Anglican update: Locating Lambeth?


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

Transition of leadership is always a testing time for organisations.

This is certainly true for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which came into being in 2009. Following the consecration to the office of bishop of a man who was in a samesex relationship, those who could not accept this within a Christian church formed a new church, faithful to Anglican teaching. It was recognised by the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON), which first met in 2008 in Jerusalem.

Not a proper Anglican

Their first archbishop, the Most Revd Robert Duncan, had been Bishop of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church (of the United States of America) prior to ACNA’s split from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and so was already a fully ‘recognised’ Anglican bishop. His elected successor, the Most Revd Dr Foley Beach, was not a bishop in TEC or anywhere else. So some could argue that he was not a proper Anglican bishop.

Archbishop Welby’s advisers appear to have taken such a view. Only days before Archbishop Beach’s investiture on 9 October the Church of Ireland Gazette published an interview with Archbishop Welby.

Welby pulls plug

In 2010 the Church of England General Synod had recognised and affirmed the desire of those who formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family. Since ACNA is not yet a member in the formal list of the churches of the Anglican Communion, the Synod agreed to explore what relationship ACNA might have with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The smoke signals were thought to be favourable. But it appeared that Archbishop Welby held that ACNA was an ‘ecumenical’ partner and therefore closed the explorations. Some suggest that Archbishop Welby was misquoted and that there is more to say. ACNA was so ‘upset’ about this that Archbishop Welby’s letter of ‘greeting’ to Archbishop Beach was left unread at his investiture.

Instead Bishop Greg Venables, former primate of the Southern Cone of Latin America brought warm greetings from the Pope. ‘He wrote to me just a few days ago and said when you go to the United States please, in my name, give my personal congratulations and greetings to Archbishop Foley.

‘Assure him of my prayers and support at this moment and in the future as he leads the Church at this very important moment of revival and mission’.

This is, of course a greeting to an ecumenical partner and one of the ‘separated brethren’. Archbishop Welby’s view appears to be much the same. His statement may have been determined by lawyers for whom the question is whether ACNA clergy and bishops are ‘proper’ Anglican clergy.

Archbishop or Confession

To emphasise the point made in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration that Anglican identity does not depend on recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury – but is rather a matter of biblically faithful confession – seven primates of the Anglican Communion (Kenya – chairman of GAFCON Primates Council, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda Jerusalem and the Middle East – chairman of the Anglican Global South network, Myanmar, and Southern Cone) present at the service received Archbishop Beach ‘ as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion’.

Following the installation, these primates issued this statement: ‘We, the undersigned primates, were honoured to participate in the joyful investiture of the Most Revd Dr Foley Beach as Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and to receive him as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion … the heart of our calling is to share the transforming love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We celebrate that the Anglican Church in North America shares in that same mission and purpose. We and our Provinces will continue to share in gospel work together, and pledge our continued partnership with the Anglican Church in North America to pursue the work of Christ’.

Prebendary Charles Marnham, rector of St Michael’s Chester Square, London said at the investiture: ‘ACNA should be in no doubt that you have many friends in the Church of England who admire and respect your costly, courageous and principled stand in recent years’.

Archbishop’s real view

What is the real view of Archbishop Welby? He strongly affirms his opposition to same sex marriage. ACNA has stood for this Anglican teaching, in the USA, often at great cost to their clergy and to the loss of their church buildings. Yet institutionally Lambeth seems unwilling to recognise them as a Church which is a member of the Anglican Communion.

What might lie behind Justin Welby’s apparent uncertainty about ACNA? Membership of the Anglican Communion is not an administrative issue but a confessional one. The bodies that can make such a decision are the Lambeth Conference, or the Primates Council on its behalf. Due to the disfunctionality of both the Lambeth Conference (not being held in 2018) and the Primates Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the only current functioning locus of the Anglican Communion. He is trying to make it more collaborative by consulting personally with all the primates and until that is done he will not take these confessional decisions.

Right route

Vinay Samuel writes: ‘The GAFCON primates, as the only visible group at the moment, are following the right route in taking that decision. But more than ad hoc recognition is needed. The Anglican Communion Primates Council needs to be properly constituted so that such decisions can be made. The question is whether the Anglican Communion Primates Council can meet any time soon’.

 Chris Sugden

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Anglican update: Cry from Southern Sudan – you can help!


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

We recall the emergence of Southern Sudan as an independent state in July 2011. The Anglican Church played a significant role along with other churches in the forming and developing the new nation, the first in history to escape from Muslim domination.

