Anglican Network in Canada, part of the Anglican Church in North America, and the Diocese into which Andy Lines was consecrated Bishop in June 2017, has recently launched a new website. They say: “We are a continent-wide family of churches which, like the majority of Anglicans worldwide, remain faithful to established Christian doctrine and Anglican practice...We believe the Bible is the word of the one true God and that the good news about Jesus Christ and what he's done for us is the power of God for salvation."
Friday morning I woke up buzzing. This is “not normal” for me at the end of the working week. I was buzzing about the Anglican Church. This, in part by my own fault, is for me, not merely “not normal”, it is a something I had missed for quite some time. A member of Archbishop’s Council and General Synod summed-up how I have been feeling in her recent resignation statement,
“…as a corporate body [the Church of England has] become unable to articulate the reality of sin, repentance and forgiveness- without this message we do not teach a true gospel and people do not get saved”.
That is not the sort of stuff to make you wake-up buzzing about the Church on a Friday.
But this Friday was the morning after the night before - the night of the first Anglican Mission in England ordinations.
For those of us who have longed for an Anglicanism where, as Paul Simon would say “You can call me Al”- BiblicAL, HistoricAL, GlobAL, EpiscopAL and MorAL and who have been “unchurched” by capitulation to an agenda of “good disagreement” and plural truth, it was all there. A new Anglican home.
Biblical throughout- not least in the preaching of the Reverend Rico Tice as he presented King Jesus in all authority, over all nations, in all truth and for all time.
Historical- rooted in the 1662 liturgy with the same charge that has been given to ordinands for centuries.
Global- with prayers and greetings from four GAFCON Primates and in the presence of four representatives of the Anglican Church of North America.
Episcopal- led by Bishop Andy Lines four bishops ordained the men and did so alongside a phalanx of “other presbyters” with bishops of at least three other Anglican churches in attendance.
Moral- we were warned that the Lord will not go with any church in mission that does not strive for purity.
As we had been reminded in prayer on the Thursday evening Christians live with the sure and certain hope of going home to glory. It is a home where people of every tribe and language and people and nation gather around the throne of the lamb who was slain and proclaim his glory in truth. Thursday evening was a foretaste of that eternal home. That is why I was buzzing come Friday.
I didn’t notice him at first - he was sitting on his own at the underground station, slightly hunched over and absorbed in his thoughts.
“It’s a home he said, isn’t it? It’s a home”.
One of the best known conservative evangelicals in England was sat on an East End tube platform talking about the hope of home because he too had been at the AMiE ordinations.
Statement about AMiE ordinations:
A significant event in the life of the Church will take place on Thursday 7th December 2017 in London. The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) will be holding its first ordination service led by the newly consecrated Missionary Bishop, Andy Lines.
AMiE is a growing network of churches who are Anglican by conviction. They are not part of the central structures of the Church of England but are connected to the global Anglican family through Gafcon.
We were delighted when Andy Lines was consecrated as Missionary Bishop to Europe, on 30th June 2017, by the Anglican Church in North America. One of Bishop Andy’s primary responsibilities is to give oversight to the current congregations of the Anglican Mission in England, and to make provision for future growth. A new generation of ordained leaders will be essential if AMiE is to achieve its gospel desire of planting 25 churches by 2025 and 250 by 2050.
Up until now, AMiE's clergy have either come from the Church of England, or have been ordained by overseas Bishops. Now, for the first time, nine men will be ordained together by an English Bishop who can give them regular oversight as they begin their ministries.
The ordination service on 7th December will be a celebration of the commissioning and sending out of new ministers of the gospel, who have gone through a process of rigorous discernment and training. We are praying that these newly ordained leaders will be used by God to grow his church both in number and maturity. Some will serve in existing AMiE congregations, while others will lead teams engaged in planting new churches.
The people of Christ Church, Harris, announced today that they can no longer remain under the oversight of the bishop of Argyll and the Isles, the Right Reverend Kevin Pearson. This follows his decision to support the change to the canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) which introduced the innovation of same-sex marriage.
