An Open Letter to Anglicans of Great Britain

An Open Letter to Anglicans of Great Britain

July 18, 2017

Many will share our dismay at the recent decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England and the pursuing principles, values and practices contrary to Holy Scripture and church Tradition.

Given the persistent failure of the majority of the House of Bishops to fulfil the God-given duties which they have sworn to discharge these tragic developments were, sadly, not wholly unexpected.

Accordingly, and in preparation for such eventualities we, as some of those committed to the renewal of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism have already started to meet, on behalf of our fellow Anglicans, to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future.

We now wish that we have done so to be more widely known.

Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration.

We will meet again, as planned and with external facilitation, mediation and episcopal advice, in October.

It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors.

We would value your prayers and any expressions of interest from those who feel they might be able to make a valuable contribution to our deliberations.

Anyone desiring to contact us can do so through any of the organisations or churches listed.

Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, Former Chaplain to the Queen
Mrs Lorna Ashworth, General Synod of the Church of England, Archbishops’ Council
Revd Nigel Atkinson, Vicar St John’s, Knutsford and Toft
Revd Andrew Bawtree, Chair of the House of Clergy, Diocese of Canterbury
Revd Mark Burkill, Chairman of Reform
Rt Revd John Ellison, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Rt Revd John Fenwick, Bishop Primus, Free Church of England
Rt Revd Josep Miquel Rossello Ferrer, Free Church of England
Ven Dr Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, Vicar St Mary’s Harmondsworth & PiC Anglican Igbo Church of the Holy Trinity, London
Rt Revd Paul Hunt, General Secretary, Free Church of England
Canon Nigel Juckes, Incumbent, Llandogo, Monmouth
Mr Daniel Leafe, Gafcon UK
Mrs Susie Leafe, Director of Reform
Rt Revd Andy Lines, ACNA Bishop with Special Mission
Revd David McCarthy, Coordinator of the Scottish Anglican Network
Revd Lee McMunn, Mission Director, Anglican Mission in England
Revd James Paice, Trustee, The Southwark Good Stewards Trust
Rt Revd Jonathan Pryke, Senior Minister Jesmond Parish Church, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Convenor of Anglican Partnership Synod
Ven Dr Will Strange on behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship in England

The Importance of Being Right: Comments on Eugene Peterson’s The Message

By Rollin Grams July 18, 2017

rollin

Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ focuses our attention on a particular virtue.  But being earnest does not hold a candle to being right!  Being sincere counts for nothing if one is sincerely wrong.  This, in a word, captures the problem with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Personal perspectives on Scripture simply cannot replace careful Bible translation and interpretation any more than they should guide pastoral care based on the truth.

the message

Eugene Peterson has been in the news this past week about a flip-flop on his views on homosexuality, and then a simple wave of his hand at the issue—a major embarrassment for anyone in either pastoral ministry or theological education, let alone both.[1]  Yet his error goes deeper—even to altering the Scriptures themselves.  His opinion on homosexuality is actually not important to the Church, though his ramblings will, no doubt, injure some people’s faith.  An individual scholar’s opinions, though, are simply not relevant to the Church’s unchanging witness through the centuries to the truth or the authoritative teaching of Scripture on an issue.  Consider how Peterson’s Biblical paraphrase, The Message, handled key New Testament texts that deal with homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27

The Message

  • Romans 1.26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men – all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it – emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,  27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Peterson’s rendering of the text obscures the issue of lesbianism in verse 26.  In verse 27, he focuses the problem on abuse and lust rather than the acts themselves.  Even the NRSV’s more literal translation is not as helpful as it might have been.  It translates ‘natural use’ with ‘natural intercourse.’  This is a decent translation, to be sure, but the word ‘use’ is actually an important part of Paul’s point, since he is talking about the use of sexual organs according to their natural purpose.  Whether or not we might believe that the NRSV needs improvement, Peterson’s paraphrase totally misses the point.

1 Corinthians 6:9

The Message

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex….

New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites….

The two words that address homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6.9 are ‘malakoi’—‘soft men’—and ‘arsenokoitai’—‘men going to bed with men’.  The first word, ‘malakoi’, fits into a major discussion in ancient philosophy about people who lack self-control, particularly in sexual matters.  It was also further used in reference to men with a homosexual, feminine orientation.[2]  This is how Paul uses the word in a list of three sexual sins: adultery, soft men, and men having sex with men.

