GAFCON Chairman’s Letter July 2017

“False teaching is restless and relentless, and the Church of England itself is in grave spiritual danger. It is much to be regretted that there has been far more concern about alleged ‘boundary crossing’ than about the contempt of God’s Word that made a missionary bishop necessary. In fact, the Bishop of Edinburgh, who has strongly supported the Scottish Episcopal Church’s adoption of same sex ‘marriage’ was invited as a guest of honour to the Church of England’s July General Synod meeting.”

– The Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, has released his Chairman’s letter for this month.

A Tale of Two Communions

“Whenever a church leader makes an important decision, takes a strong stand and then explains their action, they not only reveal their own priorities and convictions but also, more significantly, shape the future of the church they serve and represent. For good reason, such steps are often called ‘defining moments’ and, with the passing of time, are frequently shown to be, what might be called, ‘determining moments’. A series of such moments seems to have taken place in recent days.

On June 30, 2017, Canon Andy Lines was consecrated as the Missionary Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to provide spiritual oversight to Anglican churches in Europe that exist outside the current Anglican structures.

As well as the principal consecrator, The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach (Archbishop of the ACNA), 11 Primates, 3 Archbishops, and 13 other GAFCON-linked Anglican bishops were involved in Lines’ consecration. …”

– Here’s a must read article from Rob Smith, in which he examines allegations made by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia concerning participation in the consecration of Bishop Andy Lines. See it at The Australian Church Record.

‘Beware C of E free-for-all, new Gafcon bishop warns’

“The Rt Revd Andy Lines, con­secrated ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), has warned against a ‘free-for-all’ in the Church of England.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bishop Lines, formerly an honorary canon with permission to officiate in the Church of England, said that he expected a ‘small number’ of churches in England to seek his oversight. He rejected the Archbishop of Canter­bury’s description of his move as a ‘cross-border interven­tion’.…”

– Story from Church Times. Photo: ACNA.

Key recent posts — 6 July 2017

Here are some key posts which may be of interest from the last week or so –

Archbishop Glenn Davies speaks from Andy Lines’ consecration in Wheaton, Illinois:

“This is not ‘a border-crossing enterprise’, that’s a misunderstanding of the ministry. …

Anyone who proclaims Christ is where I want to be, and to have my support.”

Earlier, the Archbishop wrote to Australian bishops explaining his decision to take part in the consecration:

“I believe that my participation is an act of solidarity with those who contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia Philip Freier wrote to Australian bishops:

“I have deep concerns that the participation by our Episcopal colleagues in the consecration of Canon Lines, with or without the support of their respective dioceses, is contrary to the spirit of the canons of the Council of Nicaea and, most importantly, outside of the authority of our National Constitution.”

‘Loose Canons? Andy Lines and the Canons of Nicaea’ – Dr Mark Smith at Church Society:

“the claim is made that the consecration of Andy Lines, and the episcopal ministry he would exercise, would be contrary to Canons 15 and 16 of the Council of Nicaea.”

President of the Anglican Church League, the Rev. Andrew Bruce, issued this statement on behalf of the ACL’s Council:

“While an Australian Primate is always free to give advice within the bonds of Christian fellowship, there is no constitutional provision for formal advice, nor is there any sense of hierarchy in the position of the Australian primate in relation to the other 22 diocesan bishops. No Australian diocesan bishop is obligated to follow the ‘advice’ of a primate.”

Primate admonishes Archbishop Glenn Davies and Bishop Richard Condie — Anglican Church League statement

Anglican Church League statement.

In an earlier post (29 June) I wrote that the Council of the Anglican Church League wholeheartedly supported the consecration of Canon Andy Lines, by GAFCON Bishops and our own Archbishop, Dr Glenn Davies, the Bishop of Tasmania, Dr Richard Condie and the Bishop of North West Australia, Gary Nelson, to ‘provide biblical faithful oversight for those European parishes that have been abandoned at this time’.

Now, in response to the letters sent to Australian bishops by Davies and Condie (see the links below for the full texts), the Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier has issued his own letter of 1 July admonishing Davies and Condie. A link to the Primate’s letter follows this post.

The Primate builds his case on constraints in the Australian Anglican constitutional arrangements and the ‘close fellowship, co-operation and collegiality of the Communion’.

As to constraints in the constitution, the Primate ‘advised both bishops against this course of action’. While an Australian Primate is always free to give advice within the bonds of Christian fellowship, there is no constitutional provision for formal advice, nor is there any sense of hierarchy in the position of the Australian primate in relation to the other 22 diocesan bishops. No Australian diocesan bishop is obligated to follow the ‘advice’ of a primate.

