Same-Sex Blessings in West Texas, USA.

Same-sex Blessings in W. Texas

  • Friday, April 24, 2015

The Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas, has granted permission to three congregations to bless same-sex couples.

Bishop Lillibridge writes about the decision in a letter to the diocese [PDF]:

I am requiring that both members of the couple seeking a same-sex blessing through the ministry of the Church be in fact members of the Episcopal Church in good standing, and that at least one be a member of the Diocese of West Texas. Since the congregations who are requesting permission state that these blessings are requested for “members of our congregation,” these requirements are consistent with that statement. The priest-in-charge retains the right and responsibility to determine whether any union shall be blessed on church property or under the auspices of the congregation.

For the blessing of a same-sex relationship, the bishop’s permission must be sought in writing by the couple’s priest, after a period of counseling and preparation as determined by their priest. It is understood that these blessings are intended for two persons who are making monogamous, faithful, life-long commitments to each other, and who are active members of the Church. It shall be within the discretion of any priest to decline to bless any union. Both persons seeking the union will have signed the “Pastoral Understanding” and “Pastoral Declaration.”

… Most people we know, on both sides of this issue, feel “weary” and “heavy laden” after so many years of considering these things. We believe Jesus has something to offer us in this regard as well:“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”(Matthew 11.28-29).

Biretta tip: Andrew Gerns of Episcopal Café.

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Here is a reasoned and reasonable direction from the Bishop of West Texas, in The Episcopal Church in the U.S., for those parishes in his diocese that wish to conduct the TEC’s authorised rite of Same-Sex Blessings.

It should be noted that the three parishes involved have come to a decision on the matter of the Blessing of S/S Marriage for their own parishioners ‘in good standing’ in the Church and in the congregations.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON plans to touch more Anglican lives

by Madeleine Davies – CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 17 Apr 2015 @ 05:49

GAFCON is receiving increasing calls for affiliation from Anglicans who feel they are regarded as “pariahs” and want to “know we are not alone”, one of its leading figures said on Friday.

The Revd Dr Peter Jensen, a former Archbishop of Sydney, was speaking at the end of a five-day GAFCON conference in London. A communiqué issued by seven Primates at the conclusion of the meeting was energetic in tone: a conference is planned for 2018 and a fellowship in Australia has been launched.

“We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship,” it says. “As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities.”

Dr Jensen said that he had to be “discreet” about where the enquiries about affiliation came from. But they fell into two camps, he said. One was the “cultural West”, where “people are saying to us: ‘We need help. We haven’t changed. But we are now being regarded as pariahs.” They were looking to GAFCON “so we know we are not alone”.

Other requests came from outside the West, “where the Church is vigorous and evangelism is occurring at a great rate, but disciple-making is lagging behind”.

Dr Jensen dismissed any suggestion that GAFCON was made up of “schismatics”. The communiqué states that: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion. The members of our Churches stand at the heart of the Communion, which is why we are committed to its renewal. We belong to the mainstream, and we are moving forward.”

It was “those who bring in new teachings that are creating the schisms”, Dr Jensen said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that it may not be possible to hold the Anglican Communion together. Last November, he spoke of “enormous problems” in the Communion, including “deep divisions” about sexuality, which might prove “too much to manage” ( News, 17 November).

GAFCON’s communiqué refers to its presence in the UK through the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).

“We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the biblical faith,” it states.

The use of St John’s, Waterloo for Muslim prayers (News, 20 March) is singled out as cause for concern, as is the response of the Bishop of Salisbury to the establishment of a new church in the dioceses (News, 20 February).

Representatives of AMiE were “deeply concerned about the state of British society, which does not know God”, Dr Jensen said. “They are not anti the Church: they are deeply concerned about the mission field that exists in Britain today. . . They see the need to work inside and outside the existing structures to preach the Gospel.”

This week, Professor Linda Woodhead described GAFCON in the Independent newspaper as “paper tigers, who love to roar and get a reaction but there is no substance to them. . . They don’t have money to set up here and pay clergy.”

Dr Jensen described these comments as “ludicrous” and said that, rather than AMiE or GAFCON, it would be the people who attended AMiE churches who would fund them.

“It is not a resource thing, but a spiritual thing of prayer and preaching of God’s word, and resources will follow that,” he said.

At a conference part-organised by AMiE last year, there was a commitment to investigating “the opportunities to revitalise an existing Church of England church and/or plant with or without diocesan approval” (News, 3 October).