The second word appears to have been Paul’s own creation—a compound of the words ‘men’ and ‘bed’ (a euphemism for sex in Greek as in English).  The word essentially means ‘men bedders’ and focusses on the act of homosexual intercourse rather than, as malakoi, on the orientation and its consequences for a person’s whole disposition in life.  The correct translation of these words has escaped translators far too often, sadly.  The English Standard Version, for example, simply collapses the two terms into ‘men who practice homosexuality’.  The New Revised Standard Version limits ‘malakoi’ far too much.  It is possible to understand one example of ‘soft men’ as those men who receive sex from another man, and some of these people were male prostitutes.  Yet the word is far broader than this single category, and it could lead some people to think that the issue is really about prostitution when ‘prostitute’ is not in the Greek text at all!

The second term, ‘arsenokoitai,’ is translated as ‘sodomites’ in the New Revised Standard Version.  ‘Sodomites’ is a term for homosexuals with a lengthy history, since the men of Sodom in Genesis 19 sought to engage in homosexual sex with Lot’s visitors.  The problem with this translation in 1 Corinthians 6.9 is that it brings Genesis 19 into focus, whereas this is not the case.  Moreover, some interpreters of Genesis 19 have tried to understand the passage to mean anything but homosexuality!  While these alternative understandings are certainly wrong, use of ‘Sodomites’ in 1 Corinthians 6.9 could lead a reader who is familiar with these mistaken views on Genesis 19 to think Paul is talking about something other than homosexuality.  Again, he does not say ‘Sodomites’ but ‘men having sex with other men’ (with no distinction between those receiving or those giving the sex, as some interpreters have suggested for these two words in this passage).

These problems with translations pale, however, when one turns to The Message.  The rendering of the verse is completely botched.  The two words under discussion that capture aspects of homosexuality are totally obscured: the reader does not even know the subject of homosexuality is in view.

1 Timothy 1:10

The Message

  • 1 Timothy 1.10 sex, truth, whatever!

The New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Timothy 1:10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching…

As with Peterson’s rendering of 1 Corinthians 6.9, one is not aware in 1 Timothy 1.10 that Paul is presenting a sin list.  Persons needing to see that the early Church and New Testament authors opposed the slave trade will not see this in The Message’s paraphrase of the verse.  Nor will they see that this verse affirms what was said in the sin list of 1 Corinthians 1.9 about homosexual men going to bed with one another.  Paul uses the same complex word, arsenokoitai, as in 1 Corinthians 6.9.

Jude 7 

The Message

  • Jude 7 Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Jude 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

As with his handling of Romans 1.26-27, Peterson focuses on sexual excess in his rendering of Jude 7: ‘burning and burning’.  He catches the connection between Sodom and sexual immorality, but he misses the ‘unnatural lust’ picked up by the New Revised Standard Version.  The word ‘lust’ is not in the Greek, but the New Revised Standard Version does point the reader to the issue of the unnatural act of homosexuality by its translation of ‘other flesh’ in the Greek.[3]

Conclusion

Thus, we see a consistent re-interpretation of New Testament texts on homosexuality by Peterson in the New Testament.  The problem begins already with the choice to produce a paraphrase rather than encourage people to use a translation.  One of the most distressing things to see is a ‘seasoned’ Christian walking around with a paraphrase like The Message.  This suggests an ignorance of the difference between Bible translations and paraphrases.  The Message is not a Bible translation and should not be used for Bible reading or Bible study.  A paraphrase is closer to being a commentary.

Even so, Peterson’s handling of key New Testament texts on homosexuality suggest that his personal views come out in his paraphrase.  It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Peterson intended to undermine the meaning of the text in his paraphrase and, perhaps, thereby indicate his rejection of the text of Scripture.

[1] See, e.g., Jake Meador, ‘Eugene Peterson Shrugs: Why Theological Indifference is Worse Than Progressivism,’ Christianity Today (July 13, 2017); online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/july-web-only/eugene-peterson-shrugs.html?start=1 (accessed 18 July, 2017).  Meador’s article points out another aspect of the importance of being right.

[2] S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Pub., 2016).  See ch. 15.

[3] To his credit, Peterson does capture the focus of the parallel text of Jude 7 in 2 Peter 2.  He does not opt to focus on sexual excess in this passage but renders verse 7’s reference to Sodom as ‘sexual filth and perversity’.  (The New Revised Standard Version has ‘the licentiousness of the lawless’.)

WHEATON, IL: GAFCON Archbishops Consecrate Canon Andrew Lines in Bishop Studded Occasion  

Christianity without repentance is not true Christianity, said Nigerian Primate to 1,400 ACNA delegates

By David W. Virtue in Wheaton
www.virtueonline.org

With guests from Scotland and England observing, some 50 global Anglican archbishops and bishops laid hands on UK-born Canon Andrew Lines and declared him to be a Missionary Bishop for Scotland and Europe under the theological protection of GAFCON, a global Anglican movement of orthodox archbishops and bishops reclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Anglican Communion.

