Thinking Anglicans

Malawi: Bishop Pete comments

Pete Broadbent writes:

The news that the election of Nicholas Henderson as Bishop of Lake Malawi has been blocked by the Court of Confirmation is perhaps not surprising in the current climate of relations between the northern and southern parts of the Anglican Communion. Yet, as Nick’s bishop, I could have hoped that he might have been treated with more justice and with attention to what he actually believes, rather than what he is alleged to believe. We need to keep Nick in our prayers at this difficult time.

He was rejected on the grounds that he had previously been Chair of the Modern Churchpeoples’ Union, and was therefore seen to be a liberal in theological standpoint and in putative support for the liberalisation of the Church’s stance on gay relationships. Allegations were also made about his private life. All this despite Nick’s strong declarations that he accepts the faith revealed in the scriptures and set forth in the creeds, that he holds to the teaching of the Church on sexual ethics, and that there never has been any question about the standards of his moral conduct. Nick has become a victim of the warfare between African traditionalism and Western liberalism. I find it deeply sad that, as someone who would find myself more obviously on the traditionalist side of things, my letters in support of Nick and his orthodoxy were quite simply ignored by those responsible for confirming his election. In stark terms, my references as his bishop and Nick’s own affirmations of faith were not believed.

There are several obvious lessons to be learned from this sad case.

First, that guilt by association is alive and well and living in the Anglican Communion. As an evangelical, I’m well used to this particular phenomenon. Some free church evangelicals seek to dignify it by giving it a theological category of “secondary separation” – I can’t be in communion with you if you are in communion with someone who holds views that are perceived as heterodox. In this case, whatever Nick Henderson’s own views (which I would still want to describe as traditionally Anglican), the very fact that he had been an organiser of the MCU was enough to make him unacceptable, because there were some in that organisation who were seen to hold to a revisionist viewpoint.

Secondly, the danger of the power of the internet as a means both of instant communication and instant condemnation. Those who were opposed to Nick Henderson’s election were immediately in action once his election had been announced, spreading defamatory and untrue allegations about him all over the place. This included the release of private correspondence between the consecrating bishop and the consecrand – stuff which, even in the leaky Church of England, we would never consider as public property. And, because journalism these days can become a fundamentally lazy occupation (you google someone’s name, read the stories about them, and retread the material so that it becomes common currency), those allegations spread round the world, but can all be sourced back to one particular American website, which despite their lack of any personal knowledge of the priest they were defaming, was quite prepared to condemn him out of hand.

A third issue is the way in which nuance and complexity are being ignored in these debates. I do not want the Anglican Communion to become a place where a revisionist liberal theology becomes the norm. But equally I do not want to see a witch hunt against liberalism, which at its best (and in the liberality of the classic Church of England ethos) continues to make a huge contribution towards shaping our theology and ethos. The MCU as an organisation is not one I would want to join, but the fundamentally conservative liberalism espoused by many of its members needs to be assimilated and understood by evangelicals, charismatics, conservatives and traditionalists. To insist that membership or leadership of such an organisation should be a ground for blocking a duly elected bishop smacks of McCarthyism. That’s not to say that there should not be grounds for suggesting that a person’s views and teaching might make them a person not suitable to be a bishop – here in the UK we had our own debate about that in respect of an appointment to the see of Reading, and I was one of those who advocated that the appointment should not be made. Some will think that I am now being hypocritical. I would argue that there is a difference between views definitely held and taught by an individual and views held and taught by others within an organisation of which that individual is a member. What is more obviously at stake here is the capacity for us to hold debates about the teachings of scripture and the Church which are not starkly polarised into “Who is not for us is against us” positions. Those charged with deciding whether Nick’s election should be confirmed clearly saw him as part of the liberal Western enemy, despite his long association with, and care for, the clergy and people of Lake Malawi through a mission partnership with his parishes. Many Malawi clergy had visited us here, and I had the privilege of meeting some of them. But all those relationships counted for naught, because complexity is not on the map.

We have so much to lose if our relationships with the vibrant and growing churches of the South are soured or severed. I am deeply saddened at how Nick has been treated. I am saddened that the African bishops could not hear what was being said to them about the nature of his belief and practice and the suitability of his candidature for the calling to be a bishop in the Church of God. But we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position. Indeed, we need to voice more clearly between ourselves the stark differences between our different theologies. While I am prepared to defend MCU, I would find it much harder to defend some of the positions taken (for example) by various sections of ECUSA on theology, ethics and pastoral practice. We need also to find ways – through personal contact, partnership in the gospel, and the Windsor Report framework – to mend these relationships.

