Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Salisbury responds to GAFCON UK

Updated Sunday morning

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, wrote a letter which was published in the Church Times this week. The full text is available on the Salisbury diocesan website: Letter to the Church Times, November 2016 and is copied below.

The Church Times also carried this report of the GAFCON UK letter and reactions to it: Listing ‘violators’ of Lambeth Conference resolution is ‘outrageous’, says Bishop.

From the Bishop of Salisbury

Sir, — The GAFCON Statement of 13 November about Lambeth I.10 is outrageous.

First, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” When Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.

Second, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”

Third, “Love your enemies.” GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.

Fifth*, “Do as you would be done by.” Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. “The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”

For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.

As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people. Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.


* Note – this is an error introduced by the Church Times in-house drafting process.


Hear the bishop and Andy Lines on this morning’s Sunday programme here (36 minutes in).


  • James Byron says:

    Stirring stuff.

    Now, perhaps Holtam could follow up by repudiating the Lambeth motion, and ending all discrimination against LGBT people in his own diocese? Let his actions back his words.

  • S Cooper says:

    Course he won’t repudiate Lambeth 1.10

  • Kate says:

    Of course we want more but it would be curmudgeonly not to be grateful that he has said something when his peers have remained silent.

  • Graham Southgate says:

    As a priest in Nicholas Holtam’s own diocese of Salisbury, it is heartening to read such a robust intervention from a diocesan bishop.
    A “blind-eye” usually appears to be turned to GAFCON’s cherry-picking of both Scripture and Lambeth 1.10, so I am hoping that Bishop Nicholas’ fresh approach will mark a change of attitude to GAFCON’s schismatic activity.

  • Jeremy Pemberton says:

    This was a helpful letter. I hope he will be pressing for a change in official teaching so that his view can be honoured as a legitimate theological position rather than just a pastoral exception. We have had enough compassion: now we want justice.

  • Revd Jacqueline Clark says:

    As my Diocesan Bishop, I feel Bishop Nicholas Holtham has set a fine example for us all. I thank God for his leadership!

  • Robyn Golden-Hann says:

    GAFCON’S list appears to have one purpose; to divide, to create a ‘them and us’ atmosphere.

    There is no them and us, only US.

    Bishop Nicholas’ letter calls for unity. Surely our calling from Christ is to be one body, disparate brothers and sisters united in the ‘one bread’ upon which we all feed?

  • Trevor Thurston-Smith says:

    I applaud Bishop Holtam on writing this very appropriate, temperate but robust response to GAFCON. They, too, of course, are in regular infringement of other aspects of Lambeth Resolution 1.10, but this too often passes without comment. Well done to the Bishop of Salisbury – and what a shame that there is the usual deafening silence from his fellow bishops.

  • Cynthia says:

    Thank you, Bishop +Nicholas.

  • Brenda Wallace says:

    Great letter, and even more encouraging to see a serving Diocesan Bishop stick a head above the parapet to challenge this vicious homophobic trash. Let’s hope more will follow his lead in the urgent fight against homophobic victimisation in the Church of England. Where are the silent majority?

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    I welcome Nicholas Holtam’s letter but where is the letter from Lambeth saying that this stunt by GafconUK is outrageous? It’s a sickening stunt and the U.K. Primates ought to be saying that much.

  • Julia Taylor says:

    We in Salisbury are fortunate in our Bishop. He speaks for all of us in this messy Church of many colours, varieties of churchmanship, and legal forms of human sexuality. May the coming meetings of Bishops be a turning-point in this matter, and GAFCON be firmly sidelined.