This action was roundly denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as “unnecessary”. Welby condemned it as an ecclesiastical “cross-border intervention”, setting in motion what could be viewed as a threat to both his authority and the hegemony of the Church of England.

Lines was described as a “godly and well learned man” by ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach. Lines had been received into the Diocese of the South, an ACNA diocese, and declared a priest in good standing.

Lines swore an oath of conformity. He promised he would hold his life in conformity to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of Christ “as the church has received them.” Lines then signed an oath.

Addressing the assembled 1,400 delegates, Nigerian Primate Nicholas Okoh, leader of the largest province of the Anglican Communion, praised God for the Jesus revolution. “The universal challenges today include climate change, increase in violence and terrorism, a fierce spirit of independence, freedom itself, human rights, migration, hunger, poverty, HIV/AIDS and nuclear threats. In all the challenges, it has never been easy for men and women to speak in the name of God and make disciples. The Great Commission is not about personal advancement or personal interest, but for the glory of God.

Okoh said that the New Testament was clear in that the disciples were given a comprehensive authority from the Father to rebuke, encourage, but noted that a time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine and gather around them teachers with “itching ears” and turn aside from the truth.

“Take heed to the flock over which God has given you. Beware of false teaching. In most cases, heresies and false teaching is not necessary obvious. Falsehood is a mixture of truth and falsehood. This creature is partly animal and partly human. Flee from such teaching.

“Keep your head in all situations. Do the work of an evangelist. People of God, it is never true to water down the gospel message, in fact, I am convinced that the opposite is true when we concentrate on delivering the gospel of Jesus Christ, people will be cut to the heart and repent. Christianity without repentance is not true Christianity. We must refute erroneous doctrines, contend for the faith of the Church. We are to place teaching above ceremonies which is gaining the ascendency.

“Bishops, clergy and lay people must be concerned with spreading the gospel to all nations.

“In different parts of the world there are a great cloud of witnesses. The Uganda martyrs, the traditional thought forms in Nigeria is another and you, ACNA, are also paying the price.

As you go, avoid fruitless controversies and meetings, spend quality time in spreading the gospel message. Preach and pray in the power of the Spirit, call on the power of God in the name of the Holy Spirit and it will revolutionize your church. If you do, the dead will rise, blind eyes will be opened to hear what has not been heard…follow it.”

“To you (Andy) Lines, I say keep going and keep moving. Jesus our Lord who is sending you out today is the chief missioner and He makes you more than a conqueror. I will be with you, He says to the close of the age.”

END

Sydney archbishop to assist in the consecration of Andy Lines

What miracle(s) does the Church need on sexuality?

There was a brief report in the Daily Mail online that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, believes ‘that the Church of England will need a miracle from the Holy Spirit to solve its long-running row over gay rights.’

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the divisions cannot be healed by human hands but only by divine intervention. His remarks indicate deepening desperation among Anglican leaders over the irreconcilable gap between liberals who demand gay equality within the Church and conservative evangelicals who say that gay sex is sinful.

I was interested that it was this one sentence that an eagle-eyed reported picked out from the fairly brief paper explaining the process of creating the promised teaching document on sexuality; perhaps it is still surprising that church leaders expect God to be involved in their processes? The paragraph quoted is worth reading in full:

We do not expect the teaching document, or the process of writing it, to achieve reconciliation of all views across the Church of England. Such reconciliation, were it to happen, would be the work of the Holy Spirit, not of human hands or brains. But we need our internal debates to be grounded in the best available scholarship, across many disciplines and to draw in the perspectives of people in all their difference. And we need the whole process to happen prayerfully, and with the supportive prayers of our fellow Christians across the world. If the teaching document can express clearly the ground on which we are agreed – and be very clear about where we disagree, and why – it will have done its work well.

It is interesting to note the phrase ‘were it to happen’, indicating some doubt that the disagreement will ever end. And I think quite a few people in Synod will be curious about the last sentence; this reads like a mapping exercise, not a teaching document. ‘Teaching’ involves discerning the truth, and expressing that in a way which can be passed on. It’s not clear that mapping alone will achieve what is needed. And will there be boundaries to the issues on which we disagree? Are there grounds for that? After all, there are clergy who don’t even agree that God exists in any meaningful sense; is that the kind of disagreement that we might include?

I would certainly agree that we need a miracle—in fact, it seems to me that we need three miracles, in three distinct areas.