At a meeting with Bishop Pearson, they explained their decision and asked if the Scottish Episcopal Church would keep the church they have built and the money they have given. The bishop insisted that the SEC would retain all assets. In response the congregation made it clear that they would walk away rather than submit to a decision which departs from scripture, tradition and the teaching of Jesus Christ,
The people of Christ Church will maintain a faithful Anglican witness on Harris under the oversight of the Right Reverend Andy Lines, who was consecrated as a missionary bishop for Europe in June and who will act under the authority of the GAFCON primates.
The fact that Lorna Ashworth has served on General Synod for 12 years, and was chosen to serve on Archbishops’ Council, shows the respect in which she is held by her peers. Her people skills, her considerable abilities in mastering complicated church business, and in articulating a point of view clearly and consistently, are well known to many. And yet Lorna is not interested in power, in making a name for herself or in being the centre of attention; rather she has simply wanted to serve, whether in Synod, in her local church, in her workplace, or as a wife and mother.
She has for all this time considered that it is worth being present at the Synod meetings, graciously but fearlessly putting forward a biblically faithful perspective even when she found herself in a minority or even alone in doing so, and encouraging less courageous colleagues to stand up when needed. But clearly a tipping point has been reached, where she has felt that her presence in these senior governing bodies is no longer achieving anything positive. “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.
The question with which she ends her letter is a telling one which is relevant to all faithful Anglicans around the world: given the inability of the Church of England leadership to articulate clearly and fully the saving message of Jesus Christ, for how long will God continue to use this institution to as his witness in the nation? And for how long can the wider Anglican Communion be expected to look to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England for credible leadership?
Lorna has said that she will continue to support those who share her orthodox understanding of the Christian faith, but choose to remain on Synod. And of course there remain hundreds of faithful clergy and congregations at local parish level in the Church of England, many of whom identify with Gafcon. However, increasingly their gospel work is confused and even contradicted by other theologies found in the higher structures of the institution. Whatever happens with the Church of England, as Lorna says, God is continuing his work through other ecclesial expressions, both Anglican (outside the C of E, connected to Gafcon) and non-Anglican.
Gafcon UK applauds Lorna Ashworth, who has been a member of the Gafcon UK Task Group, for her courageous stand for the truth, and will look to continue working with her in her future ministries.
The Primates’ Communiqué appears to continue promoting the narrative of Anglicans ‘walking together’ despite the absence of four Provinces representing millions of Anglicans, and despite profound disagreement expressed within the meeting on understandings of what it means to be Christian, and how we know what is right and wrong.
The Bishop Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church played a leading role in the Primates’ Conference. Although there was talk of ‘consequences’ for SEC’s action, he was unrepentant, and showed no concern for those under his care who cannot accept the decision to redefine marriage. They now feel betrayed and de-churched. Meanwhile millions of Anglicans will be concerned that the Communiqué does not appear to express any view on the actions of SEC or the thinking behind it.
The document does not address false teaching, but focuses on ‘border crossing’ as if it is more harmful. I take the long-established view of orthodox Anglicans across the world, that we cannot make an equivalence between Provinces who choose to abandon key aspects of biblical theology and ethics, tearing the fabric of the Communion and putting souls in danger, and those who respond to calls for help from faithful Anglicans within those Provinces. My role as Gafcon missionary Bishop is clearly needed more than ever: to provide ministry to and encourage emerging congregations of faithful Anglicans in Britain outside the official structures.
They, along with many within those structures want to be part of a global movement based on the unchanging truths of God’s word, and obedience to that word which includes ministry mentioned in the Communiqué: evangelism and discipleship, and also compassionate response to those suffering in contexts of violence and poverty; ministry of which Gafcon-aligned provinces are at the cutting edge.
Many church leaders, parishes and individual Anglicans in Britain now increasingly identify with the values and global vision of Gafcon, rather than the all too familiar trend to follow “another Gospel”: theology and practice that is seen to be more in keeping with our rapidly secularizing culture. Here is a suggested PCC resolution for those who want to publicly affiliate to this global fellowship committed to preserving and proclaiming historic, apostolic, biblical Christian faith. In this way we can support the Gafcon movement and be refreshed by the spiritual wisdom and vitality of the worldwide Church.