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This article, published in the Church Times on Monday 17 April, written by Madeleine Davies, reports the following comment from Peter Jensen, Secretary of GAFCON, and former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, on the aims of the conservative evangelical movement that aims to -re-convert the Church of England and other part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, to a more Sola-Scriptura version of Christianity:

“”We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship,” it says. “As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities.”

Not content with the conversion of non-Christians to faith in Christ; this group of mainly African Prelates – together with a former Sydney Archbishop – are intent on converting the more liberal, Western, Provinces of the Anglican Communion to a more conservative, evangelical version of classical Anglicanism that has radical ideas about Male Headship and a Gay-Free Church that is consonant with its own understanding of the Gospel remit. They even propose to offer ‘theological education’ for bishops they see as not meeting their expectation of conservative, evangelical theology.

Interestingly, for the Provinces of Australia and New Zealand, one of the prime movers in this desire to set back the clock on matters of gender and sexuality in the Church is none other than former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen; whose own influence on the mostly-African Primates who make up the majority of the GAFCON group has been to consolidate their cultural opposition to Women Clergy, the Ordination of Gay Clergy, and the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions, which is at the heart of the current dispute between the Churches of the West, and those of the Global South, which threatens the very ‘Bonds of Friendship’, that used to hold together the character of ‘Unity in Diversity’ paradigm at the heart of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Now that the conservative  GAFCON Primates have planted their own surrogate Church in the heartland of the Mother Church of England (AMiE: Anglican Mission in England), it seems their sole objective is to continue with their mission objective – which began with the establishment of other surrogate churches in the USA and Canada, now united in ACNA; the Anglican Church in North America – is to claim the moral high-ground for its revolutionary mission as professed in its ‘Jerusalem Statement of Faith’ as the only way of being the ‘orthodox’ Anglican Church.

Time alone will tell how long it will take the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take assert the claim to represent the traditional ‘Anglican’ title for its legal representation as the established Church in England. From that, might well follow the re-organisation of the Anglican Communion – to be a fellowship of Churches around the world, continuing their relationship to the original ‘Bonds of Friendship’ with the Church of England, centred around the traditional Instruments of the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and the Anglican Consultative Council.

It should be noted that the GAFCON Primates have already resiled from their relationship with these formerly-accepted ‘Instruments of Unity’, preferring their own Gafcon Primates’ Council and the ‘Jerusalem Statement’ of faith.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Savi Hensman on ‘Breakaway Anglicans’

Breakaway Anglicans’ ‘narrow way’

A breakaway international Anglican grouping intends to keep spreading its views across the world, including holding a conference in 2018. After meeting in London from 13-17 April, Gafcon Primates’ Council set out its plans in a communiqué.

Gafcon (the Global Anglican Future Conference) brings together some of the Anglican member churches and rebels from other provinces. Its leaders are strongly opposed to greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, seeing this as contrary to their own version of biblical truth.

Eliud Wabukala, the Archbishop of Kenya, is the Chairman of Gafcon Primates’ Council. Other members include Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria and Stanley Ntagali of Uganda. Retired Church of England bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and Wallace Benn are among the advisors.

Throughout the Anglican Communion’s history, the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury have played a key role in holding it together, though member churches make their own decisions. Organising the gathering in London, and announcing a conference in the year when the Lambeth Conference would ordinarily have met, sent a clear message about Gafcon’s belief that it should be in charge everywhere in the world.

This was made explicit in the communiqué, which celebrated the work of the ‘Anglican Church in North America’ (set up in opposition to the Episcopal Church) and Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Australia, as well as “FCA UK & Ireland,” which “continues to welcome and provide support for faithful Anglicans in the British Isles.”

It stated, “We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the Biblical faith. We do not regard the recent use of a Church of England building for a Muslim service as a minor aberration. These actions betray the gospel and discourage Christians who live among Muslims, especially those experiencing persecution.”

However it failed to mention the context. Whether or not it was right for St John’s Waterloo to have been used for non-Christian worship, the Muslims taking part were opponents within their own communities of anti-Christian bias and extremism in general.

There is a case to be made for extending hospitality and encouragement to those Muslims across the world who foster fellowship and defend vulnerable Christians, sometimes at great personal risk. Yet Gafcon leaders, whether consciously or otherwise, have chosen to exploit the fact that many readers outside the UK will know nothing of the background.

The communiqué stated that “we authenticate and support the work of those Anglicans who are boldly spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and whose circumstances require operating outside the old, institutional structures.” Leaders anywhere who fail to comply with Gafcon demands can come under heavy pressure.