The first is in relation to what I think can only be called the furious assault on the Church’s current teaching on sex and marriage. It is currently taking the form of two motions in the July session of General Synod, one from Chris Newlands and Blackburn diocese on liturgies for transgender people undergoing transition, and the other from Jayne Ozanne on what she calls ‘conversion therapies’. I previously commented on Chris Newlands’ motion, including the Radio 4 discussion I had with him. But following that, I wrote to him and suggested we talk about a ‘friendly’ amendment, where we could agree on the important pastoral issue, but where we might remove the request for liturgy since there is no agreement on this, and such a debate would simply be divisive. In reply, he was not willing to consider this, since he was clear that liturgy was what was needed—and that there could be no negotiation.

Jayne Ozone’s Private Member’s Motion on ‘conversion therapy’ has been criticised by Dermot O’Callaghan, a former member of the Synod of the Church of Ireland, for lacking supportive evidence.

In 2013 I corresponded with the Bishop of Buckingham, who had been vocal on the matter.  I said, “I hope you will not feel it unreasonable that I should ask you for the name of just one reputable study to represent the ‘overwhelming evidence’ that such therapies are harmful.  My conviction on this is such that if you can do this, I shall donate £100 to a charity of your choice.”  The bishop declined my offer.

I would make the same offer to you, Jayne – £100 to a charity of your choice.  And if, as I anticipate, your researches don’t yield even one study that follows participants through therapy and finds that on average they were harmed more than helped (using a scientifically recognised measure of distress), I would appeal to your integrity not to support the unscientific 16thJanuary statement. 

The whole question of change of sexual orientation is a controversial one—though one strange thing about the discussion is that, outside the church, promoters of gay rights are very happy to agree that sexuality and sexual orientation is fluid. But the two things that are concerning here are the lack of scientific evidence involved, even on the part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (whom O’Callaghan believes has misled the Church of England in evidence they have provided) and the lack of engagement. O’Callaghan reports that:

Jayne responded to me with a strongly worded letter characterising my request as amounting to bullying and bribery, and refusing to work alongside me to try to find an agreed position regarding the claim that such therapy is ‘harmful and not supported by evidence’, and therefore unethical.   I shall leave it to you to decide whether the charges of bullying and bribery are justified.

The third current part of this assault is Jayne Ozanne’s attempt to have ‘spiritual abuse’ recognised as an additional, separate category of abuse alongside physical, sexual, domestic and emotional abuse. In her paper arguing for this (which received national press coverage and was discussed on Radio 4’s Sunday programme last week), she specifically names HTB and Alpha, New Wine, Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, True Freedom Trust, and the Evangelical Alliance as organisations in which spiritual abuse takes place because of ‘their attitude to the Holy Spirit’. She goes on to argue that the Church’s current teaching position, that sexual intimacy properly belongs in male-female marriage, is inherently abusive to LGBTI Christians.

I am reluctant to use the term ‘evil’ to describe this relentless attack on church teaching, since it does not help to demonise individuals—and I have valued the engagement on this blog with people with whom I disagree yet from whom I continue to learn. Yet these moves appear to be of a different order. They lack a willingness to discuss, and they are often undertaken in close partnership with individuals and organisations who have, in the past, been seriously antipathetic to the Church and to Christian faith. I don’t see any obvious prospect of such campaigns abating the near future.


The second area we need a miracle is in handling the legacy of historic abuse. Last week, Dame Moira Gibbs released her report ‘An Abuse of Faith’ on the way the Church of England handled former bishop Peter Ball’s abuse of teenagers.

The review found that “Ball’s conduct has caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men… Peter Ball betrayed his Church and abused individual followers of that Church” and “The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others.”

Stephen Kurht comments on the radical change that is still needed in church culture:

The most tragic aspect for me, as a Church of England Vicar, is my total lack of surprise at these findings. I’m a fervent believer in the Church of England and its mission to share God’s love with as many people within this country as possible. But none of this will count for anything until the Church of England reaches a proper clarity over safeguarding.

The review acknowledges that safeguarding procedure has improved within the Church of England over the last few years. But this is not enough. The only thing that will prevent such cases and institutional collusion with them reoccurring, will be a change of culture within the Church of England.

But there remains the fundamental difficulty of how to deal with spurious accusations. It is not a little ironic that George Carey’s son, Mark, was recently cleared of a charge which looked from the beginning to be entirely implausible—but had to endure an agonising five months from October last year to April this before the decision was made that the accusation was groundless. The needed change in culture which focusses on individuals rather than defending the institution cannot work without a comparable review of how to filter out spurious claims.