Parochial Church Council Affiliation to Gafcon: A Model Resolution
That this Parochial Church Council:
- Rejoices in the fresh clarity and confidence of Anglican witness to Jesus Christ being brought about through the Gafcon movement’s commitment to the authority of the Bible;
- Subscribes to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration as a contemporary statement of orthodox Anglican doctrinal identity;
- Continues to pray that those Anglican Churches which have embraced a different gospel will come to repentance, without which there can be no true reconciliation;
- Commits to the fellowship of the Gafcon movement through:
- Participation in Gafcon events regionally
- Developing global mission links with like-minded partners
- Sharing in responsibility for the financial support of Gafcon so that the noble work of this movement can be sustained and grow.
- We also welcome affiliation by District Church Councils.
- The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration can be accessed on the Gafcon website here.
- Please contact Canon Charles Raven, Gafcon Membership Development Secretary, (email@example.com) if you would like a representative of Gafcon to meet with the Church Council, and please notify him once a resolution has been passed.
- Gafcon will pass on details of all affiliated PCC’s/DCC’s to Gafcon UK to help with coordination and communication regionally.
Reports and commentary on the June 30th event in which a number of Primates of the Anglican Communion participated in the consecration of Bishop Andy Lines as a missionary from ACNA to faithful Anglicans in Britain and Europe who are no longer in fellowship with official structures and are establishing new congregations.
The consecration of a Missionary Bishop for Europe, report on the event in Wheaton, Illinois from Andrew Gross of GAFCON.
The Gafcon Missionary Bishop for Scotland and Europe. Canon Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council reflects on what this means and why it is necessary.
ACNA Consecration of Andy Lines: Personal Reflections by James Oakley, Church of England clergyman and blogger
Two Church of England bishops welcome controversial ‘missionary bishop’ , report by Harry Farley, Christian Today
Scottish Anglican Network Welcomes Consecration Of Missionary Bishop For Europe - statement from Scottish Episcopalians who have found themselves out of communion with their own church following the vote in favour of same sex marriage.
Gafcon events in England and USA The events at the Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America coincided with two Gafcon meetings in England, addressed by Archbishop Peter Jensen and others. Report by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.
Gafcon Chairman’s letter, in which he praises the consecration of Andy Lines, and says: “The need for Gafcon to safeguard the integrity and clarity of global Anglican mission is as urgent as it has ever been.”
Gafcon Bishop loses his permission to officiate, Church of England Newspaper Reports on the Diocese of Southwark’s response to Andy Lines’ consecration
Many in the church are trying to keep their heads down and be ‘moderate’ in the debate about same sex relationships. Can this work?
Archbishop Jensen says: "It has not worked. It cannot work. It will not work.
I mean the idea that we will be able to find a middle ground, where we will be able to be quietly or relatively conservative, while allowing for a denominational variety which blesses sexual relations outside the bonds of traditional marriage...."
From the Gafcon website.
Some helpful recent blogs and articles which explain and comment on the response of Gafcon and ACNA to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to change their Canons on marriage:
1. Gafcon Chairman’s June 2017 letter, by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Gafcon
[…] Gafcon stands ready to recognise and support orthodox Anglicans in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe as the drift away from apostolic faith and order continues. For reasons of mission and conscience, we can expect to find a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations needing oversight outside traditional structures, as is already the case with the Anglican Mission in England.
The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment. It is a recognition that the era of European Christendom has passed and that in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, a new start is being made by building global partnerships for mission.
2. The Gafcon Missionary Bishop for Scotland and Europe, by Phil Ashey, American Anglican Council
"[...] Canon Andy Lines’ consecration will not be irregular or invalid. His Holy Orders in the Province of South America have been duly and lawfully transferred to, and likewise received by, the ACNA. He will be consecrated by acting primates, archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Communion. His consecration will fall within the historical tradition of faithful Bishops who have created order in the Church during times of crisis. These are times when faith and doctrine have been threatened by others’ failure to guard against false teaching—or worse, have actively promoted such false teaching. One can trace this all the way back to Athanasius and the crisis of Arianism in the early Church. Faithful bishops like Athanasius disregarded the boundaries and autonomy of Arian dioceses in order to consecrate Biblically faithful bishops for Biblically faithful Christians. The consecration of a missionary bishop by GAFCON for Europe is as much an emergency as the consecrations that Athanasius and other faithful bishops performed, and just as necessary to guard the faith and order of the Church and prevent spiritual harm to biblically faithful Christians."