Since December 2013, Southern Sudan’s viability has been gravely threatened by an internal civil war. The rebel forces are led by the former vice-president, Riek Machir, who established himself in the north east of South Sudan where many of the country’s oil fields, the source of its income, are situated.

Supporting small scale business

Anglican International Development, based in Newcastle, had partnered the Episcopal Church of Sudan in developing Manna Microfinance, a programme to enable the South Sudanese to develop their own family economies through small scale business activities. It was also allocated facilities in Bor in the north east to develop a medical training programme in conjunction with the International Christian Dental and Medical Association. However, Bor was overrun by rebel forces and the programme has been started in Mengo Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, training 50 participants to work as medical officers in South Sudan.

Following independence, many such international groups stretched out helping hands to partners in South Sudan. But the civil war disrupted these activities. Leaders of the major Protestant denominations concluded that such was the threat to the survival of the country itself that concerted action was needed against the major threats.

A cry for help

They issued Cry from South Sudan in August 2014 following a consultation in London and established a United Christian Emergency Committee for South Sudan.

The first threat they see is that the world will forget them, overwhelmed as it is with the development of Islamic State. However, their own parlous situation is of a piece with the development of IS. South Sudan is a front-line state facing the advance of Islam in Africa. They border on Sudan, a Muslim nation, which in turns borders on Egypt. Sudan has no interest in the survival of South Sudan and will therefore be actively involved in fanning the flames of the civil war.

Following the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gadaffi in Libya, Islamist fighters dispersed south into western and eastern Africa.

Their effects have been felt in Chad and in the separatism in Kenya. Some observers claim that the bombing of Islamic State will only disperse the fighters in a similar way, and South Sudan is an obvious attraction for their destabilising activities.

Famine

second The threat is a creeping famine caused by the disruption of the civil war. This is likely to hit hard early in the new year.

The authors of Cry… continue: ‘Our future is being undermined as our children are being devastated. Over 7% die at birth. Few attend school. Those schools that do function have to meet under trees. Those people that do get educated have no jobs. This is a time bomb for vulnerability to radicalisation by extremist groups.

‘God calls the church to bring peace and stability to South Sudan. However, we acknowledge that we have not always been faithful to this calling. We as church leaders now want to respond unitedly. We are committed to act together as one body and have established the United Christian Emergency Committee for South Sudan. We will be acting trans-denominationally. We ask for your support in the following areas:

• To help us build a strong and healthy nation for the future

• To support our hands in prayer for God’s deliverance

• To continue your interest and concern for the long term. Millions have died in conflict in our nation and millions have been displaced. We are committed to ensuring a long-lasting peace.

• To keep our nation and its hopes and needs before your governments and for other institutions to bring their pressure to bear

• To assist us as you can in the following strategic projects:

Human Rights; Education; Relationship with Cultures; Health; Relief; Discipleship /Theological Training; Political / Peace-making; Leadership / Ethics; Publishing; Economic Development; Legal Systems; Prayer Committee/Intercession

Where to begin

In our emergency situation we will begin with the following:

1. Provide food, medical relief and shelter. As crops have failed, we are now experiencing a famine which could become unmanageable.

2. A process of political reconciliation with specialist advisers. Without peace there can be no stable future for our country

3. Establish teachers’ training programmes ensuring a supply of teachers to encourage the government to build many schools. Education of the young is key to the future of South Sudan.

4. Establish a leaders’ ‘staff college’ with courses for politicians, bishops and senior clergy, businessmen, people in the military and law enforcement and other leaders in civil society. We will provide responsible leaders for the nation.

The committee, based in Juba, South Sudan can be contacted through the Revd John Brand, Friends of South Sudan, john@thebrands.org.uk and on twitter through @fossuk

Chris Sugden 

This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Anglican update: Asking for asylum for Iraqi Christians


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

‘Convert, leave or die’. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians face this choice. Hundreds have been either beheaded or crucified. Many thousands have left everything they had in life and are living in crowded and temporary shelters.

They got brief exposure in this summer’s headlines but mainly along with the Yasidis who were trapped on a mountain.

Pleading on BBC

Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, pleaded on BBC radio for Britain to help them by joining other nations in offering asylum. But answer has there been none. So far the UK has taken 54 refugees from Iraq and Syria.

Why? Probably because Iraqi Christians have no economic or political significance. Some within their leadership disagree about whether the best solution is for them to flee to other countries, or find a safe haven provided by the military might of others in their native lands as was provided to the Kurds two decades ago.