In 2014 five African Anglican primates and Episcopal church leaders met to discuss partnerships in mission. Gafcon publicly scolded one of the participants, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi, chair of the Council of the Anglican Provinces in Africa, informing him, “If you are to be able to continue in your position with integrity, we would need both an explanation and an apology. If you are not able to do so, we would ask you to step down as Chairman.”

The April 2015 communiqué stated that “when the Gospel is at stake there can never be a middle way. As followers of Jesus we know that it is the narrow way that leads to life.” This is a reference to Jesus’ saying in Matthew 7.13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

But a narrow approach is not in itself a gateway to holiness. The same chapter also advises, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get;” and “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Yet Gafcon leaders in Nigeria and Uganda have encouraged governments to pass laws intensifying repression against LGBT people, though not all in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans share such attitudes. Senior clergy have also sometimes made inflammatory statements likely to intensify hatred and violence, such as Archbishop Okoh’s 2010 claim that Nigeria is at risk from an “invading army of homosexuality, lesbianism and bisexual lifestyle.”

Taking the Bible seriously is not the same as accepting a grouping’s claim that its own interpretation is infallible. Anglicanism at its best has allowed scope for prayerful study and dialogue while seeking truth and trying to act lovingly. Gafcon’s stance may attract people looking for certainty but is ultimately deeply unhelpful.

© Savitri Hensman is a widely published Christian commentator on politics, welfare, religion and more. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the equalities and care sector.

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I have met and spent time with Savi Hensman, who, apart from being a contributor to the web-site ‘Ekklesia’, is also a member of the congregation of Anglican Church of St.Mary’s, at Stoke Newington, in the Diocese of London, where my priest brother in law and his wife are involved as parishioners.

The final paragraph of Savi’s article makes a very important point – about the need to deal lovingly with our fellow debaters,  es[pecially where our own experience of the gender-sexuality issue – presently at the heart of Gafcon’s disaffection with Western Anglican Churches – may be based only on a moralistic or academic understanding of the real life situation of the people involved.

Any overview of the biblical arguments on gender and sexuality needs to take into account the cultural and social milieu in which its ethical propositions were written – and must bear in mind the indisputable fact  that there are legitimate grounds to question the understanding of the complexity of human sexuality in the earliest days of Christianity, when the Books of the New Testament were written.

Furthermore, regarding the ‘sins of the flesh’, Jesus seems often to have resisted the legal requirement for drastic punishment of sexual sins (being stoned to death), in favour of offering forgiveness – to the concern of the Pharisees! Indeed, it may be said that this ‘liberality’ of Jesus was one of the reasons for his being crucified at their instigation!

However, the overall theological impetus of the New Testament Writings is the overall preponderance of the influence of Love over Law. This is where the knowledge of the ‘God and Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ differs from any other representation of God as solely Judge, rather than compassionate Redeemer.

In the wake of the ISIS Fundamentalists, who proclaim belief in  the ‘God of Vengeance'; a belief that leads them to kill anyone they deem to be ‘unrighteous’ in their eyes; there can be little doubt of our need, as Christians, to promote belief in the God of Love, who “so loved the world, that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, so that  all who believe in Him may not perish but have eternal life”.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Ethiopian Christians Martyred : ISIS to blame!

Home > Africa – ACNS

Anglican bishop expresses horror at ISIS killing of Ethiopian Christians

Posted on: April 21, 2015 11:55 AM

[Diocese of Sydney] The Anglican Bishop for Ethiopia has hailed as martyrs 28 Ethiopian Christians shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL.

“I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls “people of the cross” comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians – twenty Egyptians and one Ghanaian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach.” Bishop Grant LeMarquand said in a letter to be read in Ethopian churches and distributed overseas.

Bishop LeMarquand is Anglican Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia) and Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

“It is too early to learn the names of these newest martyrs. It is also too early to know what churches they came from.” the Bishop said.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has more than 30 million members, but there are also many other churches in Ethiopia, including at least 15 million Protestant Christians

“Personal details about the men who have died may emerge. For now we can note the most important things to be said about these victims. Their names are known to God and they are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8). Their denominational affiliation is no longer of any importance: they are among the unnumbered throng from every nation, tribe, people and language gathered before the throne and the Lamb (Rev 7:9) who have come out of the great persecution (Rev 7:14) and have had every tear wiped away from their eyes (Rev 7:17).” Bishop LeMarquand said.