3. New hope for traditionalist Anglicans in the UK, by Eno Adeogun, Premier (features interviews with Canon Andy Lines and Archbishop Foley Beach)
4. Make up your mind, Justin: Is ACNA a province or not? by James Gibson:
[...] Justin Welby sat back and did nothing to prevent the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) from apostasizing itself. As Archbishop of Canterbury, titular head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, he should have intervened long before the SEC voted to abandon the faith and embrace sexual revisionism. Had he done so, he would have been fulfilling his responsibility as a bishop to maintain the unity of the church. Instead, he completely abdicated that responsibility, leaving faithful Christians in Scotland as sheep without a shepherd and forcing one of his own episcopal colleagues in England to break communion with the Scottish church.
5. Welby told ‘we cannot agree to disagree’ on sexuality Harry Farley in Christian Today reports that Lee Gatiss of Church Society, normally very positive about the Church of England, strongly criticizes the policy of “good disagreement” over a core doctrinal issue.
6. Preventing schism in the Church of England, by James Oakley:
[...] In January 2016, the primates decided how to treat a province that changed its canons on marriage. Instead of following through on that, Welby's solution is to have another meeting of all the primates. In other words, the solution is to talk some more.
…Now, this may give the impression that the Archbishop's long-term aim is to keep everyone talking. If we can simply keep everyone sat around the same table, talking and walking with one another, remain part of the same denomination in spite of our differences of opinion, then we have managed to maintain unity.
…His letter is highly critical of the prospect of Anglican primates consecrating a bishop to work in another province. There is not one word of censure for the actions of SEC that have triggered this sad but necessary development.
…The Archbishop has chosen to lay in hard against those who would cross man-made provincial boundaries, whilst remaining silent about blatant infringement of the revealed will of God, as spoken by Jesus himself.
GAFCON UK is delighted at the announcement that its chairman Canon Andy Lines is to be consecrated by the Anglican Church in North America as a missionary bishop to Europe under the auspices of GAFCON. We believe this will play an important part in the renewal of orthodox Anglican Christianity in Britain and further afield.
First of all, this is an immediate and courageous response to the most recent developments in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to change its Canons on marriage. However, the necessity for alternative Episcopal oversight in Scotland also applies to all corners of Britain, because the issues which underlie the SEC’s move are common to Anglicanism throughout the country.
At the heart of this crisis is a refusal to accept that the God of the Bible speaks clearly to his people through his written Word and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Whether this takes the form of outright denial of core biblical doctrines, or a more subtle advocacy of the mutual flourishing of plural and even contradictory viewpoints, it amounts to a rejection of the self-disclosed nature of the Christian God himself.
Humanity is created in God’s own image. Nothing is more serious for humanity than to reject God’s revelation of himself and substitute for it a version of God fashioned in our own image. And yet that is what is happening in the Anglican churches of Britain where apostolic biblical truth is not affirmed and actively upheld.
In preferring to conform to the passing, contemporary culture around them rather than faithfulness to God’s Word, and in ignoring the clearly stated consequences of their actions (for example after Canterbury 2016), the SEC has followed The Episcopal Church (of the USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada in dividing the Communion. The joint Communique of Gafcon and Global South (representing the large majority of Anglicans worldwide) after meeting in Cairo in October 2016 was clear about the actions which would result in churches “severing themselves from their own spiritual roots…”.The leadership of SEC has tragically done just this, and so severed itself from Christian orthodoxy and from fellowship with most Anglicans worldwide.
However all is not lost. Gafcon has always said that it stands ready to assist those faithful Anglicans in Scotland who cannot go along with the decision of their governing body. In the absence of effective response by the official Instruments of Communion, the Gafcon Primates have made good on their promise by authorizing the consecration of Andy Lines, who will provide authentic faithful oversight to faithful Anglicans in Scotland, and churches in the Anglican Mission in England, as well as linking orthodox Anglicans in England, Scotland and Wales with the global fellowship of Gafcon.
This address was recently given by a priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church to a gathering of clergy and lay people in one of the more remote areas of Scotland. Many will share these reflections of deep theological and practical concern about the proposed change to Canon 31 (relating to marriage and human sexuality).