The latter argument is emotionally compelling. Christians have been in Iraq for centuries and members of the people of God since Jonah went to Nineveh. The land is their home, their culture and their identity.

And there are arguments against offering asylum. The UK government has its own pressing problems dealing with seemingly uncontrollable immigration from the EU. Others argue that providing asylum would do ISIS’s work for them in removing ‘unbelievers’ from the lands they want to control.

How long will it take?

In the pogrom against the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, many found refuge in the UK and other European countries. From 1930 it took 15 years and a global war to rid the world of Hitler.

Western politicians estimate that it will take at least three years to rid the Middle East of ISIS. In that time how many of the religious minorities will have died?

Leaving home, culture and identity is a huge wrench and not undertaken lightly. But God is not bound to nations nor by them. The nation-state as a concept is so 19th-century. The nation-states in question here are of very recent origin and look set to disappear in the near future. Moreover, God moves people around: he displaced the Jews several times; Jesus himself was a refugee to Egypt as a baby; and he taught that those facing the great tribulation should flee to the mountains. God is bound to his people, not to geographical borders.

Hospitality to the suffering and vulnerable is a Christian tradition stretching back to the early church when Christians went out to take in and care for weakling babies and ill people left out to die.

It is not sustainable to provide supplies for the 7 million displaced persons in the Middle East whom the UN classes as refugees. Their aid needs are 60% underfunded, according to the UNHCR. It is sustainable to provide immediate shelter and a transit camp for 100,000 Iraqi Christians who want to flee to the UK sovereign bases in Cyprus and from there be dispersed to host countries willing to offer them asylum (which the UK currently does not).

Could we do this?

But what if parishes and churches offered to take in two or three Iraqi Christians each. for, say, three to six months? There are 16,000 churches in the Church of England quite apart from other denominations who so generously support the Christian NGOs. That would mean a handful per church.

When I floated that possibility in our church at the end of August three people immediately offered space in their homes. In another part of the country someone offered 50 places in their holiday park. That would livingly demonstrate the Body of Christ in action – a great witness to the gospel .

The archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the bishops of West Yorkshire and the Dales, Manchester and Coventry have all called for Britain to offer asylum to those fleeing Iraq. Christian peers Baroness Cox, Lord Alton, Lord Curry and Lord Dannatt wrote to The Times in September urging the government to provide such refuge and grant asylum.

Councillor Mary Douglas, a member of a Pioneer church and a trustee of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, writes: ‘I pray that the church in the UK will be foremost in opening our homes to refugees’.

You could make your own point by writing to your MP urging this course of action and where possible making an offer. And do we doubt that such people will bring the blessing of God with them?

Chris Sugden

 

This article was first published in the October 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Anglican update: Token men?


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

Will there ever be a conservative evangelical bishop who believes in complementarianism in the Church of England again?

According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, there will. Justin Welby was explaining to members of Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee a previously-made promise to appoint such a conservative evangelical bishop ‘within a matter of months’.

He declared: ‘We have undertaken to approach the Dioceses Commission to see if we can… use a vacant suffragan see for the appointment of someone holding the conservative evangelical view on headship. This was promised long, long ago in various ways.

‘One of the things that both the Archbishop of York and I feel about this – as did the House of Bishops – is that if we are going to create a climate of trust… we have got to keep our word on everything we promise. If you stop doing that, people will not believe you on anything’. he said.

Fair and equal

The archbishop also suggested that changes could be made for the processes in appointing all bishops, stating: ‘There are some absolutely outstanding clergy in both the traditional Catholic and the complemen-tarian evangelical groups; and we are going to have to develop… processes and procedures to make sure that they are considered fairly and equally, to see if they are the most appropriate person for a given post’.

Justin Welby also described Synod’s provisions for those opposed to women bishops as ‘an expression of love and concern for those who struggle with it. We are a family, not a political party. We don’t chuck people out who disagree with us’.

This all raises a number of issues. Firstly, as a letter in The Church of England Newspaper pointed out, over the summer, there have been previous promises of this kind. It said: ‘In the course of the discussions about women bishops, we were reminded that a Synod called for conservative evangelicals to be made bishops seven years ago. In the light of the failure to fulfil this ‘promise’, it is clear that: 1. conservative evangelicals should be consecrated in significant numbers (at least 10?) before any women are. 2. General Synod should stop issuing reports criticising other people since it doesn’t act on its own reports.’

Secondly, even if the archbishops are quite sincere in what they say – as I believe they are – it is hard to envisage the current process of appointment resulting in such an decision, or the particular diocese where there would be enough sympathy for it to take place. And making changes to the appointments process could be tricky.

