Handling the Bible in Love and Faith

“I want people to be convinced that the word of God is good. God is so generous, and his word saves and enriches and fulfils life. God will offer anyone the opportunity to approach him, unashamedly, in Christ. He will teach us all to let go of the old ways of hate, and separation, and disunity. His welcome is universal and unconditional. …”

– At Church Society, Kirsty Birkett continues her reflections on the approach to Scripture of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith.

See also Lee Gatiss’ preview (last October) of Living in Love and Faith:

“The problem here is that we are never allowed to come to a settled mind on this, and it is repeatedly said that clergy are free to preach and teach the opposite of what the church has always believed.”

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “Broken Partnership” with House of Bishops

Excerpts from a Statement issued by St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London:

“In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries. …

St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches.”

Read the full statement below:

Date 16 December 2020

ST HELEN’S BISHOPSGATE ANNOUNCES “BROKEN PARTNERSHIP” WITH HOUSE OF BISHOPS

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead the House of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England. Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is in marked contrast to the House of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

The loving summons of the Lord Jesus to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’ leads his followers into a life of rich fulfilment that stretches into eternity. Thus, when Church of England bishops depart from proclaiming and defending clear biblical teaching, it is not just a breach of the Canons of the Church of England, but more seriously it is unloving and painful to the many people within the Church of England who want to live faithful and sacrificial lives following Jesus, and it risks causing others to stray from the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures.

St Helen’s has a deep love and concern for those in the church who experience same-sex attraction, and seeks to provide support and care for such men and women in our own congregations. Sadly when Church of England leaders contradict or fail to promote the clear teaching of scripture in the area of sexual ethics, they are heard by our and other congregations to say that scripture does not matter and the personal obedience of committed Christians desiring to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching does not matter.

St Helen’s, like the great majority of Anglicans around the world, believes that scripture clearly and consistently teaches that it is God’s good plan that the only loving and God-honouring place for sexual practice is within the marriage of one man and one woman, and that this is a matter of primary biblical importance. It is not merely a ‘secondary matter’ over which faithful Christian disciples can ‘agree to disagree’, rather it is a matter of the authority of God’s word to which all disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to submit (and not reword).

Tracey, a member of St Helen’s who knew she was gay when she was 12, lived an active gay lifestyle in her twenties until she became a Christian a few years ago.

She says, “Now that I’m a Christian it doesn’t mean that I have become straight. I’ve always been attracted to girls. The thing that helped me was understanding that temptation and sin were different things. I have a choice: I can either honour God with my actions or dishonour him.”

She continues, “I find it upsetting when Christians take different bits of the Bible and say, I’ll go with this and not that, as it was quite clear to me what the Bible taught on homosexuality. There is a cost and it is tricky, but holding onto the truths in the Bible, I choose to honour Jesus. I have a wonderful church family who are incredibly supportive.”

St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches. We have been in regular communication with both the current Bishop of London and her predecessor about our developing concerns. We are grateful that the Bishop of London has, in response, proposed working with St Helen’s to assess how the potential consequences of broken partnership could be addressed.

William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s says, “The House of Bishops has responsibility for spiritual leadership in the Church of England–teaching the truth, correcting error and exercising discipline. Their failure of leadership over many years is responsible for the confusion that the Church of England now finds itself in. By contrast the Bible’s teaching is clear, authoritative and loving as is the historic doctrine of the Church of England. Sadly, therefore, we find that although authentically Anglican, we are not, for the time being, in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops. We feel obliged to take this step to differentiate ourselves visibly from the House of Bishops.”

He continues, “We are grateful for the ongoing faithful ministry of the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, who is not himself a voting member of the House of Bishops but has repeatedly and faithfully raised these concerns about departure from the Scriptures. Rod will review me annually in my role as Rector of St Helen’s, with input from the churchwardens and other members of the team at St Helen’s. We will also continue to pray for the leadership of the Church of England and for the House of Bishops, especially that they will stand strong in the orthodox truths and have the confidence to be unashamed in preaching the gospel as set out in scripture – the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, no matter how counter-cultural it may seem to contemporary society.”

Many local church leaders, from different Anglican churches across the country, share similar concerns to those expressed by St Helen’s. We wish to support and remain in full partnership with these likeminded churches, who seek to teach the good news of Jesus with faithfulness and compassion and provide on-going care, love and support for those within their congregations experiencing same-sex attraction.

Ends

Source: St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Image of William Taylor courtesy of St. Helen’s.

The Spirit of Truth

As I explained in my previous blogpost, ‘theological reflection’, a process of hearing God’s revelation not just in Scripture, but in human wisdom and the changing circumstances around us, has become very popular in the Church of England. It is often given justification from John 16:13. Even when not linked directly to theological reflection, this verse is taken as reason to expect devout Christians, in conscience, to come to new conclusions about life and doctrine that are different from the received view, perhaps even different from biblical teaching.

Is this what Jesus actually taught in John 16:13? …

Such an interpretation of John 16:13 in the Church of England is relatively new, but has a back story. In the background is the influence of John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement. …”

– At Church Society, Kirsty Birkett continues her series responding to the Living in Love and Faith resources with an examination of John 16:13.

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.

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?)