In his letter to Ethiopian churches, the Anglican leader also warned against hate. “How are we Christians (those of us in Ethiopia as well as around the world) to react to this most recent atrocity?” he asked.

“First, we must look up to God in thanksgiving for the lives of these brothers who loved not their own lives, but followed Jesus in the way of the cross. Second, we must ask for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to abandon the temptation to hate. Instead we must follow Jesus, who not only suffered death on the cross, but also prayed for his executioners to be forgiven. If we are turned to hatred, the terrorists have won. Finally, we must continue to reach out to a world desperate for the love of Jesus.” the letter says.

“Make no mistake, the terrorists who executed these martyrs of Ethiopia have exhibited the worst of human depravity, but they have also revealed their desperate need of a Saviour. The apostle Paul, a great persecutor of the church of God, was turned to love by his experience of meeting Christ on his way to the Syrian city of Damascus. May God use his church to so act and speak of and from the love of Christ that many former or potential persecutors may be turned and have their named written in the book of life.”

Immediate support came from Kenya, where Islamic terrorists struck at Easter, singling out Christians and killing 147 students at the Garissa College.

“We share with you and the people under your pastoral care the pain of such a great loss.” said Kenyan Primate Eliud Wabakula, in a message to Bishop LeMarquand. “Coming so soon after a similar loss here in Kenya,we are united in your prayer in the faith that we follow the example of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ.” the Archbishop said.

In Sydney, Archbishop Davies also sent a message of support.

“We mourn with you and the Ethiopian church.  Our hearts are heavy at the suffering caused by such depraved acts.  As the company of martyrs grows, we cry out ‘How Long, O Lord?”.  Be assured we hold you in our prayers at this trying time.” Archbishop Davies told Bishop LeMarquand.

Notes

Share prayers on the prayer wall of the Anglican Communion website.

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This latest massacre – of Ethiopian Christians in Libya – following soon after the recent martyrdom of Christian in Kenya, sets a new low in the punitive war against Christians by Islamic Fundamentalists in Africa and other parts of the world.

People who are killed for their adherence to Christianity are, of course, not the only martyrs in the current onslaught by the fundamentalists. Even people of their own Muslim Faith who profess a more open and enlightened view of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sinners – different from the judgemental and fatalistic dogmatic approach of ISIS and its co-religionists – are put to death by people of a cult mentality.

However, despite these depredations against Christians – and others – the latest message of Church Leaders in Africa is one of the need to  refrain from vengeance:

“First, we must look up to God in thanksgiving for the lives of these brothers who loved not their own lives, but followed Jesus in the way of the cross. Second, we must ask for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to abandon the temptation to hate. Instead we must follow Jesus, who not only suffered death on the cross, but also prayed for his executioners to be forgiven. If we are turned to hatred, the terrorists have won. Finally, we must continue to reach out to a world desperate for the love of Jesus.” the letter says.

Even In Christian circles today, there are some who conduct their behaviour in a spirit of near-hatred and judgement of other Christians, whom they judge to be less worthy or holy than themselves. This is not the judgement of Jesus, who ‘Came into the world to save sinners’ – of which state, in common with ALL humanity, we are all guilty.

Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray! 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Voices of Moderation – Against Religious Terrorism

Desmond Tutu And ‘Terrorist’s Son’ Zak Ebrahim Reveal How Religion Helped Them Change The World

Posted: 16/04/2015 11:28 BST Updated: 16/04/2015 14:59 BST ‘Huffington Post’

Legendary retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Zak Ebrahim, the son of a World Trade Centre bomb plotter, have revealed how their very different experiences of religion inspired them both to dedicate their lives to peace.

Archbishop Tutu, one of the world’s best-known Christians who helped to end Apartheid in South Africa, spoke on stage with Ebrahim, who disowned his father El-Sayyid Nosair, who shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defence League and was one of the first Islamic extremists to kill for his ideology in the United States.

Speaking at the Skoll World Forum on Wednesday, the Archbishop said it was the people he has met that affirmed his drive to campaign for change – particularly his mother when he was growing up under Apartheid in South Africa.

Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984

“Our society… told black people that they didn’t count for very much, and I had a mother who was not very educated,” Archbishop Tutu said. “And I resemble her physically: she was stumpy and had a large nose, but she was just amazing in her generosity, in her compassion, in her caringness, and I hoped I might be able to emulate her.”

As a young man, he experienced a transformational moment with his mother, in a South Africa when black and white people were segregated by law. “I was standing with my mum, she was a domestic worker at a hostel for blind black women. A tall figure in a cassock swept past, and a white priest doffed his hat to my mother,” Archbishop Tutu said.