The third area where we need a miracle is in the area of Christian leaders articulating confidence in orthodox teaching on sexuality. For the Church of England, I cannot recall any public statement by any bishops expressing such confidence. I am not interested in criticising my bishops; I don’t think it is helpful, and their job is already difficult and complex enough as it is. I am also acutely aware that no individual wants to be known as ‘the anti-gay bishop’ or ‘the one obsessed with sex’. But it seems odd to me that those who question the Church’s current teaching position (and, it has to be said, the pretty clear teaching of the New Testament) feel no such reticence. Neither do the leaders of other denominations; Catholic leaders don’t equivocate on their church’s position, and see this example of Andrew Wilson addressing the question of transgender. It is not just bishops are are reluctant, it is also others who exercise episcopal ministry in other ways. The leaders of one of the networks mentioned in Jayne Ozone’s paper on spiritual abuse have been conspicuous by their silence—and it is creating a vacuum of confidence for members of the network on the ground.

It is not just the external situation which I think makes bishops nervous, but the internal one of disagreement. Since bishops are supposed to be a ‘focus of unity’, they are rightly nervous of alienating clergy and churches with other views. But surely this ‘focus of unity’ is supposed to be around the Church’s teaching, and not simply a holding it all together by not offending anyone. At the heart of this is the phrase ‘radical new Christian Inclusion, … founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it’ used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their rapid response to the February synod debate. If it is ‘new and radical’ how can it be ‘founded in scripture’ etc? What does the phrase mean? As David Baker asks:

As you have written publicly calling for ‘a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church’ after last week’s General Synod I wanted to write and ask the question which many are now asking: what exactly is that?

You see, the thing is, I’ve always thought the gospel was radically inclusive already. I’ve always believed that ‘the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’ – as the famous hymn puts it. And when I look back on churches of which I have been a part, I recall them including paedophiles, an associate of the Kray twins, pornography addicts, adulterers – and others, including myself, whose middle class respectability masked sins which might have been less obvious but were equally heart-breaking to God. We, together, were vile offenders (in the eyes of God’s law if not of the world) who chose to repent and believe. And gloriously, all of us were welcomed and included! When you add in the mind-blowing mix of age, ethnicity and background as well, that seems pretty inclusive already.

We need not one but three miracles: that the assaults on the Church will abate; that we will see a change in culture about abuse without leaving church leaders vulnerable to spurious claims; and that we will hear some clear, confident teaching on sexuality. It feels like quite a lot to ask—but we need them soon.

Missionary Bishop introduced by Archbishop Foley Beach

Recognising the pastoral need that arose following the initial SEC vote (in June 2016), in April of this year the Gafcon Primates authorised the consecration of a Missionary Bishop to care for those who seek to remain faithful to the scriptures and Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

Today at a press conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Archbishop Foley Beach, speaking on behalf of the Primates Council, introduced the new Missionary Bishop:

Statement on Gafcon Missionary Bishop by Archbishop Foley Beach

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today.  I plan to make a brief statement. Canon Andy Lines will make a brief statement. Rev. David McCarthy will make a brief statement. And then we will have a time for questions.

I speak to you today as the Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America, and as a sitting primate on the Gafcon Primates Council.  On behalf of the Chairman of Gafcon, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Assistant Chairman, The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, and the Gafcon Primates Council:  Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We continue to have a crisis in the Anglican Communion as the virus of revisionist theology and practice continues to spread to various Provinces.  Rather than correcting and disciplining those who have departed from the biblical faith and practice which has been handed down to us from the Apostles, some church leaders are embracing false teaching, and then going even further by promoting it around the world.

The Nairobi Communiqué from the Gafcon meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013 clearly stated that the Gafcon leadership would not ignore the pleas of the faithful who are trapped in places where false doctrine and practice occur.  We promised that we would provide pastoral care and oversight for those who remain faithful to Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

At our April meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, the Gafcon Primates decided to provide a missionary bishop for Europe with the initial focus on those in Scotland and those faithful Anglicans in England outside the Church of England. Today’s decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the biblical and historic definition of marriage has highlighted the need to respond to the cries and pleas of those Scots who today have been marginalized by their leaders. The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support.

The Gafcon Primates have asked our Province, the Anglican Church in North America, to take on the task of providing a missionary bishop for Scotland.  Our Province was formed at the direction of Gafcon 2008 after many of the Provinces of Gafcon had provided the same kind of oversight for clergy and congregations in North America.  They have asked us to consecrate Canon Andy Lines.

