Theological Reflection

“At the start of the Living in Love and Faith book, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York introduce what LLF is doing as ‘an Anglican method of theological reflection’ (p. viii).

It’s easy to hear this phrase ‘theological reflection’ and think it just means, say, ‘thinking about the world biblically’, or ‘applying theology to the world’. However ‘theological reflection’ is more than that: it is a specific method for doing theology, for discovering what God is saying to us now. If we are going to use it to come to a decision about doctrine, we should be sure that it is a correct way to come to conclusions about God.

‘Theological reflection’ is a relatively recent term. …”

A very helpful clarification from Kirsten Birkett – at Church Society.

See also:

The Church of England’s guide to hearing God’s voice through the Bible, according to LLF – Andrew Symes at Anglican Mainstream.

A Conversation with Bishop Julian Dobbs

Joshua Bovis, the Vicar of St. John the Evangelist in Tamworth, recently chatted with Bishop Julian Dobbs, Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, in the USA, on the theme of Advent.

“Knowing that Jesus will coming again greatly steadies us in this shaky world. One verse in 25 in the New Testament touches on the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke of it often. Paul called it ‘our blessed hope’. Peter called it ‘our living hope’. Running unmistakably through the Bible is the unshakeable conviction and insistence that the God who is working in history and who has already established his rule in Jesus Christ will one day bring history to a goal or climax in the Son of Man’s coming in glory. You can’t read the New Testament and be in any doubt about that.”

Joshua published the conversation for his church, and has also made it available for your encouragement. (PDF file)

And please do pray for the Armidale Election Synod, meeting this Saturday (12th December) to elect the next Bishop of Armidale.

When to take a stand

“From time to time, faithful Christians have been called on to take a stand for the gospel.

In the 1st century it was over circumcision and Gentile inclusion in the church.

In the 4th century it was over the nature of God and the divinity of Christ.

In the 16th century it was over the authority of Scripture and justification by faith.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was over the possibility of miracles and the historical reliability of the Gospels.

And in the 21st century, it is over marriage, gender and sexuality. …”

– Tom Habib writes plainly at The Australian Church Record.

Unanimous resolution: The Sydney Standing Committee regarding References to the Appellate Tribunal (Same Sex Blessing) – Wangaratta and Newcastle

Essential reading:

Here is the text of a Motion passed unanimously by the Diocese of Sydney Standing Committee at its meeting on Monday 23 November 2020.

It concerns the Opinion released by the Appellate Tribunal relating to Same Sex Blessing:


Diocese of Sydney Standing Committee – 23 November 2020
References to the Appellate Tribunal (Same Sex Blessing) – Wangaratta and Newcastle

Motion passed unanimously:

Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney entirely rejects the recently released majority opinion of the General Synod Appellate Tribunal. We stand with brothers and sisters all over the world who have resisted the attempt to bless what God does not bless and to ignore the teaching of Scripture on the extreme danger of the behaviour endorsed by the proposed services of blessing. We are deeply saddened that the delivery of this opinion further disturbs the hard-won unity of the church.

Moving speech (The Rev Dr Mark Thompson)

As we’ve heard, on Remembrance Day this year the Appellate Tribunal published its opinions, both a majority opinion and a minority opinion. The bottom line was a majority decision that the Diocese of Wangaratta’s proposed service for the blessing of same sex unions is authorised by the Canon Concerning Services and is not inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. This despite the fact that the Fundamental Declarations make clear that the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments remain ‘the ultimate rule and standard of faith, given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation’.

The long document which unfolds the reasons for this opinion makes very disappointing reading. That’s a mild way of saying it really. The handling of the Bible is irresponsible, regularly throwing dust in the air and suggesting either that the key biblical passages do not say what they appear to say, or that there is diverse and equally weighty opinion about the meaning of key terms or the passage as a whole, so we can’t be sure. That is just not true — on either count. As I’ve said in another place, the tactic of casting doubt on the meaning of a word or a statement in order to persuade a person to reject it, is an old debating tactic. It goes back to the Garden of Eden: ‘did God really say?’