[…] It all started back in 2007, when Reverends Matthew and Ann Kennedy made the difficult decision, alongside dozens of other congregations, to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) due to the latter’s departure from orthodox biblical Christianity.
TEC did not take kindly to this defection.
Gafcon UK are aware that Jesmond Parish Church have for some years been in a form of impaired communion with the Bishop of Newcastle, and have developed a special relationship with REACH-SA (formerly CESA).
Over the past few years, several clergy have been ordained by REACH Bishops to serve in the Jesmond church network and in one other part of England.
The leadership of Jesmond church have for some time been speaking publicly about the need for new missionary Bishops in Western nations who can oversee new Anglican ministries in the Celtic model. The reasoning can be found in the statement from the 2017 Jesmond Conference, here.
Gafcon UK have been informed of the latest developments but cannot comment further at this stage.
[See here for the Primates' Communique, released on 30th April 2017].
GAFCON UK would like to thank the GAFCON Primates for their courageous spiritual leadership, consisting of clear re-statement of the essentials of the faith, and practical action to take forward the mission of global Anglicanism in the 21st century.
We appreciate the way in which the Communique both looks back – to the witness of those who brought about the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century; and looks forward – to the exciting vision of multicultural and united Anglicanism which will be celebrated at the third GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, 2018.
The statement also reminds us of the serious suffering experienced in many parts of the world, where Anglicans minister sacrificially with only a fraction of the necessary resources, yet they remain faithful, trusting in God to provide. As affluent Westerners we repent of our complacency and lack of compassion, and commit ourselves to partnering more intentionally to support the church where it serves in contexts of desperate need.
The Primates go on to talk about the challenges in the Global North, “the increasing influence of materialism, secularism, and the loss of moral foundations” which are “spiritually dangerous”. We recognize the need to repent of our participation in a weak version of the Christian faith which has too often failed to point out these dangers or even made accommodation with them.
This accommodation and ‘cultural captivity’ is seen in the failure by many Anglican leaders in the UK to hold to the key principles of Holy Scripture as speaking clearly to God’s will for human flourishing, and of requiring unequivocal obedience whatever the cost. It is shown, for example, in unwillingness to be clear about the uniqueness of Jesus and the authority of the Bible, and rejection of clear biblical teaching God’s gift of sex and marriage, and of celibate singleness.
This has contributed to the increasing concern that many faithful clergy and lay people in the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales feel about the revisionist trajectory of these churches. As the Communique points out clearly, some Anglicans are already outside of these structures and need Episcopal oversight; others may do so soon.
So we warmly welcome the decision of the Primates to consecrate a missionary Bishop who will fulfil this function. We appreciate the way GAFCON has recognized that this intervention is giving global support to one of a number of initiatives being taken by biblically orthodox Anglicans in Britain; others include the work being done to strengthen the Free Church of England. Meanwhile the Primates have generously expressed respect for and continued warm fellowship with those who for the moment are choosing to remain within the official structures and contend for orthodox biblical faith there, while warning that inaction in the face of revisionist pressure is not a faithful option.
We understand that more will be revealed about the plans for the consecration in due course. We commit ourselves to prayer about this and invite all who hold to the historic and trustworthy teaching of our faith to join us.
“GAFCON is enabling the Anglican Communion to be fit for God’s purposes in the twenty-first century. We are uniting Anglicans around the world in faithful witness to Jesus Christ and recovering Biblical truth where it has been compromised. There is much still to do, but we give great thanks to God for his grace at work among us.”
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh - GAFCON Chairman
In this letter, GAFCON Chairman Nicholas Okoh addresses the recent call of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for "radical inclusion"in the Church of England, and urges faithful Anglicans to remember those suffering in South Sudan and northern Nigeria.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said, in a statement from 16th February:
we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.
Responses from Bishops
In his Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on Saturday 11th March 2017, the Bishop of Chelmsford has given one of the clearest indications yet of the next stage of major change in the Church of England’s approach to sexual ethics. Referring to the Archbishops’ call for “a radical new Christian inclusion”, he says:
"LGBTI+ people are welcome in the churches of the Chelmsford diocese… we want to listen to them and work with them so as to find appropriate ways of expressing their love – for it is not good for human beings to be alone – in permanent, faithful, stable relationships…there is no reason why prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered."