Our College of Bishops discussed and decided to accept this responsibility. Following the Canons of our Province, the Executive Committee of the Province was not only consulted, but also voted unanimously to support this endeavor.  We also appointed an oversight Committee of Bishops to provide guidance and accountability for Canon Lines as he walks through our consecration process and to support him after he is consecrated a bishop. Archbishop Robert Duncan is chair of the committee which consists of three diocesan bishops: The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, The Rt. Rev. Charlie Master, and The Rt. Rev. David Hicks.

Canon Andy Lines is now canonically resident in the Diocese of the South as a “priest in good standing” after having been transferred from the Province of South America as a priest in good standing.

The Consecration will take place on the morning of 30 June in Wheaton, Illinois and the service will include Primates, Archbishops, and bishops from all over the world.  Although the Anglican Church in North America is the consecrating Province, this is an initiative of the wider Anglican Communion.

Lastly, as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, I consider it an honor to serve the Scots in this way. After the American revolution in the United States, the Anglican leaders in England would not consecrate bishops for the newly formed Anglican Church in the United States. It was Scotland who came to our rescue and consecrated our first bishop, Samuel Seabury. It is Providential that we in North America are now able to honor our Scottish heritage by providing a bishop for the faithful in Scotland.  It is my hope that the missionary bishop will lead an effort to plant dynamic churches all over Scotland which are Jesus-centered, practicing the teaching of the Bible, and holding to the long-standing tradition of the Anglican Faith.  As Samuel Seabury once said:

“Error often becomes popular and contagious, and then no one can tell how far it will spread, nor where it ends. We must in such cases, recur to first principles, and there take our stand. The Bible must be the ground of our faith.”

Consecration of New Style Bishops – Q & A

jesmondMay 15, 2017

(Handed out at Jesmond Parish Church yesterday)

What can we achieve through new style bishops?

The growth of the Church because one of their key roles is to ordain (that is, authorise and appoint) new ministers who will provide the next generation of ministry in both existing churches and new church plants.

Why are they needed?

Because in the confused Church of today such bishops need to be faithful to 1) the biblical miracles of the virginal conception of Jesus and his Resurrection and empty tomb; 2) the biblical ethic that sex should be reserved for lifelong heterosexual monogamous marriage; and 3) the biblical principle that means bishops should be male – all issues in the North East in recent years. So bishops Martin Morrison and John Ellison have helped churches like Jesmond Parish Church, St Oswald’s Walkergate, Christ Church Durham, Holy Trinity Gateshead, St Joseph’s Benwell, and other churches when needed. But they cannot go on for ever!

How will the Church of England grow?

By new English bishops working to a new style of being bishops – that is working primarily to establish new churches. Martin Morrison provides such a model: he continues in his local church, while exercising a wider role to establish new churches and provide external accountability.

How will the Church of England benefit?

The aim is not to create a new denomination. No! This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation. This is not a step of ‘leaving the Church of England’. It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have ‘left the Church of England’ doctrinally. This is a step to preserve the Church of England’s heritage and mission which we have received.

Could we not have carried on just as we are?

No! We need new style English bishops here ‘on the ground’ to plan for and enable the urgent spread of the gospel nationwide – especially through church planting. And ‘carrying on as we are’ would almost certainly mean biblically faithful ministers finding it increasingly difficult to be ordained and deployed by the current system, as people are ‘filtered out’ according to their views on homosexual practice and the ordination of women.

Will it produce more clergy and growing churches?

Yes, with prayer! For it requires, fundamentally, the ordination and deployment of new ministers who are biblically faithful – which the current system, sadly, can hinder. And we hope that some of those ministers will move into existing Church of England posts as well as new church plants, to contribute to the recovery of the gospel and to further the ministry of men and women for church growth.

(Reproduced with permission)

Easter Message: Glenn Davies

Glenn Davies

The leader of Australia’s largest Anglican Diocese, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has paid tribute to those who risked their lives to perform rescues in the recent cyclone and flooding.

“Australia is a nation that honours rescuers.” Dr Davies said in his annual Easter message. “We have seen in recent days, those who selflessly rescue people from cyclone storm and flood. They have our admiration, gratitude and thanks.”

“Destructive winds wreak havoc in a moment. The TV news shows us people who have been quickly surrounded by floodwaters. How welcome are the brave faces of those who appear just in time to bring them to safety?”

Dr Davies linked their selfless acts with Easter – saying “Jesus is the ultimate rescuer. His name, in Hebrew, means ‘God saves’. There are some who would say the events on a Judean hill two thousand years ago have no relevance for the 21st century. But that first Easter tells us that Jesus is alive today and rescues those who cry to him.”

Archbishop Davies will preach at the Cathedral on Easter Day (Sunday).