The majority opinion cannot seem to grasp that the seriousness of this matter, which takes it beyond previous disagreements between us, is indicated by Scripture itself: ‘those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God’. That is actually said twice in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. Not inheriting the kingdom of God — that makes it a salvation issue. And yes, that is true of sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling and swindling too — and we need to beef up our warnings about those things too if we take this passage seriously — but that list does include ‘anyone practicing homosexuality’ as the Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it, or ‘men who have sex with men’ as the NIV (2011) puts it.

It is an extremely serious matter, which is why we consider the embrace of this behaviour, or the attempt to pronounce God’s blessing on behaviour that is spoken about in these terms in 1 Corinthians 6, as a line in the sand that we must not cross. We cannot bless what God refuses to bless but instead warns us to avoid at all costs.

The other Bible passage that is mishandled is Matthew 19, where in answer to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, Jesus appeals to God’s creational intention: ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.’ The reason why Jesus answers the Pharisees on divorce the way he does, is because this creational purpose of God, bringing a man and a woman together as one flesh, as a new family unit, still stands. But the Opinion dismisses this as ‘an inference not a command’.

There is more that could be said at this point, including the way an illustrative legal maxim is misquoted in order to make it say the very opposite of what it means in the general construction of legal statutes. The principle that ‘the expression of one is the exclusion of the other’ points to the significance of Jesus speaking first of male and female (echoing Genesis 1:27) and then of ‘a man and his wife’ (quoting Genesis 2:24) and not of any other kind of ‘marriage’. However, once again attempts are made to avoid the straightforward reading of the biblical text in the service of a predetermined conclusion.

But not only is the Bible irresponsibly handled, a series of theological assertions are made which are simply insupportable. First, the constituent elements of marriage as understood in Scripture and in the Anglican formularies are listed as ‘maturity, an intention of permanency, and consent’, neatly ignoring the biblical and BCP language of ‘man and woman’ and ‘forsaking all others’. Second, when the Book of Common Prayer is cited, and its three purposes of marriage quoted — the procreation of children, living a chaste and holy life, and mutual companionship — it is asserted that same sex marriages are capable of meeting all these three desiderata and the scriptural teaching on which they are based. The procreation of children, though, is not the natural outcome of a same sex sexual union. It requires of necessity—in every case—intervention from outside of the marriage, which is a massive difference to the conception of a child through the sexual union of a man and a woman in marriage. Third, an almost absurdly narrow definition of ‘doctrine’, itself a minority opinion of a previous iteration of the Tribunal, allows this Opinion to insist that the statements of Scripture and the Prayer Book about marriage do not fit the definition and so the proposed service and all that is involved in it, does not constitute a breach of doctrine.

There is a great deal of intricate legal argument in the majority opinion which is neatly and persuasively unravelled in the minority opinion of Ms Gillian Davidson. In many ways, given the gravity of the situation and the potential consequences of the their decision, the majority opinion really reads like shoddy work at points. It is very obviously a preconceived conclusion in search of an argument, which it attempts, unsuccessfully, to manufacture. It reveals a fundamentally different doctrine of Scripture and of Christian discipleship.

For these reasons we need to voice the strongest possible rejection of this majority opinion of the Appellate Tribunal. Already, as we have seen, some of the Australian bishops are preparing to act upon it. We need to make clear that we have not moved from where we have always stood. We stand on the authority of Scripture and the teaching of Christ, given to us during his earthly ministry, and through the subsequent ministry of his commissioned spokesmen, the apostles. We are not moving away from the rest of the Anglican church. We haven’t moved at all. Instead, this opinion and the actions proposed to be taken on the basis of it, constitute a walking away from us and the majority of Anglicans worldwide who have risked everything to take their stand on the teaching of Scripture on this issue.

