Debating the Church and same-sex marriage

“On Friday 3rd September, at 2.10 pm, I had a phone call from a number I did not recognise. When I answered, it turned out to be from a BBC researcher asking if I would appear on BBC1 on Sunday morning for a debate about the Church of England and same-sex marriage, in the light of the coming vote taking place in the Church in Wales.

I have been preaching in different churches, covering for vacancies, but it just happened that this Sunday I did not have a commitment.

As I have said elsewhere, when someone makes a media request like this, the first thing to say is ‘Yes’…”

Dr Ian Paul shares his experience (and video) of being interviewed on BBC TV last week. Do pray for those who stand for the authority of God’s Word.

The interview can be seen here – and this exchange calls to mind Luke 11:17.

Australian and English evangelicals show different approaches to Anglican institutional revisionism

“On the same day (19th July) that Gafcon Australia publicly unveiled their plans to establish an alternative Anglican jurisdiction in response to the trajectory of revisionism in the Church of Australia, the Church of England Evangelical Council issued a statement about the Bishop of Liverpool’s address to the MOSAIC campaign group, in which he called for same sex marriage in the Church of England. The difference in the two statements is symptomatic of more general differences between the way that orthodox Anglicans are engaging with the national church in both countries.

The CEEC statement begins with an appreciation of Bishop Bayes’ subsequent apology for his attack on those who believe the historic teaching of the church on sex and marriage …”

– At Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Symes makes some very interesting comparisons. He has a strong challenge to his UK readership.

Andrew’s sentiments would probably have been shared by the late John Richardson. Twenty-eight years ago, the ACL’s newsletter published his article “UK Evangelicalism: Optimistic?”. It was later posted on our (old) website. (for ease of reading, here is a PDF version). John consistently argued that evangelicals in the Church of England need to fight for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, rather than act like gentlemen playing cricket.

And, for good measure, here’s a brief clip of John speaking about the significance of his 1993 year at Moore College.

Image of Andrew Symes: Christian Concern.

Living in Love and Faith — a Quick Guide

At Church Society’s website George Crowder gives a brief introduction to the Living in Love and Faith process. He encourages everyone to be involved – but will the Bible’s message be heeded by those evaluating the responses?

Related:

The Church of England’s guide to hearing God’s voice through the Bible, according to LLF – Andrew Symes at Anglican Mainstream.

Handling the Bible in Love and Faith – Kirsten Birkett, Church Society.

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “Broken Partnership” with House of Bishops – ACL.

Should the church ‘let the world set the agenda’ on ethics and doctrine?

“Paul Bayes, currently the Church of England’s bishop in Liverpool, has made his clearest call yet for the Church to change its understanding of marriage and sexuality, in his address to the MoSAIC group

He does not disguise the reasons for his views, where he thinks the Church should go, and what that would mean. Along the way, he makes some extraordinary comments for any Christian, let alone for someone appointed as a bishop…”

Ian Paul at Psephizo takes a look at an address by Bishop Paul Bayes given to the National MOSAIC (Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church) Conference on the weekend.

See also:

Albert Mohler speaks with Carl Trueman on ‘The Triumph of the Modern Self’

A conversation with Dr. Carl Trueman on the modern self and the sexual revolution.

Archbishop of Canterbury issues ‘personal apology’ over charity abuse

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a ‘full personal apology’ to the survivors of abuse by former barrister John Smyth QC in the 1970s and 80s.

Smyth, who died aged 77 in 2018, violently beat boys who attended Christian summer camps.

Justin Welby said: ‘I am sorry this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism.’…”

– Report from BBC News.

Here is the full text of Archbishop Welby’s Statement.

Does the Church of England deserve to survive?

“Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a business enterprise decided to sponsor an educational establishment.

The business made widgets, and at the time everyone thought that widgets were just the bees knees. People bought the widgets; they learned about how widgets were made; they visited widget shops and even widget museums, dedicated to understanding all about the history of widgets. …”

– British theologian Ian Paul is bemused by the silence of Church of England bishops when a Church of England clergyman is attacked for teaching Church of England doctrine.

More than 1,000 vicars vow to defy any vaccine passport plans for churches

“In an open letter to the [British] Prime Minister concerning vaccine passport proposals, the church leaders said: ‘To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel.‘…”

Story from The Telegraph (via MSN).

And from the Letter:

Open Letter from Christian Leaders to the Prime Minister Concerning Vaccine Passport Proposals

“Dear Prime Minister,

As Christian leaders across a range of denominations, we continue to pray at this time for your government ‘and all in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity’ (1 Timothy 2:2).

However, we write to you concerning an area of the most serious concern, namely the potential introduction into our society of so-called ‘vaccine passports’ which have also been referred to as ‘COVID-status certificates’ and ‘freedom passes’. We are wholly opposed to this suggestion and wish to make three points about the potential consideration of any scheme of this type. …“

Read the full letter here. It is signed by a number of UK Christians leaders who would be known to our readers.

Church Society response to the 31:8 Lessons Learned Review

Church Society in the UK has released this Open letter to their members concerning Church Society’s response to the recent 31:8 Lessons Learned Review (concerning Jonathan Fletcher).

See also: Glen Scrivener speaks with Lee Furney, one of 27 victims who spoke to the independent review.

To win power in the Church of England?

“The newly-launched Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church (Mosaic) has a clear political motive: to win power on the Church of England’s governing body, the General Synod. …”

– At Conservative Woman, Julian Mann shares his thoughts on a newly formed group seeking fundamental change in the Church of England.

Handling the Bible in Love and Faith

“I want people to be convinced that the word of God is good. God is so generous, and his word saves and enriches and fulfils life. God will offer anyone the opportunity to approach him, unashamedly, in Christ. He will teach us all to let go of the old ways of hate, and separation, and disunity. His welcome is universal and unconditional. …”

– At Church Society, Kirsty Birkett continues her reflections on the approach to Scripture of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith.