Pete Broadbent
Bishop of Willesden & Acting Archdeacon of Northolt

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Neil
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Neil

Is it possible for someone to tell us why a UK Vicar was being appointed as Bishop in Malawi in the first place?

Is this the same as Sandy Millar being a Ugandan Bishop?….

Dave
Guest
Dave

“we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position. Indeed, we need to voice more clearly between ourselves the stark differences between our different theologies. While I am prepared to defend MCU, I would find it much harder to defend some of the positions taken (for example) by various sections of ECUSA on theology, ethics and pastoral practice.” Amen to that! Personally I wonder what the outcome would have been if Rev Henderson had been confirmed as Bishop of Lake Malawi. Maybe I’m idealistic, but… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

“But we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position.” I think the only people who fail to recognise this are those evangelicals who have helped to fan it. There are two things this story demonstrates. the first is that the “Southern” bloc is deeply and viciously homophobic, and demands the same of every bishop. It’s not enough not to be gay. You must actively condemn them and within your power persecute them to be thought of as “Orthodox”. The second is that those who… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Andrew seems to be in a savage mood of late …. certain “groups” have set his teeth on edge.

But when I read Pete Broadbent’s letter earlier I had much the same thoughts as Andrew. The Nazgul and their friends have a great responsibility to bear for all this, they cannot shrug it off so easily.

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

And how well does Andrew Brown know those whom he routinely pillories in the Church Times?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

And, to be frank, I don’t believe a word of it!

Nick Henderson is a liberal, and I am sure that he does not agree with the views of Broadbent on sexual ethics – I sincerely hope that no other members of the MCU do either.

The double standards never cease to amaze me! I would suggest that the difference between JJ and NH is that JJ is openly gay, and we all know so-called ‘open’ evangelicals really do prefer old-style closetedness.

Prior Aelred
Guest

I concur with the opinions of Andrew Brown — if Bishop Broadbent thought he could rubbish Jeffrey John and not have it come back to haunt him, he is indeed naive — sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

And, BTW, Mr. Brown, I find your comment quite restrained and not at all savage.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

1. “we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position.” Depths of suspicion—not seeing Christ in your brother or sister (be they Yank, Canuck or Brit)—BAD: agree completely. It’s the cause of the current mess. 2. “Indeed, we need to voice more clearly between ourselves the stark differences between our different theologies” I must unfortunately concur. Differences between the theology that arises from the “depths of suspicicion” (aka Hell?), and theology that arises out of “Love one another as I have loved you” is stark,… Read more »

Dale Rye
Guest
Dale Rye

Amen. It is nice to know that some bishops playing the conservative end of the field are not following the “those who are not with us are against us” set of rules.

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

I think you need to re-read what I wrote. There is a difference between Person A, who teaches a revisionist position on homosexuality in the Church, and has published writings which can be adduced to prove that this is his position; and Person B, who teaches what the Church has always taught, and who is being condemned because he is associated with an organisation in which there are revisionists (and where there is no evidence in writing to suggest that he himself holds a revisionist position). Neither Richard nor Rowan would I think claim that JJ’s position on homosexuality was… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Rowan’s position as scholar, bishop of Monmouth and Primate of Wales was that of person A, Pete.

How well I remember the day when a delegation from England arrived here in sleepy Newport and their line-by-line challenge to his public teaching and his refusal to budge on a word, yet alone “repent” or “recant”.

Their reaction the next day was to declare him a false teacher etc etc…..

There was not so much talk of nuance in those days. I can’t quite remember your public position on his nomination, perhaps you can remind us?

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

Certainly – I supported him wholeheartedly, and defended him against the headbangers, (see these links, for example –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,1123429,00.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today5_archbishop_20040227.ram )
– precisely because he was prepared to teach and live with the position of the scriptures as historically understood and the teachings of the Church, despite his own personal position.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Pete ; I think you are simply trying, as you always do, to wriggle out of what, again, as ever, is your utterly inconsistent position of someone who is every bit as conservative as those you claim not to be allied with. There is precisely no evidence that Nicholas Henderson disagrees with the MCU position on these matters,other than that which it suits you to promote on here, as it gets you out of a hole. really, thats all your little missive is about – your own credibility. Why, for goodness sake, would anyone choose to be general Secretary of… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I am sorry Bp Broadbent but your rejection of Jeffrey and acceptance of Rowan who believe and taught very similarly may be a nuance too far for me. As far as I remember Jeffrey John offered the same compliance to the House of Bishops’ statement on sexuality that Rowan tacitly agreed to observe when he became Primate of All England. All of us expected Rowan’s presence to be a powerful force for development. Jeffrey was no more a supporter of our views than is Fr Henderson – and we said so of him rather too strongly at the time. But,… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