“A white man, doffing his hat? To my mother, a black woman. I didn’t think that that had affected me, but I discovered that more than any other thing, it actually made me believe what we kept being told: that we are all equal.”

That moment crystalised the belief that underpinned the Archbishop’s campaigning on HIV, homophobia and human rights: “It is that when you come to believe that you count, you have a worth that is inestimable, that you are a God-carrier, that there is nothing that anyone cannot do, ultimately.”

zak ebrahim

Ibrahim changed his name after denouncing his father’s violent actions

Zak Ebrahim, whose father El-Sayyid Nosair, killed the leader of the Jewish Defence League in New York in 1990 and helped to plot the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing from behind bars, was also influenced by his parents. But it was in rejecting his radicalised Islamic upbringing that he found his desire to effect social change by travelling around the world speaking against hatred and terrorism.

“I started out from a place that assumed that I already knew everything that I needed to know,” explained Ebrahim.

“Ideologically speaking, I was taught very rigid values about the kinds of people that I should associate with, and the kinds of people that were a bad influence. Isolation was a key factor in indoctrinating me.”

He had been taught by his father – who has been in prison since Ebrahim was seven – that Muslims and Jews were bitter enemies. So when he realised as a young man that one of his friends was Jewish, he felt: “A sense of pride. I thought I had accomplished something that had never been done before. That was the first instance where I really thought to myself – hmm, was what I was taught the truth?”

Ebrahim gradually realised that his father’s terrorist ideals weren’t representative of what most Muslims believe, and his moderate mother was instrumental in “chipping away” at this, he said.

Being badly bullied as a child also inspired him to step away from his father’s teachings: “I knew so vividly what it was like to be victimised by people, particularly because of the bullying. It made me realise that’s not a way I ever wanted to make anyone feel.”

Ebrahim later rejected Islam entirely – but insists his father’s actions “had little to do with the reason I left religion.”

“For me it was simply being unable to reconcile religion with human history,” he explained. “People always said that science would disprove relation but I always thought that it was history that would do that. If you look at 10,000 years of human history, you can see the start of these major religions. [My rejection of religion] was lack of belief in an omnipotent being.”

Ebrahim thinks it can be unfair to characterise different religions as having specific “values”.

“I’ve known people who were willing to go to brutal lengths for their version of Islam, and I’ve known lesbians with tattoos that were also Muslim. I think that trying to ascribe any particular value to a religion is extremely difficult,” he said.

He added that one thing he had “held on to” from Islam was “my mother’s version of the religion – that in order to make the world a better place, it had to start with you.”

The two men spoke of the different ways belief has driven them to effect change

Archbishop Tutu said that belief of some form or other moves us all: “I don’t think that any one of us has a life that is not punctured by beliefs, even when we do not necessarily acknowledge them.”

That man who had lowered his hat to his mother in South Africa was The Rt.Revd. Trevor Huddleston, an English Anglican bishop and anti-Apartheid activist who became an inspiration. “South Africa was saved form a racial bloodbath in part because of his influence,” the Archbishop said.

Desmond Tutu’s  father also shaped his passionate belief in equality. The Archbishop recalled his horror when he and his father – respected in the black community because he was a headmaster of a school – went into a shop, where a young white woman referred to his father using the derogatory term “boy”.

“I wondered how my father felt,” he said. “And then, as if God wanted me to experience something similar, we went to London where I studied at Kings College London, where almost all of my daughter’s friends were white kids.”

Then, when the family had later returned to South Africa, Archbishop Tutu had to tell his daughter that she was not allowed to play in a playground reserved only for white children. “I realised, how do you tell your child that you are a child, but you are not a child quite like those other children?” he asked.

The Archbishop and Ebrahim were speaking at the Skoll World Forum, which aims to find solutions to world problems through social entrepreneurship.

The event’s host, Stephan Chambers, chairman of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford, welcomed the audience by saying that belief is “the glue that unites people around ideas, it’s the fuel for movements.”

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Nick Baines : The REAL CHURCH of England

Musings of a restless bishop – +Nick Baines
April 19, 2015
The real Church of England

The Church of England is investing a huge amount of time and energy into re-shaping its agenda. Not in order to bolster the institution, but in order to get us back (amid a million claims on attention) to our core vocation: to make and nurture disciples of Jesus Christ; to grow disciples who pray into ministers who evangelise; to shape churches that give themselves away in serving their communities. Not simply growing churches for the sake of having big churches, but growing churches in all our communities – even and especially where it is tough.

