Church of England Bishops’ Report: More Questions than Answers

Posted on February 4, 2017 
Filed under Church of England, Culture wars

“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.