Brothers and sisters, many of our brothers and sisters, Anglicans in other parts of the world, are looking to see how we will respond to what has been done and is about to be done as a result of this Appellate Tribunal opinion. David Short, who, with the congregation of St John’s Shaughnessy, lost their church campus and the house he and his family lived in, who had his license to minister withdrawn — we made him an honorary canon of St Andrews Cathedral in the wake of it all — David is watching. And we want to be able to look David in the eye and say ‘we are with you, we stand with you’. Jay Behan, David Clancey and hundreds of others in Christchurch New Zealand, were compelled to leave their church buildings behind and eventually to form a new diocese because they could not turn a blind eye to their General Synod’s decision to bless same sex unions. Jay, David, Costa and all the rest — they are watching too. And we need to be able to look them in the eyes and say: ‘the test came, and we stood firm with you’.

So I am asking you to pass this motion. It needs to be strong and it needs to be clear.

But one last thing: it is important, as a friend reminded me last night, that we distinguish between those in responsible positions of authority who teach and promote these things, and those who are broken and hurting and need to hear of the possibility of forgiveness, restoration and new life. To those who teach these things and overturn the teaching of Scripture in doing so, we need to speak in the strongest possible terms, as this motion does, as Jesus did to the religious leaders of his day. But without ever backing away from that, we need to keep reaching out in love, compassion and grace to those trapped by the devil’s lies and who live in the midst of a broken world. To people like that Jesus came — to call them to faith and repentance, but also to healing and new life. So remember to whom this motion is addressed: those who published this Opinion and synods of the Anglican Church who will respond to it. For that reason it needs to be strong and clear.

Once again, I commend this motion to you.

Reflections on Thanksgiving

As Americans come to celebrate Thanksgiving, Albert Mohler looks at –

At The Briefing for 25 November 2020. Relevant even if you don’t celebrate “Thanksgiving”.

The Church of England’s guide to hearing God’s voice through the Bible, according to LLF

“The Church of England Evangelical Council advise their members to ‘engage’ with the LLF process.

There is, I think, a genuine belief in some quarters that the ‘Beautiful Story’ of the bible’s guide to who we are as human beings in the light of the gospel just hasn’t been communicated successfully, and here is an opportunity to win over the liberals as part of a respectful conversation.

I would want to plead with anyone thinking of taking part in next year’s conversations on that basis: don’t!”

Anglican Mainstream’s Andrew Symes warns against the worldviews behind the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith.

(Matthew 10:16?)

The Beautiful Story

From The Church of England Evangelical Council (PDF file):

“The Church of England has just released a suite of resources (called ‘Living in Love and Faith’) and launched a new dialogue around human experiences of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. And though we are not yet at the end of the road we have reached a big and important milestone. We are now getting close to the point where we shall finally have to make up our minds about same-sex sexual relationships in particular, and this is going to affect every parish in the land, every ministry, every incumbent, and every PCC.

One option for the future is that we simply accept that the Church has a range of views and that we must learn to live with difference. But that is a bit like saying that we don’t really need to make up our minds at all.

And provided you don’t think about it too much, it sounds attractive.

But is it possible to say and do a number of contradictory things at the same time? …

Most important of all, would it be right to lose confidence in God’s design for human flourishing at this critical moment in our nation’s history?

This brand new film ‘The Beautiful Story’ brings together a diverse range of evangelical Anglican leaders who believe the time has come to say where we stand. It is not exhaustive (e.g. there is no exploration of the experiences of transgender people) and it will not answer all the questions that people might have. However they believe it is time to speak up for what we are for rather than what we are against. They believe in another story, a better story, that has been given for our good and for human flourishing. …”

– See The Beautiful Story at the CEEC website. It’s the first of a number of planned resources.

See also these responses to the Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’:

Living in Love and Faith: Honest disagreement – Kirsten Birkett. (Church Society)

Initial thoughts on LLF – Lee Gatiss (Church Society)

“This whole Living in Love and Faith thing is huge. A 450 page book, a 5 week course, and 50 or so detailed scholarly papers online in a library, plus 30 hours of videos and podcasts. Not only that, but there is already an array of initial responses and comments from various bloggers and tweeters. So it’s hard work keeping on top of all this.

