The Gippsland Crisis
Posted on March 16, 2012
Filed under Australia
At Theological Theology, Dr Mark Thompson, puts the recent developments in Gippsland in their wider Anglican context. We’ve reproduced his comments below, and added links to some related material at the end.
“This all too brief history is widely known. In particular it is known by all the Anglican bishops in Australia. None of them is in the slightest doubt about the volatile state of the communion and the issue which lies at the heart of the turmoil.”
“It is no secret that global Anglicanism is being torn apart over the issue of homosexuality. Actually, homosexuality is just the current presenting issue of a very deep and long running divide between liberal revisionists in the denomination and those who remain committed to the teaching of Scripture and the theological character of Anglicanism as represented in the Thirty-nine Articles, the Homilies and the Book of Common Prayer. However, it is the presenting issue, the point at which gospel faithfulness is currently being tested.
After decades of agitation, very largely from some Episcopalians in the United States but also from some in the Church of Canada and elsewhere, the issue came to a head at the Lambeth Conference of 1998. Resolution 1.10 was a remarkable decision to stand with Scripture against the revisionists, while at the same time calling for compassion towards those whose brokenness and sinfulness have led them to homosexual behaviour.
It is worth citing the Resolution in full.
- commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
- 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;
- recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
- while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
- cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
- requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
- notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.
A number of other resolutions had been moved on this subject at the Lambeth Conference but were not passed. Many of these contained much stronger language than that found in Resolution 1.10. However, it should be noted that these were specifically included in the final clause of the resolution (along with the Kuala Lumpur Statement of 1997) and the concerns expressed in them were commended to the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council for inclusion in their work of monitoring the situation in the Anglican Communion.
The final vote was 526 in favour, 70 against and 45 abstentions. It was evident then and since that this Resolution was unambiguous. The stance being taken with regard to homosexual practice was crystal clear. The clause ‘rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture’ remained despite the objections of the revisionists. So too the description of marriage as ‘between a man and a woman in lifelong union’ alongside an expression of the conviction that ‘abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage’. More could undoubtedly have been said. The affirmations of biblical truth could have been stronger. Yet no one was left wondering about the outcome.
Evangelicals welcomed Resolution 1.10 as a reiteration of the teaching of Scripture while at the same time insisting that the basis for their stand against homosexual practice remained the teaching of Scripture rather than a resolution of the Lambeth Conference. Revisionists in America, Canada, England and elsewhere protested that the Conference’s agenda had been hijacked by concerted conservative action (with little acknowledgement that they had ever organised support for their own proposals at a Lambeth Conference). Some hoped that the issue was now settled, the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the authority of Scripture on these and other matters reaffirmed. However, such hope proved illusory within months as the revisionist forces determined to push ahead with adopting the gay agenda.
Actions taken in synods in Canada, England and the US, all it seemed in open defiance of the Lambeth Resolution, provoked consternation throughout the Communion. The very next General Convention of The Episcopal Church insisted that ‘the issues of human sexuality are not yet resolved’ (Resolution 2000-D039). In June 2002 the Diocese of Westminster resolved to authorize the blessing of same sex unions. In May 2003 an abortive attempt was made to appoint a self-styled ‘non-practicing homosexual’ as the Bishop of Reading in England. Just a month later a practicing homosexual man, V. Gene Robinson, was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States. He was consecrated on 2 November.
Amidst the turmoil caused by these events, the Anglican Primates met in emergency session to find a way forward. The Archbishop of Canterbury was charged with setting up a commission to look at ways in which the Anglican Communion might be held together in the face of these decisions to walk apart from the Lambeth decision. Meanwhile, a number of orthodox bishops in the Global South provided means of alternative episcopal oversight for those parishes and dioceses who were scandalised by the revisionist agenda. In October 2004 the Windsor Report was produced with its proposal for an Anglican Covenant. (The strengths and weaknesses of the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposal have been well canvassed elsewhere, not least in the little book The Faith Once for all Delivered.)
A new critical moment loomed, the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Invitations were not extended to Gene Robinson, nor to those bishops consecrated to provide protection for those orthodox Christians who were out of fellowship with their revisionist territorial bishop. But the bishops who had elected and consecrated Gene Robinson were invited, including the new Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church who was pursuing conservative clergy and congregations in the courts. In the face of this failure of discipline, the representatives of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide met in Jerusalem to pray, sit under God’s word together and plan for the future of Anglicanism (and many of them did not attend Lambeth a month later). GAFCON 2008, with its 1148 delegates, was testimony to how serious the situation had become. As the Primates had warned, the fabric of the Anglican Communion had been torn by the actions of the revisionists and the Communion could not simply go on as before.
This all too brief history is widely known. In particular it is known by all the Anglican bishops in Australia. None of them is in the slightest doubt about the volatile state of the communion and the issue which lies at the heart of the turmoil. While not all were pleased with the GAFCON initiative and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans which has flowed out of it, they have been members of an Australian General Synod which on multiple occasions over the past ten years has affirmed the orthodox definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. What is more, in the interim professional standards legislation has been passed at the General Synod with overwhelming majorities and it has been adopted by almost all the dioceses in the country. That legislation speaks of the appropriateness of sexual love within marriage and of chastity outside of marriage.
This is the context in which the actions of the Bishop of Gippsland, John McIntyre, have taken place. Last December the diocesan newspaper in Gippsland announced the appointment of an openly homosexual man as priest in charge of one of the parishes of the diocese. Since then, voices of protest have been raised and the bishop has attempted to take refuge behind the strict wording of only one part of the Lambeth resolution, the refusal to accept the ordination of people involved in homosexual behaviour. He, very clearly, did not ordain this person, he simply appointed him, in full knowledge of his situation (after all, a picture of the man and his partner was included in the diocesan newspaper) to be the senior minister in a local Christian congregation.
This action has been deliberate, provocative and scandalous. Given the convulsions of the Anglican Communion over the past two decades and the crystal clear wording of other parts of Lambeth 1.10 — ‘rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture’ — not to mention the contempt his actions appear to show for the General Synod’s professional standards legislation, it is not surprising there has been an outcry. The bishop’s attempt to cast himself as a victim of ignorance and prejudice just won’t wash. His attempt to redefine the Lambeth decision in the narrowest possible terms mocks those faithful Christian men and women who have suffered the loss of property and livelihood because they took Lambeth 1.10 seriously. At a time when the wider culture is pushing so hard in the direction of abandoning the biblical teaching on marriage and embracing sexual immorality in a wide range of expressions, the faithfulness of the churches to the teaching of Scripture in this area is all the more critical.
This is the point at which the battle for the gospel is most obvious and most intense today. It is the exact opposite of love to sit mute while such moves are made by those who promised ‘to drive away all false and strange doctrine which is contrary to God’s word’. That is why the bishop must be called to account. That is why there has been all this fuss.”
– First posted by Mark Thompson at Theological Theology.
- The Gippsland Anglican, December 2011.
- ACL Statement on developments in the Diocese of Gippsland. (February 12th 2012)
- Interview with Bishop John McIntyre on ABC Radio Gippsland. (February 27th 2012)
- Diocese of Gippsland Professional Standards page.
- Anglican Church of Australia Professional Standards page.
and earlier related documents –
- A Crisis in Koinonia – by David Short, Rector of St. John’s Vancouver (2004)
- Are we stronger than He? (PDF file) – by David Short, Rector of St. John’s Vancouver (2005)
- The Anglican Debacle: Roots and Patterns – by Dr Mark Thompson (March 2008)
- The Limits of Fellowship – by Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen (March 2008)