The Bishop of Manchester complains about the argument of conservatives, which “asserts that until the law and the canons change, wider teaching is fixed”. He calls this “the logic of logjam.” Instead, he proposes “much more than ‘maximum freedom’”, and “the possibility of exploring our prayers, our discipline, our outreach, our ministry and our teaching, and doing so with the expectation that things are going to look significantly different afterwards.”
The Diocese of Hereford has included the following motion for its Synod meeting of 4th March:
‘That this Synod requests the House of Bishops to commend under Canon B4 an Order of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Partnership or Same-Sex Marriage, indicative of no departure from the doctrine of the Church of England on any essential matter, and furnished with ample safeguards that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service.’
[Although this motion was withdrawn before the Synod, after procedural errors were pointed out].
Previously the Bishop of Hereford had declared in a January ad clerum, before the Synod vote,
my own position as one who wants to affirm same sex relationships while seeing marriage itself as being by definition between a man and a woman. In other words, as the Report puts it, “Interpreting the existing framework to permit maximum freedom within it, without changes to the law or the doctrine of the Church.”
The Bishop of Portsmouth has issued a Statement in which he says this:
I'm committed to using the maximum freedom, which was encouraged by all the bishops in their report, to welcome and affirm everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, nationality or any of the ways in which people can be so hurtfully differentiated. I’ll be exploring how this inclusion can be supported in our diocese including some guidance to clergy and lay leaders.
The Bishop of Bradwell (Suffragan of Chelmsford) says, after a moving account of living with untreatable cancer in a letter to clergy, says:
More time does need to be given to a well-founded theology of relationship, friendship and marriage which I hope will lead in time to a full acceptance of same sex marriages in the Church of England. That will take time. However, that should not hold us back in the immediate from proper recognition through prayers, blessing, celebration and affirmation of all that is good and wholesome in a wide variety of relationships including stable, faithful, committed and God given same sex relationships.
The Bishop of Selby (Suffragan of York) gives his view:
we need to explore a more creative way ahead for faithful human relationships rather than remaining where we are or simply offering maximum freedom within the present settlement. To do this will involve a major re-engagement with and renewal of Anglican anthropology…I do feel that our tradition has the resources to bless other relationships of love, longevity and depth.
Other Bishops will no doubt make similar statements in due course, and excerpts will be posted in updated versions of this briefing.
We can assume that these Bishops are responding to a signal from the Archbishops, indicating a move towards official acceptance and affirmation of same sex relationships, within the boundaries of the Canons which at the moment do not make provision for same sex marriage. Technically, Canon Law does not allow for a change in teaching and practice which implies the Church’s approval of same sex relationships, as the original GS2055 Report made clear. However unless this teaching and practice is enforced, in terms of discipline for those who transgress it, it is meaningless.
Senior leaders who contradict the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church, and/or who enter into same sex marriages or publicly celebrate them, should be a problem to the Church in the same way that any blatant violation of the norms of any organisation by its office holders are a problem. However the Archbishops have explicitly said that
"No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people.”
This can reasonably be interpreted as saying that no action will be taken against any Bishops or clergy who openly contradict Christian doctrine and/or who violate its canons in the area of sexual ethics.
The response from conservatives
But what of those for whom this new reality of “radical inclusion” is a false innovation, running counter to the universal Church's understanding of the Gospel? There will be those who are prepared to accept the removal of boundaries in terms of belief and behaviour in the wider church, as long as they themselves are free to continue orthodox faith and practice in their local churches and networks. They will not be seen as a “problem” as long as they do not challenge the new thinking publicly. But already there are an increasing number who, because of historic biblical convictions, find themselves in impaired communion with their Bishop if he or she has publicly moved away from apostolic Christian teaching at a foundational level.
GAFCON UK stands with such clergy and lay people, who accept item 13 of the Jerusalem Declaration:
We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and turn to the Lord.
We are maintaining good relationships with confessing Anglicans who are looking for a solution providing protection for the orthodox within the Church of England.
We are also actively working with those for whom in conscience this is no longer an option, who are looking for alternative Episcopal oversight and ultimately, a new way of being Anglican in Britain; part of global Anglican orthodoxy under the ultimate authority of the word of God, not a human institution, place or leader.