Overall, I want to say this: Ultimately, there is absolutely nothing in LLF which warrants a change in the Church’s doctrine or practice. It simply fails to present a sufficient case to justify revision, if that’s what some were hoping it would do. The clearer our feedback to the process of discernment on the back of this, the better. …”

First impressions of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith are very disappointing – Prudence Dailey.

LLF’s surrealist theology bodes ill for Evangelical Anglicans – Julian Mann.

Review: The Headship of Men and the Abuse of Women: Are They Related in Any Way?

“No one could be unconcerned about the scourge of domestic abuse in our communities, and even our churches. One victim is one too many, and the increased stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the matter more pressing.

It is this sombre reality that makes Kevin Giles’ book, The Headship of Men and the Abuse of Women so disappointing. Although it is short, easy to read, and deals with an issue that should concern us all, the most commendable aspect of the book is the author and his wife’s evident concern and practical care for women victims. But as a biblical response to the problem, it falls far short. …”

– The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has published Dr Claire Smith’s review of Kevin Giles’ new book.

Review of Graham Cole’s Faithful Theology

“In the spirit of teaching someone how to fish, rather than simply handing over his own catch, Graham Cole, dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has blessed us with an excellent short book on theological method. …”

– Andrew Bellis at Church Society briefly reviews Graham Cole’s Faithful Theology: An Introduction.

(Photo: Graham Cole.)

Preliminary thoughts on the Appellate Tribunal ruling — Dr Mark Thompson warns of devastating consequences

“It is with great sadness that I note the opinion of the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia on the matter of proposed services to bless same-sex unions. Setting aside the unanimous advice of the House of Bishops and the unanimous advice of the Board of Assessors, the majority of the Tribunal has decided that there is no impediment to such services of blessing going ahead.

This opinion, if acted upon, may indeed have devastating consequences for the Anglican Church of Australia, as similar decisions have done elsewhere in the world, but it cannot change the revealed will of God. …”

Read all of Canon Dr. Mark Thompson’s preliminary thoughts at the Moore College website.

See also:

Appellate Tribunal Issues Majority Opinion Backing Same-Sex Blessing Liturgy – David Ould, 11 November 2020.

“Attention now moves to the House of Bishops who meet tomorrow and the Standing Committee of the General Synod who begin to meet on Friday.”


‘Newcastle Anglicans support gay marriage’ – 27 October 2019.
Wangaratta Blessing “Delayed” – 10 September 2019.

From Father to Son — J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex

“Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent, not only a hallmark of literary quality, but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.

In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality. …”

Albert Mohler republishes this excerpt from his book Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance after the announcement that “Amazon intends to include sex and nudity in the upcoming “Lord of the Rings” streaming series.

See also his The Briefing for 10 November 2020. (Part 4.)

Ashley Null and “Performance Identity”


A “fascinating interview with Revd Canon Dr Ashley Null who shares his work, experiences and insights from working with performance driven athletes in his audiobook, ‘Performance Identity.’

It is a point of reassurance to know, ‘there’s nothing we can do for God to love us less and nothing we can do to make him love us.’

Dr Ashley Null is joined by Abishai Auta Gaiya and Ernie Didot, Gafcon Communications Director.”

Watch here.

Singing and Not-Singing in COVID Season

“Of all the restrictions necessitated by the COVID pandemic, one of the most frustrating, at least for most Christians, is not being able to sing together – either because we’re unable to meet together or because it’s not deemed safe for us to do so even if we are able to be together. Of course, not being able to sing together hasn’t killed us, and it won’t. But it has deprived and diminished us and, understandably, is deeply painful to many. …”

– Rob Smith writes at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

Also published at Latimer Trust.

See also:

Review: Come, Let Us Sing – Christopher Idle, at Church Society.

(Image: Rob Smith at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, courtesy Anglican Media Sydney.)

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