The Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff believes the Church of England could lose up to 20 percent of its members in the fight over gay marriage, which it expects to come to a head at the February 2017 meeting of General Synod.
These claims came in a blog post made by the Rev. Colin Coward, MBE, the director of the Church of England lobbying group Changing Attitude, after he and other key leaders of the group met last month with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s director of reconciliation, Canon David Porter.
The report, which has since been taken down from the group’s website, offered a detailed summary of the conversation at Lambeth Palace – and its contents have prompted concerns from some commentators that the “Shared Conversation” process of facilitated listening over the issue of homosexuality has been compromised.
On leading Church of England conservative told Anglican Ink, that he was not disinclined to disbelieve the report, in light of history. He explained that the debate had been a one-way ratchet, with movement only towards the progressive side.
Canon Porter told Fr. Coward the “Shared Conversation” process had so far been a disappointment. It had been designed so as to give equal moral and intellectual weight to the Church’s traditional teachings and understanding of Scripture against the arguments for those favoring change. Small group discussions on the diocesan level were to be balanced along ideological lines. However, the process “as hoped because the culture of good facilitation met the culture of the College of Bishops and some of the old school bishops refused to play ball. Good process hit the dysfunctional nature of the Church of England.”
“The intention” of the Shared Conversation project was “to change the tone of the conversation and take some of the toxicity out of it, acknowledging that there is no agreement between, say, us and Reform (the Conservative Evangelical group),” Fr. Coward wrote.
He stated the Archbishop’s staff was prepared for split over the issue. “David assumes there will be a fracture and when it happens, it will be small and done with profound sadness, with a measure of grace, disagreeing well. … Maybe 80% of the C of E will hold together with fractures at either end of the spectrum.”
Canon Porter was also claimed to have said the Church of England was the “primary problem” province of the Anglican Communion because the wider Communion “no longer really know what the Church of England is.”
The issue of homosexuality would likely come to a head after the February 2017 meeting of General Synod, Canon Porter told Changing Attitude, and the schism shortly thereafter. “David believes the General Synod can’t put off a debate and vote on the core issues affecting the place of LGBTI people in the Church of England beyond the February 2017 meeting. This for me was the most significant new piece information I gained on Tuesday. David does not control the timetable or agenda of General Synod but he does have direct authority from the Archbishop of Canterbury, so this ambition may well be realized.”
The veracity of Fr Coward’s report cannot be confirmed. Asked to comment a spokesman for Lambeth Palace told Anglican Ink: “Unlike others, we do not comment on private meetings. Private conversations have been offered and held with individuals and groups from a range of views and constituencies within the church to enable the process to move forward addressing the concerns that each have expressed.”
Taking into consideration the source of the report and interpreted through their experiences, the English conservatives contacted by AI stated they believe the report to be substantially correct, with key bishops holding fast for the church’s traditional teachings. The abdication of the teaching office by the Archbishop of Canterbury in favor of becoming a referee, said the sources who asked not to be identified, coupled with the progressives hold over the central apparatus of the church, made a split likely. The true issue, however, was not how many left the Church of England, but which of its members withdrew.