Church of England Bishops’ Report: More Questions than Answers

“For the last week I have been digesting the ‘Report from the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations,’ known by its shorthand as GS (General Synod) 2055.

This “Report” was a document prepared by the Church of England’s Bishops and presented to the Church’s General Synod last week. The perspective of LGBT pressure groups within the Church of England is that they were betrayed by the Bishops’ upholding the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage. Some are even hinting at going ahead with same sex marriage in defiance of the bishops.

The disappointment of the LGBT community has been matched by suspicion and criticism from Biblically orthodox Anglicans in the Church of England. To them, GS 2055 is a Trojan Horse. The Bishops’ failure to define boundaries in a clearly Biblical way ensures a theological incoherence that will permit ‘generous pastoral provision’ for LGBT couples to will quickly become facts on the ground (new liturgies and blessings) that make the Church’s teaching on marriage a mere shell.

I sympathize with those suspicions because of my experience with such ‘Trojan Horse’ reports in The Episcopal Church as it marched to gay marriage.

Despite my sympathies, I have tried to find an objective point between the hermeneutics of suspicion and the hermeneutics of hope. I’ve tried to read all 19 pages of GS 2055 inductively, asking what the text really says. All 19 pages are agonizing to read—rather like an essay which reads ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’ with no resolution. Except of course for the resolve that ‘it is hubristic for anyone to propose that there is one definitive answer which solves all the moral, ethical and missiological problems we face.’ (para. 7) …

Barbara Gauthier goes on to make a telling observation, from paragraph 65 of the Report:

‘65. ….To maintain an unambiguous position on [the] doctrine [of marriage] while enabling a generous freedom for pastoral practice that does not directly and publicly undermine it is entirely consistent with our traditions and is a perfectly coherent approach to take. (emphasis added)

The implication would seem to be that whatever might ‘directly and publicly’ undermine the doctrine of marriage may be perfectly admissible if done ‘indirectly and privately.’ The progressive wing of the Episcopal Church used that ploy for years, surreptitiously establishing facts on the ground, until it couldn’t be ignored any longer.’…

– From The American Anglican Council’s Canon Phil Ashey. Read it all here.

GAFCON UK response to The Bishops’ Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships

“The Report as a whole requires a much fuller response than we can give here. However we do not have confidence that this document will guarantee the maintenance of orthodoxy within the Church of England for the future.  We need to express our serious reservations about the many ambiguities in the text relating to how we as Anglicans understand truth and goodness, sin and salvation, and how we should carry out pastoral and liturgical practice. 

We see the document as giving a rationale for maintaining the current position, but along with many faithful Anglicans in England we believe that the current position is not at all satisfactory, as it involves a lack of clarity about our message, openness to revisionist theology and practice, and further conflict within the church.…”

Read it all here. And the original Bishop’s report is here (PDF file.)

See also:

A critique of the Bishops’ Report – by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali:

“The report tells us in several places that the Church’s teaching has to be related to a fast-changing cultural context but makes no value judgements about the desirability of such change nor to the principles of development which should guide our engagement with culture. …

The thrust of the report seems very much to be that there should be no change in doctrine but that there should be a change in pastoral provision and in the public prayer for those entering same-sex unions. The question is, of course, when does ‘usual practice’ become teaching, especially when provision is made for public prayer.”

Read it all.

Dr Gavin Ashenden resigns as Chaplain to the Queen

“After a conversation instigated by officials at Buckingham Palace, it is with regret that the Rev’d Dr Gavin Ashenden – theologian, academic, columnist and occasional contributor to [The Archbishop Cranmer] blog – has decided to resign his position as Chaplain to the Queen.

It was, he says, “the most honourable course of action” following “attempts to silence or defenestrate” him…”

– News from “Archbishop Cranmer”.

And you can read Dr. Ashenden’s full statement here.

“I have held the position for the last nine years. But over the last few years people who objected to my defending the Christian faith in public wrote to both Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace to try to get the association ended. …”

The Archbishops’ Statement on the Reformation

“The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have released a joint statement on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The statement recognises that ‘many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed’. Furthermore it includes among those blessings, ‘clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church’. The Archbishops make clear that the Church of England will be participating in the celebrations of this anniversary, ‘including sharing in events with Protestant church partners from Continental Europe’.

So despite how some of the more popular press might try to spin it, this statement is not a repudiation of the Reformation nor of its doctrine. …

At Theological Theology, Moore College Principal Dr Mark Thompson asks if “the departures from biblical truth that occasioned the split at the time of the Reformation have been addressed by the Roman Church”.