“- precisely because he was prepared to teach and live with the position of the scriptures as historically understood and the teachings of the Church, despite his own personal position.” Once again — if you are prepared to extend that indulgence to Rowan, why not to Jeffrey John? He also was prepared to align his public teaching with the official position. In fact, unlike Rowan, he had made a real, personal sacrifice to bring his behaviour within the bounds of what was taught. Or don’t you believe that he did, despite the assurances of his bishop. In the end, this… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

“How well does Andrew Brown know those whom he routinely pillories” etc. I have been watching some of them, on and off, for nineteen years now. It is eighteen years since David Holloway took Clifford Longley and me to lunch and explained his strategy on homosexuality. I spent three weeks watching the Americans and the Africans at the last Lambeth conference. I interviewed a great many bishops there. I was there when Richard Kirker was exorcised. I had my daughter christened by the campest bishop in the Church of England. I spent a week driving round Transylvania with Sandy Millar… Read more »

Ian Montgomery
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Ian Montgomery

Quote: – “we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position” I write as one who serves in ECUSA but came from the C of E – I blame ECUSA for the above statement with which I agree. The action of Frank Griswold in signing the Primates’ statement in 2003 and then being the chief consecrator of VGR was the final straw in a continuingly arrogant US dismissal of the Anglican Communion’s appeals and teachings regarding same sex relationships. Serving in the US as well… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Bishop Broadbent, Sir: The “revisionist position on homosexuality in the Church” is that there IS a position that “the Church has always taught.” There has *never* been a time that the Church directly addressed “homosexuality” in unanimity. For the past century or so (and w/ far more intensity the past 30 years), the Church has been painfully laboring towards a universal Truth. It’s not there yet. The question is whether these labor pangs will be allowed to bring forth life, or whether the labor will be cut short by killing the birthing one. This killing is all too *real*, for… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

I guess that the obvious difference is that JJ is gay and has a gay lover (though he assures us that the relationship has been celibate since the 1991 HoB statement). The other difference is that RDW was appointed almost ex-nihilo, had a lot of support (not just from liberals), and the opposition to gay-lib in the CofE was not so broad and well organised as it is nowadays. Plus I think that the prime minister and appointments committee would never have backed down due to opposition from sexual conservatives. For JJ there was no hiding behind the appointments committee.… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

So, Dave. Let me get this clear.

There are currently bishops who totally agree, 100% with Jeffrey John’s beliefs on this issue.

You suggest that the fact that he is gay and has a gay partner – not lover, as he does not have sex with him – is the key factor.

So, it is someone’s sexual orientation which makes the difference. Isn’t it? Or why are those bishops who support same-sex relationships allowed to remain Bishops?

As for Williams ‘correcting’ anyone, thats an interesting way of describing cowardice.

Andrew Brown
Guest

Pete, You tell us that you “supported Rowan whole-heartedly, and defended him against the headbangers”. So who was the Bishop of Willesden who signed the letter denouncing Jeffrey John? There is a nuanced quality to your whole-hearted support that is less than completely reassuring for the recipient.

http://www.oxford.anglican.org/detail.php?id=450

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

You cannot imagine how this looks from outside!

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Oh, I think we can, Goran!

Martinluther
Guest
Martinluther

I don’t understand how RW et al can believe something in private but publicly hold an entirely different position. Where is the integrity in that? One of the grounds for opposing RW’s translation to be ABC was that it was unfair to put him in a position where he has to uphold something he does not believe in. The opposition to JJ was clear – his past practice without repentence disqualifies him from a position of Christian leadership. I like and respect +Pete, but as a Conservative Evangelical I too think he is missing the point (but from a different… Read more »

Observer
Guest
Observer

I seem to remember that in 1985 Canon Paul Oestreicher was elected Bishop of Wellington in New Zealand, but the election was not confirmed by the Province owing to his unacceptably liberal theology. I doubt if Nick Henderson would claim to be any less liberal in his theology than Paul Oestreicher, so it seems that Central Africa is not ploughing a new furrow, but simply following an established Anglican precedent.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

No, Observer, it had nothing at all to do with his theology.