See also Lee Gatiss’ preview (last October) of Living in Love and Faith:

“The problem here is that we are never allowed to come to a settled mind on this, and it is repeatedly said that clergy are free to preach and teach the opposite of what the church has always believed.”

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “Broken Partnership” with House of Bishops

Excerpts from a Statement issued by St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London:

“In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries. …

St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches.”

Read the full statement below:

Date 16 December 2020

ST HELEN’S BISHOPSGATE ANNOUNCES “BROKEN PARTNERSHIP” WITH HOUSE OF BISHOPS

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead the House of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England. Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is in marked contrast to the House of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

The loving summons of the Lord Jesus to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’ leads his followers into a life of rich fulfilment that stretches into eternity. Thus, when Church of England bishops depart from proclaiming and defending clear biblical teaching, it is not just a breach of the Canons of the Church of England, but more seriously it is unloving and painful to the many people within the Church of England who want to live faithful and sacrificial lives following Jesus, and it risks causing others to stray from the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures.

St Helen’s has a deep love and concern for those in the church who experience same-sex attraction, and seeks to provide support and care for such men and women in our own congregations. Sadly when Church of England leaders contradict or fail to promote the clear teaching of scripture in the area of sexual ethics, they are heard by our and other congregations to say that scripture does not matter and the personal obedience of committed Christians desiring to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching does not matter.

St Helen’s, like the great majority of Anglicans around the world, believes that scripture clearly and consistently teaches that it is God’s good plan that the only loving and God-honouring place for sexual practice is within the marriage of one man and one woman, and that this is a matter of primary biblical importance. It is not merely a ‘secondary matter’ over which faithful Christian disciples can ‘agree to disagree’, rather it is a matter of the authority of God’s word to which all disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to submit (and not reword).

Tracey, a member of St Helen’s who knew she was gay when she was 12, lived an active gay lifestyle in her twenties until she became a Christian a few years ago.

She says, “Now that I’m a Christian it doesn’t mean that I have become straight. I’ve always been attracted to girls. The thing that helped me was understanding that temptation and sin were different things. I have a choice: I can either honour God with my actions or dishonour him.”

She continues, “I find it upsetting when Christians take different bits of the Bible and say, I’ll go with this and not that, as it was quite clear to me what the Bible taught on homosexuality. There is a cost and it is tricky, but holding onto the truths in the Bible, I choose to honour Jesus. I have a wonderful church family who are incredibly supportive.”

St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches. We have been in regular communication with both the current Bishop of London and her predecessor about our developing concerns. We are grateful that the Bishop of London has, in response, proposed working with St Helen’s to assess how the potential consequences of broken partnership could be addressed.

William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s says, “The House of Bishops has responsibility for spiritual leadership in the Church of England–teaching the truth, correcting error and exercising discipline. Their failure of leadership over many years is responsible for the confusion that the Church of England now finds itself in. By contrast the Bible’s teaching is clear, authoritative and loving as is the historic doctrine of the Church of England. Sadly, therefore, we find that although authentically Anglican, we are not, for the time being, in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops. We feel obliged to take this step to differentiate ourselves visibly from the House of Bishops.”

He continues, “We are grateful for the ongoing faithful ministry of the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, who is not himself a voting member of the House of Bishops but has repeatedly and faithfully raised these concerns about departure from the Scriptures. Rod will review me annually in my role as Rector of St Helen’s, with input from the churchwardens and other members of the team at St Helen’s. We will also continue to pray for the leadership of the Church of England and for the House of Bishops, especially that they will stand strong in the orthodox truths and have the confidence to be unashamed in preaching the gospel as set out in scripture – the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, no matter how counter-cultural it may seem to contemporary society.”

Many local church leaders, from different Anglican churches across the country, share similar concerns to those expressed by St Helen’s. We wish to support and remain in full partnership with these likeminded churches, who seek to teach the good news of Jesus with faithfulness and compassion and provide on-going care, love and support for those within their congregations experiencing same-sex attraction.

Ends

Source: St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Image of William Taylor courtesy of St. Helen’s.

The Spirit of Truth

As I explained in my previous blogpost, ‘theological reflection’, a process of hearing God’s revelation not just in Scripture, but in human wisdom and the changing circumstances around us, has become very popular in the Church of England. It is often given justification from John 16:13. Even when not linked directly to theological reflection, this verse is taken as reason to expect devout Christians, in conscience, to come to new conclusions about life and doctrine that are different from the received view, perhaps even different from biblical teaching.

Is this what Jesus actually taught in John 16:13? …

Such an interpretation of John 16:13 in the Church of England is relatively new, but has a back story. In the background is the influence of John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement. …”

– At Church Society, Kirsty Birkett continues her series responding to the Living in Love and Faith resources with an examination of John 16:13.

Theological Reflection

“At the start of the Living in Love and Faith book, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York introduce what LLF is doing as ‘an Anglican method of theological reflection’ (p. viii).

It’s easy to hear this phrase ‘theological reflection’ and think it just means, say, ‘thinking about the world biblically’, or ‘applying theology to the world’. However ‘theological reflection’ is more than that: it is a specific method for doing theology, for discovering what God is saying to us now. If we are going to use it to come to a decision about doctrine, we should be sure that it is a correct way to come to conclusions about God.

‘Theological reflection’ is a relatively recent term. …”

A very helpful clarification from Kirsten Birkett – at Church Society.

See also:

The Church of England’s guide to hearing God’s voice through the Bible, according to LLF – Andrew Symes at Anglican Mainstream.

Next Page →