Further reading. Some good articles critiquing the Archbishops’ statement from a conservative perspective can be found here:
The tragic cruelty of “radical inclusion”, from ACNA
Dear Archbishops, what is “a radical new inclusion”?, by David Baker, Christian Today
An Anglican understanding of inclusion, by Martin Davie, Reflections of an Anglican Theologian
The historical basis for policy of ‘radical inclusion’ in the C of E, satire by Melvin Tinker, Anglican Ink
It’s time for the Church of England to lay down the law on marriage, by Andrea Minichiello Williams, Telegraph
The confusion created by the General Synod vote on 15th February makes abundantly clear that a new vision is now needed of what Anglican Christianity in England can and should be.
In GAFCON UK’s initial response to the Bishops’ Report GS2055, we recognised that the House of Bishops’ proposal to retain the current position on sexuality and marriage was unstable and inadequate. Reflecting divisions among the Bishops themselves, the document timidly relied upon legal definitions and “constructive ambiguity.” It missed the opportunity to explain briefly and clearly the historic, biblical understanding of sexuality, singleness and marriage and the benefits for human flourishing and witness to God’s plan of salvation.
Trying to avoid ‘taking sides’ in the debate, the document inevitably failed to reconcile diametrically opposing theological understandings. It even attempted to spiritualise this conflict as if it were a form of creative diversity mysteriously pointing to the Kingdom of God.
This is why we did not share the optimism of some that an orthodox view of marriage would prevail in the proposed ‘teaching document.’ The committee responsible for such a document would have been composed of representatives of both sides in the debate, resulting either in impasse, further theological muddle and confusion or, as occurred with the Pilling Report, majority and minority views.
As the Synod debate was introduced, Bishops made clear that the proposed retention of the historic teaching of marriage, or the ban on liturgical blessings of same sex relationships, was not a ‘stake in the ground’ beyond which the church will not move. To the contrary the Bishops saw it merely as a description of where the church is at the moment from where we would then ‘move forward’. This was a clear encouragement to innovations led by the loudest voices.
Our view was that orthodox believers could have no confidence either in the Report or in the process it was intended to initiate. Whichever way the vote went, there would be no happy outcome. The Church of England now finds itself in disarray.
Despite it being clear that the Canons and official teachings of the Church remain the same and changing them will not receive sufficient Synodical support, the campaigners for the LGBT ideology will no doubt continue and increase their public violations of Christian doctrine and ethics. They know full well that Bishops, with their diminished authority, will often feel unable to apply proper control and discipline. In some dioceses they may even be encouraged to push the limits, taking the ambiguity of the Archbishop of Canterbury's words "radical inclusion" as license to further move from God’s direction, rather than maintain obedience to His Word. Orthodox Anglicans across the country will be increasingly dismayed and confused by this.
After the very expensive ‘holding operation’ of the Shared Conversations and the production of GS2055, the inevitable crisis in the C of E is now upon us; one that cannot be covered up by more platitudes about reconciliation and unity.
There is a better way. We would like to suggest seven principles to guide orthodox Anglicans as they start to envision and plan for a better church future:
- Confessional. A true church cannot include everyone without boundaries. While only God knows the human heart, Christian community must define itself by identifying with and confessing certain key tenets of the faith, and rejecting others as incompatible. This may be costly if it runs counter to expediency in a fractured church and ideological pressures in society, but it is necessary for apostolic authenticity and spiritual health.
- Episcopal. We are Anglican, and so we value and uphold the ideal of a godly, faith-defending episcopacy. We long for Bishops in the Church of England to fulfill this function, and we look with admiration at examples of such leadership in other parts of the Anglican Communion.
- Global. We are not just a network of independent local churches – we are and wish to remain part of a global Communion. The mutual benefits for spiritual growth, learning and mission of such a global fellowship are incalculable, and need to be intentionally enabled and nurtured. Given the failure of the traditional Anglican “Instruments of Communion”, the global Gafcon movement, gathered around the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, is the best viable means of achieving this.
- Charismatic. We are a community of the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is alive and at work today, calling us to be in relationship with him in worship and prayer, enabling, challenging, giving supernatural gifts for ministry, and discernment and courage where necessary to bear with suffering and to stand for justice and truth.