Finally, does appointing just one bishop holding complementarian views really do justice to the movement’s strength and vitality (both numerical and financial) within the Church of England? Many would see it as mere tokenism.

Meanwhile, in relation to the other great contentious issue of the day, the first clergyman to marry a same-sex partner is planning to take the Church of England to court after his offer of a job as a hospital chaplain was withdrawn when his bishop refused to give him permission to officiate. The Revd Jeremy Pemberton stated: ‘This is an area of law that has not been tested and needs to be’.

Courteous but firm

As the latest Church Society magazine rightly says: ‘There will always be challenges to faithful evangelical ministry in the Church of England, and contending for the authority of Scripture and Reformation principles is not a new struggle… [John] Stott’s call to maintain a faithful evangelical witness ‘courteously but firmly’ working within the structures of the Church of England remains as relevant as ever’.

David Baker,
rector of the churches of East Dean with Friston and Jevington, East Sussex

 

This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to EN for monthly updates

Anglican update: The beat of the wrong drum


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

On July 13, in anticipation of the vote of the York General Synod on women bishops the next day, the Archbishop of Canterbury took to the airwaves via the medium of The Andrew Marr Show. He declared that: ‘theologically the church has been wrong not to ordain women as priests and bishops over the centuries’.

In those few words Justin Welby isolated himself from, as I would see it, the teaching and practice of the Lord Jesus and the apostles as well as the understanding of the Church Fathers and the thinking of the best theologians of the centuries since.

He also isolated himself from large parts of his own church, including countless millions of godly women who have rendered the most faithful service to the Church of England in the past and at least 25% of the present membership who, in opinion polls and local and national synod votes, consistently take the opposite view.

The archbishop even stands isolated from the vast majority of the Anglican communion – for almost all of the provinces who do ordain and consecrate women nonetheless respect the theological integrity of those who disagree and avoid declaring that one point of view is right and the other wrong. That was the view reaffirmed at the Global Anglican Futures Conference last year.

Lastly, of course, Justin Welby has isolated himself from the understanding of Scripture on the issues of gender and church order held by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Losing father figures

He will find some who share his view – in Methodism in England and in the Episcopal Church of the USA, for example, and in some other churches, pretty much the entirety of whom have seen the abandonment of complementarian thinking accompanied by precipitate decline in membership to levels of near oblivion.

Remarkably however, given that the new legislation was passed almost entirely on the basis of the need to be ‘relevant’, the archbishop also finds himself isolated from our society. That is true of the bluff northern taxi drivers of York, a group of whom were mystified by the Church’s obsession with political correctness. It is also true more widely: early July saw the publication of the Centre for Social Justice’s report on fatherless families which revealed that 15-year-olds are significantly more likely to own a smart-phone than live with their fathers. Only 57% of such teenagers have their fathers living with them, at huge cost to society.

At a time when our society is waking up to the cost of ‘disposable dads’ the Church of England is busy dispensing with the need for church families to have a spiritual father at their head, or even involved in their leadership in any way. An immense price is likely to be paid for that too.

Driving away error?

How Justin Welby squares his statement to the nation on TV with his statement to Synod that he will ensure that complementarians flourish is anyone’s guess. On one reading it would appear that he is committing himself to the flourishing of that which he knows to be wrong – a strange position to be in as a bishop who has taken a solemn oath to ‘drive away error’. It is more likely, that he has a definition of ‘flourishing’ that I and other com-plementarians wouldn’t recognise as such.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would have us believe that he is only isolated because he is stepping boldly into a brave new future but sometimes being out of step is just that – marching to the beat of the wrong drum.

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform

This article was first published in the August 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to EN for monthly updates

Anglican update: Always grace and truth


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

Someone once remarked that we shouldn’t be aiming for a ‘balance’ of grace and truth – but rather, a full measure of both.

Such is certainly the need as Anglican evangelicals seek to be faithful to the gospel in a denomination full of difficulties – but also, still, many opportunities.

The vexed question of sexuality is one which isn’t going to go away. There is a ‘conspiracy theory’ school of thought which sees ‘the bishops’ conniving to change church policy on this issue, and which almost views Justin Welby as some Machiavellian figure manipulating people into change.

Well, maybe there are some bishops doing exactly that. But I continue to see Justin Welby as a man who is basically traditional on this issue (as he has stated several times), genuinely wrestling with it in his mind, but nonetheless seeking to do what is right under God.