I am working with lay and ordained Anglican disciples to shape a diocese that places worship, evangelism, nurture and service at the heart of our life. This will shape our priorities, how we raise and allocate our resources (of people, money and ‘stuff’), and how we shape and work our structures. We are attending seriously to growth, and to tackling the challenges of buildings, decline and discouragement. And I lead a team of bishops and other ministers – lay and ordained – who are determined, confident (in God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church – and especially the Church of England -, and the contexts in which we live and serve), and sacrificial in their exercise of this ministry.

And we are only one of 42 dioceses in the Church of England that are doing this.

You would never believe any of this from the communique issued following the meeting in England this week of the primates of what is known as Gafcon. According to this group – which, despite statements to the contrary and consistent with behaviour that is inexplicable – the Church of England has abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ and is “unfaithful”. It is probably worth noting that the key words in the rhetoric of this conservative evangelical constituency are “gospel” and “faithful”. What is actually meant is that if you do not fit their narrow description of what the “gospel” is and who might be described as “faithful”, then you are fair game for being dismissed. (Assumptions about the meaning of key words matters here.)

For a long time I have wondered if the Church of England ought not to be a little more robust in countering the misrepresentation and manipulation (of reality) that emanates from Gafcon. I am not alone. But, I have bowed to the wisdom of those who (rightly) assert that we shouldn’t counter bad behaviour with bad behaviour, and that we should trust that one day the truth will out. I am no longer so sure about the efficacy of such an eirenic response. I think we owe it to Anglicans in England and around the Communion to fight the corner and challenge the misrepresentation that is fed to other parts of the Anglican Communion. (I was once asked in Central Africa why one has to be gay to be ordained in the Church of England. I was asked in another country why the Church of England no longer reads the Bible and denies Jesus Christ. I could go on. When asked where this stuff has come from, the answer is that this is what a bishop has told them.)

The Gafcon primates say:

We are uniting faithful Anglicans, growing in momentum, structured for the future, and committed to the Anglican Communion.

Which means what – especially when they claim ‘gospel values’ and speak and behave in ways that do not reflect values of honesty, integrity and humility? And on what basis is the bulk of the Church of England reported (within Gafcon circles) as being unfaithful? And who writes the stuff they put out? Who is directing whom – who is pulling whose strings? And what would be the response if I wrote off as “unfaithful” entire provinces of the Anglican Communion where there was evidence of corruption, love of power, financial unfaithfulness or other sins? Does the ninth Commandment still apply today, or only where convenient? Is sex the only ethical matter that matters, or does breaking the ninth Commandment get a look in?

The Gafcon primates get their information (and money) from somewhere. The ‘take’ on the Church of England reflects simply the perceptions of a few. I bet the wider picture is not represented. They insinuate that some clergy and churches (decidedly congregations and not parishes – and thereby lies another issue) feel marginalised or fearful – treated like ‘pariahs’ according to Gafcon – so cannot be identified. Really? How pathetic.

I was once at a meeting of evangelical bishops in England when three English Gafcon men came to meet us. They had stated that this was the case and that bishops were giving their clergy a hard time. We asked for evidence so we could consider it before we met. Bishop Tom Wright and I were just two who were outraged at the misinformation, misrepresentation and selective re-writing of history presented to us. When we began to challenge this, we were told that we shouldn’t get bogged down in the detail and could we move on. And they got away with it. I am not making this up.

The truth is that while all this nonsense goes on, the rest of the Church of England will continue to focus on being faithful to its gospel vocation and mission. We are doing it every day. We will not be distracted by people who selectively report, regularly misrepresent, manipulate truth and plough their own furrow. God bless them in their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ; and God bless the rest of us in our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We continue to support our fellow Anglicans all over the world, many of whom tell us that they have no time for Gafcon. Some face dreadful challenges and we stand with them. Some face real persecution and we stand with them. The great power of the Anglican Communion lies in these relationships of mutual prayer, learning, fellowship, mission and support – and they cannot be bought to promote the power games of a few.

Today I confirmed a number of new Christians in an ordinary and faithful West Yorkshire parish.
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Now this is one feisty Bishop (+Nick Baines) of the Church of England!

In response to the bid to overtake the soul of world-wide Anglicanism – and now the Church of England – By the GAFCON Primates; here is one English Bishop who is actually saying something useful; needing to be said!