  • Anthony Archer says:

    This is an utterly disgraceful and reprehensible initiative by GAFCON and says more about the proponents (who are they? – I challenged one last week thinking that he was one, but he disclaimed any responsibility) than it does the underlying issue. It is time some light was shed on this web of organisations. GAFCON UK Task Force seems to be an unincorporated association/fellowship of some kind, not an English charity as far as I can tell. Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is a charity. It filed its 2015 accounts late and we await its 2016 accounts. One of its trustees is ‘Mr A Lines’, Chair of the above referenced Task Force. Most of its income stems from a conference called ReNew, and most of its cash is held separately on behalf of that conference. Its donations presumably stem from some churches and individual supporters, although these are not disclosed, as they need not be. Mr A Lines seems to be the same person who is Mission Director of Crosslinks, a well-established Church of England mission agency. His part-time work for AMiE is acknowledged in the accounts and clearly has the support of the trustees. There is no reference to his work for the GAFCON UK Task Force, which might be more recent. Donors and supporters of Crosslinks will be aware of these other connections to the extent they have knowledge and/or read the accounts. The public benefit statements of these and any other related charities should be closely scrutinised.

  • Savi Hensman says:

    I am not sure what the calls for Nicholas Holtam to repudiate Lambeth 1.10 mean. He has repeatedly spoken in favour of affirming marriage for same-sex couples (see e.g.,

  • Pamela Shier says:

    The Bishop of Salisbury is my new hero!

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    Great letter by the Bishop of Salisbury.

    But, what happened to his fourth point?

  • Jeremy says:

    With Andrew Godsall I too wonder where are the most senior Church of England bishops?
    Where is Cantuar? Where is Ebor?
    But then I remember that they haven’t shown any leadership in this area before. So I don’t hope for much from them.
    Thank you Sarum for stepping forward when no other bishop did.
    Thank you also Anthony Archer for the accountability you bring above. Perhaps we can start making a list of those who disclaim responsibility, and so understand who is responsible?

  • Interested Observer says:

    “With Andrew Godsall I too wonder where are the most senior Church of England bishops?
    Where is Cantuar? Where is Ebor?”

    Supporting GAFCON in private, disingenuously remaining mute in public.

  • Kate says:

    Repudiating Lambeth 1.10 would mean accepting that it says what GAFCON say. It doesn’t. It merely says that the worldwide group were not in a position to endorse same sex marriages: it does NOT say that provinces may not do so. Rather than repudiation the correct approach is just to ignore it as Sarum has rightly done.

  • Penelope says:

    Dear Gafcon

    I am adding my name to that of +Nick Holtam in describing the publishing of a list of clergy and laity who have – in your terms – violated Lambeth 1.10, as outrageous. This is especially sad, since many of the churches which you represent have flagrantly flouted Lambeth 1.10 (f) and unashamedly announced that they will continue to do so; without, I may add, attracting any ‘consequences’ from the Anglican Communion.
    Furthermore, publishing this list anonymously is an act of cowardice. If you are unashamed to own this rank homophobia, then the author should be most willing to put his, or her, name to it.

    Yours in Christ
    Penelope Cowell Doe

  • Interested Observer says:

    That BBC interview appears to consist of Nick Holtam paying out a large length of rope, having previously handed out a leaflet on how to tie knots. Well done to him.

  • James Byron says:

    Savi, yes, Holtam expressed cautious support for England to have same-sex civil marriage: he didn’t vote for it in the House of Lords; and then said that any priest in his diocese who contracted such a marriage faced discipline.*

    Holtam could explicitly condemn the homophobic Lambeth motion, and guarantee that no LGB priest in Salisbury will face discipline, all without threatening his position or his livelihood. To date, he hasn’t.


  • S Cooper says:

    Kate / Savi – playing with legalistic stances hasn’t got us far out of the hypocrisy that has harmed so many. Liberal bishops have to be open and honest and say Lambeth 1.10 is wrong if they really believe it is wrong in any part. Without that honesty, what now happens is GAFCON gets Canterbury to assure them further examples of naughty behaviour won’t be forthcoming. Better to be honest & start a new, liberal, global communion than wasting time with legalese and fake unity.

  • Gerry Lynch says:

    “he didn’t vote for it in the House of Lords” says James Byron.

    He wasn’t a member of the House of Lords until 20 months after it was voted on.

  • James Byron says:

    Gerry, thanks for the correction, and my apologies for the error. I went from his consecration, and will double-check the rules on seniority in future.

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