Some of the criticism of him for his interview with the gay newspaper Pink News reminded me of the criticism of Jesus for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Which other evangelical or Anglican leader has ever spoken to them or even been offered a hearing? Nevertheless, it wasn’t a perfect interview – as well as being substantially misrepresented in some reports.

Welby’s gay secretary?

However, sometimes conspiracy theories do turn out to be true. Thus the website Virtue Online revealed at the end of May: ‘An ex-gay Anglican blogger in England is charging that Archbishop Justin Welby’s secretary is gay and is deliberately blocking correspondence that might help gays break free of homosexuality from the evangelical archbishop.’

It would indeed appear that the story has substance to it. The blogger in question, Phelim McIntyre (at whose website, aflame.blog.co.uk, you can read the material in full) has indeed taken a courageous stand – full of grace and truth – in tackling the individual in question head on about it.

Unfortunately, however, grace and truth seemed missing in the way that Virtue Online – which calls itself the ‘voice for global orthodox Anglicanism’ – then covered the story. As McIntyre subsequently explained: ‘I chose specifically not to name the person at Lambeth Palace as I believe that it is the issue that is important…’

He continued: ‘Virtue Online posted an article, which I had no involvement with and have complained to Virtue Online about, which names the Correspondence Secretary in tones which I disagree with. To me this is an example of tabloid journalism at its worst. The first I knew about the article was when a friend told me about it via Facebook!’. He concluded: ‘I used to have time for Virtue Online but after this I do not’.

It’s a classic example of an evangelical own goal. And I rather fear similar mistakes may be made in approaching the Church of England’s ‘facilitated conversations’ on sexuality. Should Anglican evangelicals take part? Not if the terms on which it is run make it impossible to do so per se – for example by going against conscience.

But otherwise, if possible, yes – certainly. To fail to do so would merely hasten the outcome which is feared; would let down the many genuinely wrestling with the issue; smacks of running away from the battle scene; deprives our archbishops of support; and makes conservative evangelicals look aloof, self-righteous and closed in on themselves. Grace and truth, people. In full measure.

David Baker, rector of the churches of East Dean with  Friston and Jevington, East Sussex

This article was first published in the July 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to EN for monthly updates

Anglican update: Changing times


Anglican Update

Reactions to the announcement of new guidelines for Church of England Schools on countering homophobic bullying have perhaps been predictable. On the one hand you have those who declare the guidelines themselves homophobic and on the other there are those who believe they will prevent Christian children expressing biblical views in the playground.

The Church of England finds itself, once again, in the eye of a storm. Stonewall may have been key advisors for this report but you only have to look at the comments on Justin Welby’s interview with the gay news service, Pink News, to see that many people will not be satisfied until there is wholesale change in the church’s teaching. But these are not just issues for the Anglican Church. How do Christians learn to live in a country that is no longer shaped by Christian values?

Of course, we have never considered England to be a ‘Christian country’ in any theological way. We know that God’s people are those he has rescued, by his grace, and who seek to live under his lordship. God’s people are scattered throughout the world. God is not actually an Englishman!

We have, however, lived in a country where our laws and customs have been founded on Christian values. This has generally allowed us to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness, without threat of prosecution or imprisonment. We should be grateful for that blessing, but we should also recognise that times are changing.

Exciting or scary?

Perhaps we should see this as exciting and encouraging, rather than scary and disheartening. After all, as Justin Welby said earlier this month, ‘the Christian faith is much more vulnerable to comfortable indifference than to hatred and opposition’. I don’t know about you, but I fear I prefer comfortable indifference. I like to forget that Jesus warned me that his disciples would be hated.

It should not take a Church of England report to remind us that the Bible does not license hatred or bullying of anyone, for any reason, whether at work or in the playground. Neither does the Bible affirm sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Some will claim that this makes the Bible (and even God) homophobic, but as Christians we have the privilege of knowing the goodness of our Creator and the rightness of his Word. In a world that thinks tolerance means complete affirmation and the only sins are injustice and prejudice, it will be hard for us to be understood. But that doesn’t mean we should not try. Our task, whether we are five or 55, will be to find ways of expressing the hope that we have with gentleness and respect, so that those who speak maliciously against us will ultimately be ashamed.

Contend for the faith

There is much to do. Anglican evangelical leaders are working together to contend for the faith inside the Church of England and it was heartening that the leaders of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) met in London this month and encouraged us to persevere. But ultimately we place ourselves in the hands of the one who judges justly and died because we are all sinners; wonderfully, that is a truly ‘safe place’.

 Suzie Leafe – Director of Reform

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057