While some of the African Bishop of the Anglican Communion have been on a visitation to their surrogate ‘Anglican Mission in England’, the situation on their own home-ground is suffering from depredation and strife from other quarters – mainly Muslim – that hardly gives them the moral right to preach to the Church of England about its lack of authenticity in the Gospel. Bishop Nick has this to say:

“I lead a team of bishops and other ministers – lay and ordained – who are determined, confident (in God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church – and especially the Church of England -, and the contexts in which we live and serve), and sacrificial in their exercise of this ministry. And we are only one of 42 dioceses in the Church of England that are doing this.”

Bishop Nick emphasises the fact that the GAFCON Primates are set to re-evangelise the territory of the Church of England, should not deflect them from the urgent mission in their own territories. The Church of England, meanwhile, is earnestly intent on promoting the working out of the Gospel in a very different context from that of the Gafcon Primates, whose own mission should be providing them with sufficient problems of their own.

Unfortunately for the Church of England, its two provincial archbishops, ++Welby &  ++Sentamu, seem disinclined to challenge the chutzpah of these African and other prelates who, encouraged by conservative elements in other provincial Anglican Churches – principally in North America – seem intent on a take-over bid of the Anglican Communion, on issues of gender and sexuality which are at last being addressed in the Churches of the West.

Successive Archbishops of Canterbury were warned, in the wake of Lambeth 1998, that the more conservative elements of the Communion in the Global South – who have now issued their own Declaration of Faith in the ‘Jerusalem Statement’ – and have now formed an association with the Sola-Scriptura-based ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ into a united Confessing Anglican Church – in competition with the other Provincial Churches of the historic Anglican Communion – are intent on founding their own local churches in North America and, more recently, England itself with the advent of A.M.i.E. 

Now that the chickens have ‘come home to roost’ in the Mother Church, perhaps more of the Bishops of the Church of England will be taking note of what is about to happen in their own home-ground. This article, above, by Bishop Nick, will no doubt cause more fluttering in the dovecotes, that will, hopefully, encourage debate in Anglican Provinces around the world – about the nature of the Gospel versus the tyranny of exclusivism.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON denies accusations of intentional schism

Conservative Anglicans poised for ‘leap forward’, deny schism

The Gafcon primates – the Archbishops of the Anglican Church in North America, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, South America and the Congo – gathered in London this week.

Anglican leaders are preparing to step up their operations with a charity based in London that will be seen by opponents as a schismatic rival to the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The charity, the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, or GFCA, set up for the “advancement of the Orthodox Anglican Christian Faith”, is to start employing staff to teach and preach a conservative gospel to an increasingly secular world.

The charity, which currently has a turnover of more than £100,000 annually and operates in England, Wales, Australia, Chile, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda, is aiming to raise £500,000 a year to expand its mission.

The plans emerged after the primates’ council of Gafcon, the Global Anglican Futures Conference, met in London this week behind closed doors.

Archbishop Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, appointed general secretary of GFCA, told Christian Today: “We are poised for a considerable leap forward. We have a vision. We are on the way. We are raising money to employ people.” These employees will work in ministry, with one taking a particular interest in theological education worldwide, he said.

The charity was set up at the request of the Gafcon primates. London was chosen as the company headquarters.

Archbishop Jensen, who is 71, said: “In my own lifetime we have seen the death of Christian Britain. The assumption people made, that they were Christians, is now broken. That is a huge shift in the last 50 years. Working out how best to relate to a culture that has gone so strongly anti-Christian is putting a strain on all the churches including the Church of England. It is the stresses and strains of living in this brave new world which creates division and disagreement between us.”

The Gafcon branch in the UK is called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. AMiE, the Anglican Mission in England, is a missionary society set up by FCA and supports churches both within and outside the official Church of England structures.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, is currently looking into the involvement of the retired Anglican bishop of Paraguay, John Ellison, in a service of commissioning for a church plant in his diocese. Christ Church is affiliated to AMiE not the Church of England.

The Salisbury diocese said in a statement: “Ideally we might want to welcome Christ Church as fellow workers in Christ, but we also wonder why another church explicitly for Anglicans is needed in Salisbury when the broad spectrum of Anglican identities is already catered for.

“The Bishop of Salisbury is seeking clarification about the involvement of Bishop John Ellison in the December service. Bishop Ellison has had to postpone two meetings arranged to discuss this matter due to illness. We hope and pray that the Gamaliel principle of Acts 5:38-39 will guide us.”

Archbishop Jensen said it was not the conservatives who were leaving the Anglican mainstream: “This goes back to the behaviour of The Episcopal Church in America. If there is a schism, it is because the American church decided to break with centuries-old tradition and with the biblical position on human sexuality.”