In his Easter Message, Archbishop Davies urged a spiritual renewal, saying “You and I need someone to rescue us from sin and bring us back to God. Jesus is the only one who can do this. No-one who is in trouble looks at a rescuer and says – don’t rescue me. This Easter, get to know Jesus – the greatest rescuer of all.”

The main service at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, Sydney Square (next to the Town Hall) on Good Friday will be at 10am led by the Dean, the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel. Archbishop Davies will preach on Easter Day (Sunday) at 10:30 am.

Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney 2017 Easter Message

Australia is a nation that honours rescuers.

We have seen in recent days, those who selflessly rescue people from cyclone storm and flood. They have our admiration, gratitude and thanks.

The need for rescue comes suddenly. Destructive winds wreak havoc in a moment. The TV news shows us people who have been quickly surrounded by floodwaters. How welcome are the brave faces of those who appear just in time to bring them to safety?

Jesus is the ultimate rescuer. His name, in Hebrew, means ‘God saves’.

There are some who would say the events on a Judean hill two thousand years ago have no relevance for the 21st century. But that first Easter tells us that Jesus is alive today and rescues those who cry to him.

You and I need someone to rescue us from sin and bring us back to God. Jesus is the only one who can do this.

No-one who is in trouble looks at a rescuer and says – don’t rescue me. This Easter, get to know Jesus – the greatest rescuer of all.

Churches grapple with questions of survival through research

A major new doctoral initiative aimed at equipping leadership in the non-western andvinay s
persecuted church has been launched by two
leading academic institutes – the Oxford Centre for Religion in Public Life (OCRPL) and the Theology department of the South African University of Stellenbosch.

The collaboration aims to research questions of mission and ministry that are central to the survival of churches under pressure and persecution. Researchers, who will work towards a PH D, will remain in their place of ministry but complete their research through study time and under the guidance of supervisors from Oxford and Stellenbosch.

The four year programme will combine internet study and four month’s worth of residential seminars.

Dr Vinay Samuel of OCRPL said: “Christian faith in the West has been undermined in the last one hundred years by the intellectual attack of the rationalist enlightenment on the reliability of the Bible and the historical reality of Jesus. This has meant that theological study in the West has been largely focused on apologetics, either by orthodox scholars addressing the sceptical questions of the rationalist to give a reason for the hope within them, or by liberal scholars finding ways to make the intellectually discredited faith “relevant” to the prevailing culture.”

Dr Samuel pointed to exponential growth of Christianity in Africa and China and the massive challenges to Christian mission and ministry in those areas. He said the questions which will be addressed by researchers are: “How can churches maintain security and freedom to witness in the face of aggressive nationalistic religions; how can churches engage with those members of those religions on the basis of common citizenship of their countries; how does Christian faith bring change and healing to those with mental, psychological and sexual problems; when people convert from one faith to another, how much continuity, if any, is to be expected in their religious outlook and personal identity; what impact has a Christian community had on the life chances of people in their neighbourhood and how; what balance should be maintained between prophetic challenge to injustice and freedom to evangelise; what practical steps can churches take to eliminate corruption, especially within its own ranks.”

Dr Samuel argued that these were not the questions raised by the average theological curriculum, but they are the questions that trouble senior Christians in non-western countries. “Answering such questions depends on careful research of available information and case studies, and on engaging the questions and perspectives of biblically-based theology with the questions and perspectives of other branches of knowledge.”

It is vital, he said, that global south church leaders have access to such research and where possible were training in researching such questions themselves.

The first seminar is being held in Stellenbosch South Africa from September 1 -22 2017.  Barnabas Fund and East Mountain Ministries South Africa are providing support for students in the programme for which applications are now welcomed.

Encountering contemporary liberal theology – in its own words

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.symes A

Conservative evangelicals are often accused of not ‘listening’ to other points of view. We’re told that we only engage with each other; we only read or listen to ‘approved’ versions of our faith; we caricature the arguments of revisionists without really hearing them. So I was delighted to receive a press release from Modern Church, summarising the keynote address from the recent annual meeting of their Council, and giving a link to the substantial 12 page text of the talk itself, by Dr Lorraine Cavanagh, which can be found here. ‘Reclaiming the soul of Modern Church’ reads like a manifesto for mission for liberal Christians, and it’s worth reading with genuine enquiry, to ask whether this revisionist version of Christian faith offers a coherent and compelling vision that threatens orthodox biblical faith in any way.