Charlie Skrine to be Rector of All Souls Langham Place

News from Anglican Mainstream:

“It was announced on the St Helen’s Church Bishopsgate Sunday morning service today that Rev Charlie Skrine, the Associate Rector at St Helen’s is to be the new rector of All Souls’ Langham Place in succession to the Rev Hugh Palmer.

Mr Skrine is 45, studied at Queen’s College, Oxford and Oak Hill College, and is a member of General Synod.”

(Image from The Beautiful Story, CEEC.)

And from All Souls Langham Place on Twitter:

“We are pleased to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the interview panel’s unanimous recommendation to appoint Charlie Skrine as the next Rector of All Souls. We are very much looking forward to Charlie and his family joining us in 2021.”

Update:

This announcement from William Taylor at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate also reveals that Mickey Mantle (pictured) has been appointed as Rector of St. Thomas’ North Sydney from the end of July 2021.

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.

Church Society to unveil new name and vision for Churchman

“Church Society is relaunching its theological journal with a new name and a new vision for the global Anglican church in the 21st century.

Join us for a LIVE event on the Church Society Facebook page at 11am on September 1st [i.e. 8:00pm AEST Tuesday 1st September] when the new name and new vision for the journal will be announced.

The conversation will include the journal’s editor, Peter Jensen, as well as Bishops Alfred Olwa and Samuel Morrison from Uganda and Chile, respectively. There will be chance to pray for the global Anglican communion, participate in the Q&A, and even win a year’s subscription to the journal.”

– Once the relaunched journal is made public, the first edition will be available as a free download.

Wallace Benn’s Tribute to J. I. Packer

“It was announced on Friday 17th July that Dr. Packer had passed away.

It is a sad day for Reformed Evangelicals because we have lost our champion, but not for him as he is now with the Saviour he honoured throughout his life.

He was the best Anglican Evangelical theologian of his generation, and a brilliant communicator of warm-hearted and big-minded classical evangelicalism. His wonderful books will live on, and as they are read by a new generation, will, please God, give them a deeper and more profound understanding of the Christian Faith, and deliver them from a weaker and more muddled modern version…”

– Bishop Wallace Benn shares his tribute to J. I. Packer, and Lee Gatiss links to many of Packer’s articles in Churchman – at the Church Society website.

New Anglican archbishop welcomed to Shrine of St Margaret Clitherow

“The Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough welcomed the newly elected 98th Anglican Archbishop of York to pray alongside him in the shrine of St Margaret Clitherow in the city.   …”

– Report from The Catholic Universe. Image: Church of England.

Cancel culture is coming for Christianity

“How awake are British Christians to the threat to their freedom of speech and assembly from the virus of cancel culture?

One of its latest victims is a politically incorrect Pentecostal organisation called Destiny Church. Destiny had planned to hold a three-day conference in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in June. But shortly before the coronavirus lockdown, Edinburgh Council, which owns the venue, cancelled the event. It cited the views of one of the advertised speakers, US preacher Larry Stockstill. Stocksill has said that homosexual behaviour is ‘not accepted by God’…”

– Julian Mann, who left the Church of England after a long incumbency in South Yorkshire, writes at spiked.

Bishop Rod Thomas’ letter after the Archbishops’ statement following the earlier release of the ‘Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples’

The Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, sent this letter on 31st January, 2020 to incumbents of all evangelical resolution churches:

Dear Partners in Ministry

I thought I should write following the statement that was issued after the conclusion of the College of Bishops yesterday. The statement can be found here.

My understanding at the College was that the statement was needed for two reasons. First, it was felt that the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples which had been released on 22nd January was pastorally insensitive in the way it was framed and released to the press. Secondly, there was concern that as a result, some of the necessary participation in the discussions which will follow the publication of the Living in Love and Faith materials could be jeopardised. Yesterday’s statement therefore apologised for the release of the Pastoral Statement.

However, it was also my clear understanding that nothing in yesterday’s statement should be taken as a retraction of the doctrinal teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships. While some of that teaching may well come into question during the discussions about the LLF materials, it remains the current teaching of the Church. The position set out in the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples, and which was agreed by the House of Bishops, therefore continues to apply.

While I understand many of the concerns that were expressed at the College, I had the opportunity to say that for many faithful Anglicans the Pastoral Statement of 22nd January came as a great encouragement.  I was keen to establish that the apology did not relate to the doctrinal position it articulated.

I am conscious that many of you will remain concerned about these developments. Please be assured that together with other bishops, I will continue to make clear my commitment to the historic, biblical teaching of the Church. I hope most of you know that I don’t take part in social media discussions, but if you want to pursue any of this with me, there will be an opportunity to do so at our forthcoming regional conferences.

With every good wish in Christ

Rod Thomas
Bishop of Maidstone.

(Emphasis added in blue.)

Bishops’ pastoral statement fiasco — An English episcopal fumble

“What a game of Orwellian double-speak the Church of England’s bishops have been playing. Their ‘pastoral statement’ on heterosexual civil partnerships was surely not ‘pastoral’ at all? Surely it was thoroughly political and has now backfired?

After some of their number publicly distanced themselves from the statement their House had issued on January 22nd upholding the Book of Common Prayer’s teaching on marriage, the CofE’s senior pastors last week issued an ‘apology’. …”

– At Anglican Ink, Julian Mann comments on senior bishops who apologise for the teaching of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. And he wonders why anyone would want to be associated with them at the Lambeth Conference.

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