Paul Osterreicher is both an Anglican and a Quaker. It was not within the rules to have a Bishop who was also a member of the Religious Society of friends. Paul did not wish to abandon this affiliation, so turned down the Bishopric.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

So, Martinluther, what you are really saying is that you don’t want any liberals within the CofE, because liberal Christians do not accept conservative orthodoxy.

I agree with you about integrity, but the obvious response is that the CofE does include liberals and so their views are going to be reflected amongst the leadership of the denomination.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

As Pete knows I took a different line from him on Jeffrey John. For me it was sufficient that JJ had, since the Issues statement of 1991, lived celibately, and that (as with Rowan) he would uphold the position of the church. It’s silly to suggest that every bishop must personally espouse the current position on every issue. That would be a recipe for paralysis (or at best you’ld have to appoint a totally fresh set of bishops every time there was a change). The customary oaths and declarations cover what a bishop (or other office holder) must believe. We… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But that still differentiates between people with exactly the same opinion according to their sexual orientation….

Observer
Guest
Observer

Dear Merseymike,

that is a symptom of his liberal theology. (I gather he is now Quaker Chaplain to the University of Sussex).

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

The problem for many of us with JJ was not his domestic arrangements, which he asserted were in conformity with “Issues”, but his teaching, in particular his advocacy of gay “marriage” which so far as I recollect he did not offer to withdraw – on the contrary he was a founder member of Affirming Catholicism, which published his tract and promotes his views.

All of us are sinners, but it does not entitle those chosen as bishops to promote false teaching.

Rowan Williams by contrast with JJ has publicly committed himself to the Church’s teaching, rather than his previously published views.

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Surely Bishop Pete is trying to push a boulder uphill here? If the names and organisations are changed round for a moment here, does he seriously believe that anyone would accept his assurances that the chairman of, say, Reform does not share the views of that body? That John Broadhurst is privately a liberal at odds with the official line of Forward in Faith?

Is it any surprise that a former chairman of MCU is thought to subscribe to the views of that organisation?

Matt
Guest
Matt

re: “I don’t understand how RW et al can believe something in private but publicly hold an entirely different position.
Where is the integrity in that?”

Perhaps in the same way that St. Paul personally believed that there was nothing morally wrong with eating meat that had been sacrificed to imaginary gods, but supported publicly refraining from eating such meat when it might cause confusion and distract people from what was really important: faith in Jesus Christ.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But, Alan, there are many other bishops who believe exactly the same as Jeffrey John.

And I think integrity is rather more important than teaching something which you do not believe. I call that hypocrisy. Rowan Williams has so little credibility left because of this sort of approach.

So, the only reason JJ was hounded out of the job for which he had been chosen is clear. Homophobia.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“All of us are sinners, but it does not entitle those chosen as bishops to promote false teaching.” Alan, the ill-conceived “Issues” might (at the time it was published) have been the *majority* teaching: it doesn’t mean it was the true one (nor, conversely, does dissenting from it means that one promotes “false teaching”). Why oh why do you “reasserters” make objective judgments, AS IF they were the “Mind of God”? We ***ALL***—though studying S,T&R—are just seeing “through a glass darkly” now. *None of us* can claim to definitively know that someone else’s discernment of the Will of God is… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

David Walker wrote: “The issue with JJ was not simply what he had taught but what he had done. Specifically whether, in the light of Issues, it was necessary for a bishop not simply to have desisted from sexual activity but to evidence some sign of repentance for what had gone before. Neither Nick H nor Rowan is in that position.” Alan Marsh wrote: “The problem for many of us with JJ was not his domestic arrangements, which he asserted were in conformity with “Issues”, but his teaching, in particular his advocacy of gay “marriage” which so far as I… Read more »

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

Bishop Pete’s comments, and his genuinely Anglican support of Nicholas Henderson, raise, once again, the highly disturbing issue of the way in which the “Global South” and their allies (whoever and wherever these may currently be!) seem to lack committment to such traditional and orthodox Christian values as truth and a genuinely loving concern for one’s neighbour. This attempted divorce of holiness from ethics is clearly non-Christian, whatever views one has on the globally marginal issue of homosexuality and the Church. Some examples of the latest manifestations of this are the astonishing antics surrounding the infamous Global South letter, along… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

No, Goran, you jump to your own conclusions. There were as I said many of us prepared to accept JJ’s statement that he had conformed in lifestyle to that expected of clergy of the Church of England. It is his views – unchanged still – which are the problem. He is not disqualified by his private life but by his public teaching.