After an opening illustration, Dr Kavanagh begins by defining liberalism in a Christian context. Firstly as “hospitality”: respect for one another around a “central altar” as we “encounter God in one another”. Then ‘freedom’ to encounter God “in a myriad of ways”, particularly through openness to “non-propositional truth” of the heart not just the head. It is also an intellectual freedom, a continual willingness to think in different ways. This can be seen as subversive, but provides a vital different voice against the contemporary tendency to conservatism, according to Cavanagh.

(To me it seems bizarre that the Church of England could be accused of undergoing a “shift to the extreme right” as the Acting General Secretary of Modern Church claims. I’m currently reading Justin Welby’s proposal of a radical Gospel-directed alternative to current models of capitalism, in the Lent book ‘Dethroning Mammon’. Meanwhile Bishops are publicly affirming the Archbishops’ call for “radical inclusion” in the Church, and are regularly critical of government economic and social policies).

Cavanagh sees the gift that liberals can offer is to bring the voice of “the unchurched, the de-churched and the marginalised” to the table. She takes a term of insult, “half-believers”, and turns it into a virtue – believing but with questions, understanding but not tied down to a particular version of the faith. Many liberals feel rejected by the institutional church or representatives of it, perhaps alienated from traditional views of God, but still want to be Christians and C of E. They have much to offer a church that, with clear echoes of Martyn Percy, she describes as “stifled by managerial concerns”. The Church’s inner spiritual life needs insights from “the humanist and the secular”, she continues, claiming that this is the opposite of extremism.

(This idea of ‘reverse mission’, of the Church learning from the world about some of its core principles, is a familiar feature of liberal theology and ethics. It is unintentionally ironic that liberals are attacking the C of E leadership for borrowing from secular management principles to improve efficiency, while at the same time themselves openly advocating the taking on board of other secular ideas.)

Modern Church stands for a fellowship with no “criteria for membership” which are divisive and sectarian. Cavanagh links the “recruitment” emphasis on evangelism and discipleship in the C of E’s Renewal and Reform programme with “dangerously emotive worship”, fundamentalism and the rise of Donald Trump. By contrast liberals look for something of the sacred, found in contemplation, with more “theological substance”. People returning to church after a long absence, including some evangelicals, are finding this helpful, says Cavanagh, although there is no evidence to indicate how many.

The worshipping community and the “life of the spirit” prevents the intellectual explorations into religious philosophy from “running aground”, and provides the liberal Christian alternative to the atheist Assemblies. Referring to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, Cavanagh describes God’s pneuma as “a new and life-giving force at work in any number of human contexts”, insisting that understanding of God should be “non-dogmatic”, relevant to the 21st century, and not “protectionist” (which I take to mean framed by doctrinal boundaries).

A radical new vision of Christian faith based on these principles will result in transformation of the Church, Cavanagh believes. Biblical interpretation should be based on the primary hermeneutical keys of justice and love; the authority of divine revelation is found not in Scripture but in “respect for one another, including those of other faiths”. While God “is known in different ways, as part of different and still evolving stories”, there is agreement about a quality of “loving kindness”, and that the Kingdom of God is coterminous with “reconciliation and peace in the world”.

The mission of a Modern Church is to be a “bearer of hope”, voicing liberal thought in contexts of neo-conservatism, not seeking to convert, but to liberate; challenging injustice and abuse of power in the Church, and fundamentalism in religion generally. While conservative versions are “literally unbelievable”, liberalism sees concepts of God as sacred, holy, open to a process of questioning, combining the rational and the spiritual.

Cavanagh appears to recognise the problem that the account of faith that she describes, a combination of vaguely left of centre philosophical musings and spirituality free of any biblical anchor, is seen by many as “not really Christian”. Orthodox Anglicans, confident in the authority of Scripture, and of basing theology and ethics on the Bible’s coherent and thrillingly inspiring vision of God’s relationship with humanity past, present and future through Christ, would find it difficult to see anything in Modern Church’s presentation which could offer anything helpful, or be a challenge to evangelical understandings of faith and mission.

But this kind of revisionism still remains a threat. Many Bishops see their role as referees between different theological positions rather than guardians of the faith once delivered, and liberal theology still appeals to a small but influential number of those who have rejected biblical truth but want to be involved with Church leadership. Modern Church may feel that the C of E is moving in a conservative direction, but the Synod’s House of Clergy has voted against a document advocating caution in moves towards affirming same sex marriage. Revisionist ideas have got a hold in theological colleges, Diocesan training schemes, parish pulpits and Cathedrals.

In response, orthodox Anglicans need to continue to teach the truth and refute error, and resist appeals to settle for ‘good disagreement’ when it means accepting that Modern Church’s self-confessed humanistic theology is as validly Christian as robust biblical faith.