The Primate appeals to the Fundamental Declarations which are the bedrock statements of belief in the Anglican Church of Australia. The Scriptures are the ultimate rule and standard of faith; the commands of Christ are to be obeyed and his doctrine taught, but no conclusion is drawn by the Primate from this reference. The obvious conclusion to draw is that the Scottish Episcopal Church, by virtue of its recent decision to amend the definition of marriage and allow same-sex couples to be married in its churches, has moved away from the commands of Christ and his doctrine and the Scriptures as the ultimate rule and standard of faith.

The Primate also appeals to ‘the plenary authority of General Synod in this matter. Section 26 of the Constitution provides… Synod may make canons rules and resolutions relating to the order and good government of this Church including canons in respect of ritual, ceremonial and discipline’. However, quoting this section only gives one side of the picture. The other side of the picture is the restricting qualification to this power. Section 30(a) provides that canons ‘in respect of ritual, ceremonial and discipline’ only take effect in a diocese when adopted by ordinance of that diocese. This is the clear and plain constitutional arrangement in the Australian Church.  Each diocese has the final say, not the General Synod. So, ‘plenary authority’ is not so plenary. Further, a diocese has power to exclude canons adopted previously.

As to ‘close fellowship, co-operation and collegiality of the Communion’ this was on magnificent display at the consecration of Andy Lines. The Gafcon Primates and other diocesan bishops at the consecration represent some 75% of Anglicans world-wide. More than 50 bishops took part in the consecration. That three Australian diocesan bishops participated is a wonderful expression of the ‘collegiality of the Communion’.

But why does the Primate’s letter not include any rebuke to theSynod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion’ for voting for same sex marriage? Abandoning the teaching of Scripture on the issue is surely sufficient grounds for such a rebuke. The Primate chose instead to suggest ‘Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference…’ However, even just on these terms a rebuke was warranted since, plainly, the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has rejected the guidance of the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 of 1998. In part that resolution says:

(b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

(e) cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.

Even if Lambeth too is put to one side, our own General Synod in 2004 resolved (62/04 and 63/04) that it did not condone the liturgical blessing of same sex relations or the ordination of people in open same sex relationships. This should have been enough to ground some criticism of the Scottish Episcopal Church decision.

The Primate says, ‘I do not think that it is for us individually, acting independently, to determine with whom we are in communion or to act unilaterally to that end’. Whether or not there is such a principle, the ordination of women in the Australian Church means there now exists a state of impaired communion between diocesans bishops and dioceses on recognition of the orders of some priests and bishops. Bishops have acted independently on this issue. The resulting impaired communion will become even more stark if an Australian diocesan synod decides to approve same sex relationships.

The Primate’s letter raises more questions than it answers, in particular, concerning the bonds that bind us as fellow Anglicans.

For and on behalf of the Anglican Church League Council.

Andrew Bruce
President
Anglican Church League
5 July 2017

 

Links mentioned:

Photo courtesy Anglican Church in North America.

Gafcon events in England and USA

“The last week of June has seen a number of high profile events marking the life of Gafcon, the global movement for renewal of the Anglican Communion according to biblical orthodoxy. …”

– Anglican Mainstream’s Andrew Symes summarises what’s been happening.

Archbishop Glenn Davies: “God bless Bishop Andy Lines”

Archbishop Glenn Davies speaks about his support for Bishop Andy Lines’ consecration in this video from the Anglican Church in North America.

Related:

Andy Lines speaks about his new role

Newly consecrated Missionary Bishop, Andy Lines, speaks about his new role in this video from the Anglican Church in North America.

And there’s an accompanying report from ACNA here.

See also this GAFCON press release.

And ‘The New Anglican Communion is Emerging’ – video from Canon Phil Ashey, American Anglican Council.

Andy Lines consecrated as Bishop for Special Mission

Video of Andy Lines’ consecration in Wheaton, Illinois, is now available on the ACNA website.

Anglican Church League statement in support of the consecration of Andy Lines

The Anglican Church League has noted with disappointment the novel developments that have occurred within the Scottish Episcopal Church. Their departure from the faith stands in direct opposition to the clear teaching of the Scriptures and prescribed Church order, so as to have a detrimental effect upon the wider Anglican Communion.

In light of this, we wholeheartedly support the consecration to Bishop of Canon Andy Lines, by GAFCON Bishops, including our own Archbishop the Rt Rev Dr Glenn Davies, the Bishop of Tasmania Dr Richard Condie and the Bishop of North West Australia Gary Nelson, to provide biblical faithful oversight for those European parishes that have been abandoned at this time.

We encourage our members to continue to pray for the consecration and the ongoing ministry of Andy Lines and GAFCON in the face of these significant challenges.

Andrew Bruce

President – Anglican Church League, 29 June 2017.

(Photo: Canon Andy Lines, courtesy GAFCON.)

Archbishop Glenn Davies writes in support of Andy Lines’ consecration

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Glenn Davies, has written to the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, explaining his decision to participate in the consecration of Canon Andy Lines as a Missionary Bishop.

Read the full text of Archbishop Davies’s letter below, or click the image of the letter to download it as a PDF file (2.2MB).