And no, JCF. Your claim that none of us can know anything or believe anything to be true is frankly nonsense. Faith is about beliefs and about truth.

Ali Campbell
Guest

There seem to be a lot of people on this thread who are very sure that they are right – in their observations of others, in their own positions, in their views on organisations – I cannot be so sure, I am just left with the question, “what am I doing in the name of Jesus?” A passage from Henri Nouwen’s book, “In the Name of Jesus” has been one I have constantly turned to with the challenges that face the Anglican communion and just asked myself, “am I doing this?” – “Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Dear Alan March,

You just jumped (back) to your own conclusions.

In my post I pointed out to you, that your conclusions are contrary to those of David Walker.

The one says “what he has done”, the other “his teaching”.

You cannot have both.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

JCF-
Thoroughgoing relativism is self-contradictory. Our degrees of knowledge of various things vary enormously, from certainty to utter doubt. There are, in principle, millions of things we can be certain about (not necessarily including the things we have just been discussing). As I always say: third-rate is to claim to know everything; second-rate is to claim to know nothing; first-rate is to be involved in the project of distinguishing between different degrees on the broad spectrum of certainty/uncertainty.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Only Jeffrey John emerged from the “Reading Fiasco” with his honour intact and with any claim for respect. David Walker’s analysis leaves me cold. That pernicious and dubious piece of paper “Issues” lost any shred of credibility in the wake of what happened to Jeffrey. The English bench now cower behind a policy that has been thoroughly discredited. Surely David Walker is not suggesting “repentance” on the lines of the erstwhile Bishop of Durham? How crass that would be. Bizarrely, Jeffrey’s consecration might have given Issues a modicum of respectability. It was, I remember, our deepest fear at the time.… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Goran, I was not speaking for Bishop Walker, but you chose to juxtapose his views with mine. The view that what a candidate teaches is germane to his suitability for ordination as a bishop is perfectly consistent. As is acceptance of a statement that X has chosen to conform his lifestyle to the pattern required by the church of its ministers.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Goran-
You say that ‘being gay’ has only been an issue among Christians in 3 periods of history. But what is for certain is that anything mentioned in the New Testament will be something that Bible-based Protestants will always have had clear ideas about – given that the New Testament is the most minutely dissected text in history.
More likely is that it has rarely been mentioned because it has rarely been a controversial issue among Christians – until recently.

Douglas Lewis
Guest
Douglas Lewis

“*None of us* can claim to definitively know that someone else’s discernment of the Will of God is “false”—and we shouldn’t pronounce it so.” — JC Fisher

An assertion that a statement is true is an assertion that contradictory statements are false. It would seem that many statements in the liturgy (e.g. ‘God is steadfast in love and infinite in mercy’–quoted from memory), and even the ‘theology that arises out of “Love one another as I have loved you”‘, fall under Fisher’s censure.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Then, Alan, why are the Bishops who agree with him not also ‘disqualified’?

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Christopher Shell,

Now, t h a t was an argument from silence ;=)

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

MM, who are they? If they have published their views, as did JJ, then it is possible to know.

Most make known that their views are at variance with the church’s teaching only after appointment, a situation which comes about because of the way in which bishops are appointed both in England and in the USA.

No one (I hope) is suggesting a McCarthy-style investigation into the views of those now in office, but equally the proliferation of leaders who undermine the church’s teaching is undesirable and renders their ministry susceptible to the charge of hypocrisy.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Well, theres all those who publicly supported the consecration of JJ, for a start….your guidelines would just about rule out any liberal Christian, Alan. I recognise that is your aim, and I think it underlines the need to split – we will never have the sort of forward looking church I believe to be needed whilst we are weighed down by the burden of the beliefs of conservatives preventing us from making very necessary changes and revisions. Best to separate and walk apart, but this will only happen if we can agree to do so in a civil manner. Otherwise,… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“An assertion that a statement is true is an assertion that contradictory statements are false.” Perhaps, Douglas (Alan, Christopher). However, I don’t “assert”. I *trust in God* (and leave all the rest in the Most Capable Hands: including my contradictions, mistakes, shoddy thinking, nonsense—of which I’m sure I have a lot *g*). I wish all my critics knew the FREEDOM I feel: the freedom to make mistakes, BECAUSE I AM FORGIVEN! Because I am loved *just as I am*! 😀 It is my only reason for being here (either on TA, or on Planet Earth): to make the *Infinitely Loving… Read more »