Thinking Anglicans

Affirming Catholicism on General Synod

Press release 1 March 2007

Anglo-catholics affirm dignity of difference

Members of Affirming Catholicism made a series of influential contributions to the Church of England General Synod this week, helping the body move in a more progressive direction without alienating conservative sensitivities.
In an agenda which included key debates on the replacement of Trident (the UK nuclear deterrent), lesbian and gay Christians and criminal justice, speakers prompted Synod to consider the plight of those who were marginalised in the Church or society.

Mr John Ward, a lay member of Synod, spoke movingly on the place of lesbian and gay people in the Church during a debate sparked by a motion from fellow Affirming Catholic, the Rev’d Mary Gilbert. His speech, which focussed on his own experience as a gay Christian in the Church, received sustained applause from Synod members who eventually passed an amended motion affirming the integrity of divergent views on the issue in the Church, and committing the Church to keep dialogue going.

Speaking of the debate, Mr Ward said:

Being an Anglican means learning to live respectfully with difference. I feel encouraged by the affirmation many have given to me as a gay man this week, and I am hopeful that continued gracious dialogue will allow Church members ultimately to reconcile their differences.

In a debate on the criminal justice system Synod members backed a report urging the Government to invest more resources in preventing crime and rehabilitating offenders, many of whom suffer from social disadvantage or mental health problems. Mary Johnston, a lay member of Synod and a Trustee of Affirming Catholicism, spoke of her own recent experience as a victim of crime and called on the Church to consider especially the terrible impact of violent crime for the families and friends of both victims and offenders.

Summing up the week, the Rev’d Jonathan Clark, acting Chair of Affirming Catholics in Synod, said:

A Catholic vision of the gospel emphasises the dignity of humanity. I’m delighted that Affirming Catholics have played an important part in helping Synod reconcile its own differences as well as focus on the need to welcome and support those whom society has traditionally excluded.


  • Tim says:

    “hopeful that continued gracious dialogue will allow Church members ultimately to reconcile their differences.”

    Akinola should well be embarrassed by this humble approach.

  • Dave says:

    Of course Mr Ward doesn’t just want to “allow Church members ultimately to reconcile their differences” in any way that is true to traditioanl scriptural Christianity. By reconciliation, he means that the outcome MUST include full acceptance that he, and other clergy who came out at GS can continue living in same-sex sexual unions.

    By calling for a dialogue aimed at reconcilition, he is prejudging the outcome! So what he is actually asking for is a re-definition of Truth, dressed up as “reconciliation”. Such a “reconciliation” will exclude the plain meaning of scripture, and anyone who believes and lives by it..

    What we actually need is a proper debate about “truth” where both “sides” explain the truth that they believe, and why they believe it, and we then decide whether we can either 1. persuade one another to change our positions, or 2. can find enough common ground to agree a flexible accomodation (a so-called ‘reconciliation’), or 3. we decide that the disagreements are so fundamental that some form of a honourable separation is required.

    If the GS debate had been as full as we have had here several times, I think that everyone would see that option 3., rather than ‘reconciliation’, is the only cure.

  • Dave says:

    ps I still wonder at the several clergy who *claim* to be making a stand for [their] truth by coming out in GS as living in same-sex sexual relationships. But it is all just words – they don’t have the conviction of their beliefs to actually risk openly rejecting their Bishop or leaving the church! Unlike US conservatives..

  • JCF says:

    “What we actually need is a proper debate about “truth” where both “sides” explain the truth that they believe”

    Truth is ***Jesus Christ***, Dave. I don’t understand why you should be in any doubt about this. :-/

  • Pluralist says:

    Such a “reconciliation” will include the interpreted meaning of scripture: the understanding of the whole and a proper assessment of the relativity of the parts.

    Your view is not the only view, and no one needs to leave. Inevitably it is the sectarian position that ends up breaking away, those with more definite views. They are the ones who find an adapted position one they cannot live with. However, many can, do and even welcome the change towards inclusion. I do welcome it. The testimonies at General Synod have done much to edge the Church on to a position where we are, in fact, nearer TEC, and this can only be the more ethical position.

  • Merseymike says:

    For once I agree with Dave.

    The only answer is a separation. Given the choice, I can think of few religions or beliefs i would wish to follow than evangelical Christianity. I have precisely nothing in common with its followers and do not wish to be part of an organisation where such views are given credibility or respect.

    This is all too wishy washy – its about time liberals recognised conservative evangelicals are the enemy and need opposing not accommodating with.

  • kieran crichton says:

    Dave, I really find your posting here offensive. You have made many statements like this, but on this occasion I think you have crossed a line.

    Frankly I find it bewildering that you promote a view that the Bible trumps statements contained within it – try “if you love me, keep my commandments and I will pray the father that will give you another comforter, that he will bide with you…” Or, perhaps more pertinent to this discussion: “I give you a commandment, that you should love one another…” I think it’s time you accounted for how the actual words of Jesus fit in your Christianity.

    I would dare to suggest that the truth of Christianity is only made apparent in the lived experience of unconditional love. It is the command of Jesus, and no-one can claim to follow Him if they have not love, or to use a more precise word, charity. You’ve missed the point if you equate traditional Christianity with Sola Scriptura – a late innovation. I regard your views on the Bible in these threads as essentially anti-incarnational; it seems that there is no need for God to have become flesh after all because we have the printing press. That whole incarnation thing was an embarrassing interlude that is now well behind us.

    Therefore, I ask you two questions Dave.

    Why do you keep abstracting real gay people AS people and fellow followers of Jesus out of the current debate?

    If you are as faithful a disciple of Jesus as you claim to be, why do you not pursue the way of reconciliation yourself, but insist on continuing to be uncharitable towards your neighbour?