He was referring to the consecration of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson in 2004. Bishop Robinson recently announced he was divorcing his partner of 11 years.

Archbishop Jensen said many people in The Episcopal Church were unhappy with the direction it took on sexuality. Gafcon was born to hold these people together in unity. “Gafcon is a unity movement, but its horizons are broader than that,” he told Christian Today.

“Having realised that the Archbishop of Canterbury was more or less powerless to do anything about The Episcopal Church, the Gafcon primates saw the Anglican Communion itself needed to be renewed and restored and brought into unity around biblical standards. That is our vision: to restore unity and renew biblical standards and reach the world for Christ.”

He said he admired the present Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s stand for evangelism and church planting.

“He’s a man after my own heart in that area. I would guess there might be other areas in which we would differ, particularly strategy.”

In a communique, the Gafcon primates said: “We are uniting faithful Anglicans, growing in momentum, structured for the future, and committed to the Anglican Communion.”

The next Gafcon conference will be in 2018.

The Gafcon primates said: “We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the Biblical faith. We do not regard the recent use of a Church of England building for a Muslim service as a minor aberration. These actions betray the gospel and discourage Christians who live among Muslims, especially those experiencing persecution.”

They continued: “We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship. As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities. We also recognise an increasing need to be able to respond both to calls for affiliation from other provinces, and requests for support from emerging fellowships where the biblical gospel is under threat.

“In order to carry this forward we have put in place the necessary operating structures, people, and financial resources. We invite all of our supporters to be involved in this work.”

In spite of the plans, though, they continued to deny they were initiating a split. “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion. The members of our churches stand at the heart of the Communion, which is why we are committed to its renewal. We belong to the mainstream, and we are moving forward.”

They also explicitly made a statement of support for Bishop Ellison. “In view of the Great Commission, we note the sad irony that this former missionary bishop to South America now finds it necessary to defend himself for supporting missionary activity in his own country.”

Not everyone within the conservative Anglican movement is happy, however, especially where the conservative clergy espouse a male “headship” model that is opposed to women’s ordination based on the teaching of St Paul.

One dissenter, who asked to remain anonymous, told Christian Today that there was growing concern about conservative evangelical parishes in the Church of England who were opposed to women’s ordination: “This group has been quietly building its own church within a church, by withholding parish money from the mother church, and channelling it to its own organisational networks and structure. These form a parallel para-church, selecting, training, even ordaining ministers. This group of clergy plan with and look to each other for guidance, rather than to those they have publicly and repeatedly promised to respect and obey, at their ordinations, installations and on other occasions – declaration of assent, oath of canonical obedience and so on.”

The dissenter claimed that this was sometimes done without the full understanding of their congregations. “Churchgoers have for years now been feeling betrayed both by these clergy and the church hierarchy who have not stood up to them. Many – particularly women – have suffered damage to their trust and respect for the church, and to their faith.”

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According to Religious Correspondent for ‘Christian Today’, Ruth Gledhill, this report might seem to express a more eirenic outcome from the recent GAFCON Primates’ Meeting which has just concluded in London. However, now that the former conservative Archbishop of Sydney. Peter Jensen, has been appointed Secretary of the local ‘Global Fellowship of confessing Anglicans’ (GAFCA), headquartered in the U.K.. one might be forgiven if this new venture by the GAFCON Primates is anything less than a takeover bid for the soul of world-wide Anglicanism – on the door-step of the Church of England:

“The charity, the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, or GFCA, set up for the “advancement of the Orthodox Anglican Christian Faith”, is to start employing staff to teach and preach a conservative gospel to an increasingly secular world.” – Bishop Peter Jensen –

From Ruth Gledhill’s report, it will be seen that Bishop Jensen, who was one of the prime movers of the conservative strategies that enrolled the mostly African Primates in the formation of a movement to challenge the Western Leadership of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has become the Western focal point of protest against the trend in the Communion towards the emancipation of both Women and LGBT people in the Church.

Despite GAFCON’s denial of any intention to leave the Communion – on the grounds of a purer bible-based theology of gender and sexuality; it should be obvious by now that even the Mother Church of England is to be challenged in its leadership of the Communion by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Council and the ACC. Rather than a secession; this might possibly be an outright takeover bid for supremacy in the world-wide Communion.

The rest of us in the Communion may have to wait and see the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primus-inter-pares of the ACC, before we can assess what might be the outcome for the future of the Anglican Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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