things. Why can't the creeds be enough?

Posted by: Christopher Rees on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 7:49pm GMT

This thread is about the CofE and conservative evangelicals. Let's not get derailed into a discussion about other churches. Comments on topic please.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 November 2017 at 7:33am GMT
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