  • Pluralist says:

    _This is all too wishy washy – its about time liberals recognised conservative evangelicals are the enemy and need opposing not accommodating with._ Merseymike

    I’ve little in common either, but the trouble is the continuum carries on through. One group or other is likely to walk or be pushed, but the difficult issue is what happens to the middle (at the moment) bunch.

    These might be called open evangelical, and they are split. They clearly have some doctrinal affinity with those who would have purity land, and be exclusive about sexual matters to the point that others will ignore them. Yet, the open evangelicals also want to do some exploring around their beliefs and relate to a wider range of people than lookalikes.

    The question is how such a split would work. Obviously it must be gay and lesbian inclusive, because that is the crux of the particular argument and needs sorting out. But what about the wider doctrinal arguments around which this deals? Clearly there are two main polar positions now, and liberals are in the driving seat, but it raises questions of continuity, identity, boundaries and where the split point is set. My own view is to have flexibility and risk, but so long as inclusivity and theological freedom is kept, the split point should go wider to the right than perhaps you or I might otherwise prefer.

    Liberal as I am, I prefer more people on board – not for numbers but because more on board means more discussion and debate and, indeed, inclusivity. Let sectarians form sects.

  • Dave says:

    Pluralist wrote: “the difficult issue is what happens to the middle (at the moment) bunch.”

    Dear Pluralist, yes I agree.. I think that Liberals will never be happy until they create a pure church – free from ‘enemies’ who are less liberal than themselves! If you want to consolidate the liberal clutch on power in the CofE you will have to find a way to slice off conservatives layer at a time. Which is why I totally support the continued inclusion of Reform, FiF etc (who are actually more conservatve than me!).

    Or you could be honest and just split off a church that fully conforms to your true ideals now… But I predict it would be empty, or evangelical, within 50 years!

  • mynsterpreost says:

    Dave, to use an old English expression, that’s a load of cobblers. ‘Conforms to your true ideals…etc’.

    As one who (for some on this list) might be seen as a liberal, I spent a large dollop of Saturday interviewing prospective ordinands. One was a staunch evangelical, worshipped at a ‘Reform’ church and according to your hypothesis I should block his progress to ordination to hasten the theologico-ethnic cleansing of ecclesia anglicana.

    In point of fact, even though he and I are poles apart, I will be pushing hard for his recommendation. I suppose that he can’t be a real evangelical thoug (by some standards) because, while not agreeing with some of my comments, he was prepared to admit they lay within the Christian faith….

    Please do think twice before posting such twaddle. Some of us might even wonder whether it reflects your own deepest longings!

  • Dave says:

    Dear Mynsterpreost, you might want to re-read Pluralist’s posting – which is what I was replying to. He and Merseymike were agreeing that “its about time liberals recognised conservative evangelicals are the enemy” and saying that it is probably a necessary evil to keep less conservative evangicals in the CofE – presumably on political grounds, to ensure that those thrust out are unlikely to form a serious alternative church.. If you really disagree with them you should be rebuking them – not just attacking me. Otherwise you sound as if you are just trying to keep me quiet, while quietly approving of their ideas!

    ps If you really are open to conservative evangelicals, how to you suggest they go about getting proportionate representation in the HoB and the rest of the heirarchy?

  • Dave says:

    Dear kieran crichton

    I certainly don’t think that the Bible trumps statements made within it – but those statements have to be interpreted in the light of the whole teaching of the Bible – you can’t just make them mean anything you want. The truth of CHRISTianity was revealed 2000 years ago in the incarnation and work of Jesus Christ. Our experience is at best partial!

    I don’t think that people cannot be followers of Christ just because they have “gay” sexualites AS SUCH – and I do listen to what everyone says – but authority for our beliefs, morals, bahaviours etc rests with divine revelation – most reliably recorded in Scripture – interpreted by Tradition and Reason.

    God is the arbiter of what is Holy – it is not in the gift of the church!

    I don’t consider myself a particularly good follower of Christ – but I am very used to reconciling with different Christians, many of whom I don’t agree with on matters where scripture is unclear or several interpretations are reasonably possible (as long as it doesn’t harm the core essentials of Christianity). I would love to be able to be reconciled as Christians. The problem is that TEC liberals (in particular – but also some UK liberals who post here) are now harming core essentials of doctrine and sin. Many *admit* that they do not believe standard Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ, sin, salvation etc. In such cases we can be reconciled as what we both are – religiously inclined human beings – but not as what we both aren’t – Christians.

  • Dear Dave,

    The phrase “Scripture, Tradition and Reason” is often heard in these squabbles as coming from Dr Hooker. I only just found out (on the HOB list) that this – as most everything these days coming out of American political antagonism, it seems – is a lie.

    Dr Hooker says Scripture, Reason and the Voice of the Church.

    Moreover, Scripture is either plural or singular (the Scripture) as it comes, and the Voice of the Church is not immutable, as per late Modern American Heterosexism, but mutatis mutandi; present and future, both to be established with Reason – which changes quite a lot, wouldn’t you think?

  • Dave says:

    Dear Göran, You need look no further that the first line of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Council’s response to UK Governments Consultation Document on Civil Partnerships (which turned out to be gay marriage) to see a better rendering of the Anglican approach – that we usually summarise as “Scripture, Tradition and Reason”

    Can’t get more authoritative than that in the Anglican world!

  • NP says:

    Goran – the “voice of the church” is saying that Lambeth 1.10 is the “standard of teaching” as the ABC puts it repeatedly

  • Lord Druid of Wobbley more “authoritative” than Dr Hooker?

    Really, Dave!

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