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.

Archbishops apologise for Church of England’s sexual ethics guidelines

We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

– Report via Anglican Ink.

The statement for which the apology has been made includes:

“7. It has always been the position of the Church of England that marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman making a public commitment to each other, is central to the stability and health of human society. …

10. The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”

Church Society responds to the C of E House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships

“Church Society welcomes the recent pastoral statement from the House of Bishops concerning civil partnerships.

Specifically, we are grateful to the House for reaffirming the traditional and orthodox view of marriage (see paragraphs 7 and 35), and for clarifying that “sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings” (paragraph 9).

The statement also helpfully points out some of the inherent ambiguity about the place of sexual relationships in civil partnerships …

However it is disappointing to see that once again the clear statement regarding sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage is not followed through with respect to the sacraments and godly church discipline …”

– Read the full post from Church Society.

Canterbury Cathedral hosts Award Ceremony for ‘top UK Abortionist’

“Ann Furedi, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Britain’s largest abortion provider, was made an Honorary Doctor of Science at a ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral on Nov. 22.”

– Report from Church Militant.

New Archbishop of York, and other news from the UK

“It has been announced this morning that the new Archbishop of York will be Stephen Cottrell, currently Bishop of Chelmsford.

Stephen Cottrell is the President of Affirming Catholicism, an organisation which is ‘seeking to bring together and strengthen lay and ordained people who recognize the positive, inclusive and joyful currents in the Catholic tradition of Christianity.’ Among other things, they are seeking to allow same sex marriage and the ministry of people in same sex relationships within the Church of England. …”

– See Church Society’s website for more. Photo: Diocese of York.

The Church of England website has a story.

In other news from the UK, Bishop Gavin Ashenden, who joined the Anglo-Catholic Christian Episcopal Church two years ago, has now announced that he is ‘crossing the Tiber’.

Related:

Rome Scholars & Leaders Network, June 15th-19th 2020.

“Evangelicalism currently has an incoherent relationship with Roman Catholicism. Many evangelicals are uncertain about what Roman Catholics actually believe. Do they believe in the same Gospel, or something entirely different?…”

Swimming the Tiber? by Mark Jones at Ligonier Ministries.

Reflections on leaving the Church of England

“Having served for 23 years as an ordained minister in the Church of England, I was recently licensed as minister of Emmanuel, Morecambe in the Free Church of England, a smaller Anglican denomination which formed in the mid-19th century. …

People have asked me what has changed in the CofE in recent years such that I have decided to leave it now and whether this decision has involved some soul-searching.”

Julian Mann shares something of his journey, at VirtueOnline.

Why one Minister left the Church of England

Julian Mann, who has recently joined the Free Church of England, explains why he finally decided to leave the Church of England.

At the Free Church of England website.

ReNew Conference hears call to mission in the light of the future

“The annual gathering of conservative evangelical English Anglicans addressed the uncertainties of ministry in the present, given the challenges offered by the Church of England and Western culture, and emphasised the certainty of a future under Christ’s just reign promised in Scripture. …

The theme of the Renew Conference, attended by nearly 500 people from 270 churches, was ‘multiplying ministries in the light of eternity’.”

– At Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Symes gives an encouraging report on this year’s ReNew Conference in the UK.

A Christian light in the Westminster gloom

“In a House of Commons dominated by anti-Christian political correctness, it is important to celebrate any attempt, however small, to stand up for countercultural Christian orthodoxy.

Conservative MP Sir John Hayes has recently given a reason to thank God for a cheeringly cheeky move to promote traditional Christianity in Parliament. …”

– The Rev. Julian Mann is grateful for some in Parliament who seek to hold the Church of England to its founding doctrines.

Norwich Cathedral: Bishop delivers sermon from helter-skelter

“The bishop had climbed to the top of the helter-skelter before edging halfway down the slide, where he stopped to deliver his sermon.

He then received a loud cheer as he whooshed to the bottom. …”

– Story from BBC News. Photo: Bill Smith / Norwich Cathedral.

Cathedral gimmicks illustrate spiritually blind Britain and mute Church

“No doubt buoyed by the old cliche that there is no such thing as bad publicity, the Church of England continues to include in its own Daily Media Digest several reports and opinion pieces in a number of media outlets about the installation of a golf course and helter skelter in Rochester and Norwich cathedrals.

While some have defended the gimmicks as harmless ways of raising money and attracting to an experience of the sacred those who would never normally darken the doors, there have been criticisms (for example here and here) from those pointing out that this trivialises the Christian faith and is a sign of lack of confidence in the gospel…”

– Andrew Symes writes at Anglican Mainstream.

Richard Coekin on The Pastor’s Heart

On the latest edition of The Pastor’s Heart, Dominic Steele speaks with Richard Coekin, leader of the Co-Mission network in London.

Watch or listen here.

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