- Catholic. We appreciate the deep roots of our Anglican tradition dating back not just to the Reformation, but to the godly disciples of the medieval period, the courageous missionaries to pagan Europe in the dark ages, the Fathers of the early church. Our Anglican liturgy and our varieties of practice in worship and the sacraments sustain us spiritually and unite us in faith.
- Evangelical and Reformed. We uphold the biblical principles of justification by faith alone, and the primary authority of Scripture alone in determining doctrine and ethics. While we seek to serve and uplift humanity in a variety of ways, especially where there is deep physical suffering, we see forgiveness of sin and relationship with God through Jesus as the primary need of all people. So evangelism is more than ‘welcome’ and not the same as ‘inclusion’; it involves calling people to repent, turn to Christ, and live the new life he enables.
- Pastoral. As a community of sinners and including those suffering from physical, mental and spiritual damage, we need the regular forgiveness of the Lord, his healing touch, and his gracious word. While some are set apart for special pastoral responsibilities, all believers are called to minister to one another and to those outside the community of faith with love and concern, though sometimes with firmness and correction as we are all liable to stray. Our churches should be fellowships of mutual support and encouragement, and also of transformation, as the Gospel involves the blind seeing, the deaf hearing and the lame walking.
As Gafcon UK we are committed to working with our partners in Britain and across the world to help build a movement in which these principles will be acted out, to the glory of God. Why not join us?
GAFCON UK welcomes the publication of the OneBodyOneFaith statement “A time to build”.
The statement is admirably clear in its wholesale abandonment of any pretence that OneBodyOneFaith has any respect for Biblical authority or any interest in the wellbeing of global Anglicanism.
While “A time to build” suggests that it seeks “theological diversity” it in fact requires that the whole Church worldwide submit to a view that God has not spoken clearly in his Word about the nature of humanity and human sexuality.
The authors of the statement suggest that they are wiser than 4,000 years of Biblical revelation, 2,000 years of Christian theology and the overwhelming majority of Christians down the ages and around the world.
We note with a degree of amazement that OneBodyOneFaith’s attempt to discredit GAFCON, which represents the majority of the world’s Anglicans, relies entirely on an ad hominem attack which entirely misrepresents the position of a Primate whom the authors have never had the pleasure of meeting. We trust that the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion will use his comments to General Synod tomorrow to distance himself from the manifest nonsense asserted by OBOF concerning Archbishop Okoh, Primate of Nigeria.
It is a remarkable thing that a tiny English campaign group sees fit to be so disrespectful to the Godly leader of a vibrant, growing Church of many millions. As we hope OBOF is aware, at the present time, rather than criticism the Church of Nigeria desperately needs our prayers given the price many are paying for their commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
GAFCONUK is content to contrast the hubris and divisiveness of the leadership of OBOF and with the humble and clear leadership of Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of Nigeria. As well as being Chairman of GAFCON, he is also Vice-Chair of the Global South movement, representing the large majority of Anglicans worldwide, standing for unity under a shared confessional basis of faith, and committed to serving Christ in contexts much more challenging than anything seen in this country.
The members of the GAFCONUK Task Force wish to put on record their immense gratitude to God for His provision of the servant-hearted leadership of ++Okoh, the GAFCON Primates and their bishops. Our own renewed commitment to Anglicanism is in no small measure due to the refreshment derived from re-experiencing episcopal leadership which is unequivocally Biblical both in character and in action. The growing strength of GAFCON both numerically and organisationally bears elegant testimony to Archbishop Okoh as a worthy successor to Archbishop Akinola and Archbishop Wabukala.
On Wednesday 15th February the General Synod of the Church of England will debate whether to “Take Note” of GS2055. Whatever the outcome of the vote we anticipate that the debate will reveal serious divisions within the Church of England, with voices of revisionism louder and more confident than orthodoxy. Unless the House of Bishops has the collective will to reassert the historic biblical understanding of marriage and publicly explain it, a trajectory that takes the Church ever further way from its own foundation documents seems inevitable. The ever growing number of orthodox Anglicans abandoned by the Church of England as is embraces secularism in the futile pursuit of popularity will find a warm welcome in the global, confessionally Anglican fellowship which is GAFCON.