“26 June 2017

Letter to the College of Bishops

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Many of you will know of the recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church which amended their canons so as to change the definition of marriage, and hence endorse the marriage of same-sex couples within the Church. This amounts to another significant and sad moment in the life of the Anglican Communion, akin to the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003.

As you will all know, I consider such an action to be a travesty of the rule of Christ, of the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer, and therefore abandonment of the principles of Anglican doctrine to which we have committed ourselves in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of Sections 1-6 of the Constitution. I consider that such a departure from the teaching of Scripture, ‘the ultimate rule and standard of faith’, casts doubt upon the nature of our communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church, since such communion needs to be consistent with the Fundamental Declarations (Section 6). In time, given the decisions of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church, which are yet to be translated into canon law, we shall see a similar disparity of communion with these two provinces.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed in 2008, after painful court cases and loss of property, because they believed that the truths of the gospel could not be compromised for the sake of conforming to society’s obsession to normalise homosexual behaviour as part of Christian discipleship. Although I recognise that some members of our Church are open to considering a change in our doctrine at this point, our General Synod has on more than one occasion affirmed the importance of marriage as being defined as a life-long union, to the exclusion of all others, of a man and a woman. This is the doctrine of our Church. This is the doctrine of Christ. We depart from this at our peril.

In response to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, in consultation with many Primates of the Global South and of Gafcon have decided, upon the request of Anglican Christians in Britain, to consecrate a missionary bishop to those who have left the Church of England, or will soon leave the Scottish Episcopal Church, because they cannot abide the ineffective and errant leadership of their synods and some of their own bishops. That the General Synod of the Church of England could not even bear ‘to note’ a unanimous report from the House of Bishops, which reaffirmed the Bible’s teaching that marriage does not include same-sex relationships, is indicative of the challenges to orthodoxy that the Church of England faces. They need our prayers.

The decision to consecrate a missionary bishop does not come lightly. It is very different from the decision of the parish of Jesmond in Newcastle, UK, where an assistant minister of the parish was consecrated a bishop hoping, I believe, to minister within the Church of England, despite the lack of canonical process and the agreement of either the Bishop of Newcastle or the Archbishop of York. Rather, the consecration of the Reverend Canon Andy Lines at the end of this month is for the purpose of providing episcopal oversight to those faithful Anglicans who can no longer in good conscience remain under their bishop or be a part of the church they once cherished. As a missionary bishop to Europe, Canon Andy Lines would not be ministering within the Church of England (which extends to continental Europe) or within the Scottish Episcopal Church, but rather to those who have left these churches. Since the Anglican Consultative Council has not declared ACNA to be a part of the Anglican Communion, such a ministry can no more be called ‘border crossing’ than the ministry of other Christian denominations in the UK. 1

As it turns out, I shall be in Wheaton, Illinois, at the time Canon Lines is to be consecrated as a bishop in the church of God. I have been invited to participate in this consecration and after consulting the Standing Committee of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, our Primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury, I have decided to do so.

From the Primate’s response to this decision and his counsel not to participate, I understand that some of you will disagree and disapprove of my participation. I do not make the decision lightly, nor do I wish to cause division among our episcopal ranks. However, I believe that my participation is an act of solidarity with those who contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Not to participate, since I shall be present, would send a signal of a different kind, and one which I do not believe would bring honour to Christ and his gospel.

In February 1984, my predecessor, Donald Robinson faced a similar situation when he was asked to consecrate the Reverend Dudley Foord to be a bishop in the Church of England in South Africa (as it was then known). He consulted widely and decided that to consecrate a bishop for a church not technically in communion with Canterbury was a gospel imperative. In that case the consecration took place in Sydney at St Andrew’s Cathedral and several bishops from around Australia participated, including the Primate and a bishop of the Church of the Province of South Africa (as it was then known).

I cannot see, from this distance in time, that Archbishop Robinson’s actions caused any ongoing division in our national Church, and it is my hope that my participation in a consecration on the other side of the world will likewise cause no stumbling block to our fellowship. On the contrary, it is my hope that we would all rally to defend the Bible’s teaching on marriage, not merely for the sake of correct doctrine, but that we might preserve the message of the gospel for the salvation of all.

As we celebrate 500 years of Martin Luther’s brave efforts to withstand those whose teaching was contrary to the gospel, new days bring fresh challenges for defending the truth.

Grace and peace

Glenn N Davies
Archbishop of Sydney

______________

1 In response to the suggestion that such a consecration would be prohibited by the Canons of Nicaea, Dr Mark Smith, whose area of expertise is theological development from AD 381-451 has written the following article: http://churchsociety.org/blog/entry/topical_tuesday_loose_canons_andy_lines_and_the_canons_of_nicaea/

______________

Update

See also: Primate admonishes Archbishop Glenn Davies and Bishop Richard Condie — Anglican Church League statement, 5th July 2017.

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