Tribute to Dr Mike Ovey by Archbishop Glenn Davies

Archbishop Glenn DaviesHere’s a Public Statement released by Archbishop Glenn Davies on the death of Dr Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill College:

“Dr Mike Ovey was a gifted student of God’s word whose ability to convey the truths of Holy Scripture and their contemporary application was outstanding.

Mike’s scholarly analysis of current trends in philosophy and theology was astute and penetrating, always with a view to strengthening the Christian’s understanding of the nature of God’s kingdom and his sovereign rule over our lives. A gracious and godly leader, Mike’s presence and counsel will be sorely missed not only at Oak Hill College, where he served as Principal for a decade, but throughout England and the world.

We in Sydney have lost a true friend whose frequent trips to our city will be sadly missed.”


New Bishop of Woolwich is ‘pastoral and joyful’ former Oak Hill student

korowei-dorgu-2“The college community is delighted to hear that Revd Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu is to be the new Bishop of Woolwich. Karwoei trained at Oak Hill from 1993-95…”

– News from Oak Hill College in London.

A statement from the GAFCON UK Task Group — 8 Dec 2016

gafcon-uk-1“We are grateful to God for the gracious, unsolicited affirmation of the recent activities of GAFCON UK given by Archbishop Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council.

Archbishop Okoh’s Pastoral Letter of 6th December 2016 makes clear that, despite attempts from some in the Church of England leadership both to obfuscate the real situation on the ground in the Church, and to undermine the significance of Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10, the GAFCON Primates are in no doubt either as to the breakdown of discipline in the Church of England or as to the standards for human sexuality that the majority of the Communion expect the Church of England to uphold…”

Read it all here.

Open letter to the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council

david-holloway-jesmondDavid Holloway, Vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, has responded to last week’s letter from William Nye, Secretary General of the Church of England Archbishops’ Council:

I write this open letter to you following your open letter to Revd Canon Andrew Lines, the chairman of the GAFCON UK Task Force. Your letter alleged that a GAFCON briefing paper is ‘significantly misleading’.

The briefing was regarding irregular homosexual activities in the Church of England. In support of its criticism of named Church of England bishops and clergy, the briefing referred to a resolution of a former Lambeth Conference. You wrote to ‘correct some of the erroneous assertions’ in the paper. However, the supposed correction included the following statement …”

– Read it all at GAFCON UK.

Letter from Secretary-General of the CofE Archbishops’ Council shows why GAFCON UK is needed

gafcon-uk-1The open letter to Canon Andy Lines of GAFCON UK from the Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council is very significant. It can be taken as the official position of the C of E leadership. Helpfully, the letter moves away from matters of tone and motive which tend to dominate discussion and gets to the real issue, namely, what is, or should be, the teaching of the worldwide Church on sexual ethics, and how do we apply this in the Church of England?

Underlying the letter is an institutional mentality which does not locate ecclesial authority with the unchanging Scriptural principles of apostolic Christianity, as affirmed by the global Church. Rather it puts confidence in legal process, with the effect that what is not ‘legally binding’ can be disregarded or relegated to the respected status of a historical curiosity. More than ever, GAFCON UK with its clear confessional grounding in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration has a vital role to play in our current context. …”

Read it all at the GAFCON UK website.

The perversion of Lambeth 1.10

Rachel Treweek, Bishop of GloucesterThe Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Rachel Treweek, will preside at an ‘LGBTI Eucharist’ on 15 Jan 2017, the diocesan chapter of Inclusive Church reports. …

Will this be a violation of Lambeth 1.10? A plain reading of the document coupled with the original intention of the authors would say ‘yes’.

The presence of the Bishop of Chichester at a Brighton Gay Pride march and the Bishop of Salisbury at a similar affair, was raised in GAFCON-UK’s paper, ‘The Church of England and Lambeth 1.10’, released last week. They were cited as examples of the problematic stance of the church hierarchy on issues surrounding human sexuality — and as a violation of Lambeth 1.10.

The Bishop of Salisbury denounced GAFCON-UK’s criticism as “outrageous” and a perversion of the spirit of Lambeth 1.10. In a letter to the Church Times the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Holtam said he too had offered prayers at a Gay Pride parade, explaining: ‘The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us ‘to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals’…”

– At Anglican Ink, George Conger provides some personal perspective on Lambeth 1.10. It’s clear that Lambeth 1.10 can’t mean whatever you want it to mean.

Photo: Bishop Rachel Treweek, Diocese of Gloucester.

The Lambeth I:10 Briefing: Process and Motive, Truth and Love

gafcon-uk-1We have received inquiries about the way the Lambeth I.10 briefing was developed, the reasons behind why it was created, and its accuracy.  Below is some more information about each topic …”

– Earlier this month, GAFCON UK released a briefing paper for GAFCON Primates. Its release has been criticised in some quarters. Here’s the GAFCON UK response.

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