Tennessee Bishop arranges for S.S.M. in his Diocese

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt announced Jan. 18 that neighboring Bishop Brian Cole of East Tennessee will “provide pastoral support” to Tennessee couples, clergy and congregations who want to solemnize same-sex marriages.To begin that process, Bauerschmidt wrote in a two-page description of his policy, all canonically resident clergy in the diocese must notify him and assure him that the cleric’s congregation agrees to their use.

Bauerschmidt, who opposes same-sex marriage, said that “where there is disagreement in teaching about the sacramental rite of marriage between bishop and clergy there can be no effective oversight of marriage by the diocesan bishop.” Thus, another bishop must be available to “provide whatever episcopal support is needed for couples and clergy preparing for marriage.”

Bauerschmidt said his policy applies whether the trial-use rites or any other marriage rite is used.

 

Cole will handle the canonically required episcopal permission needed (Canon I.19.3 (page 60 here)) in what Bauerschmidt previously called the “extraordinary instance of the remarriage of a person with a previous spouse still living.”

Bauerschmidt said that the two rites for marriage, which General Convention first authorized in 2015 for trial use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, cannot be used in mission and chaplaincy churches of which he is effectively the rector, or in facilities for which he is directly responsible.

Before formulating his policy, the bishop issued two “pastoral teaching” essays, one on the bishop’s role and one on the “church’s traditional teaching on marriage.” At the end of his policy statement, Bauerschmidt reminded clergy of the “obligations undertaken at ordination, and the role of the bishop as chief pastor, and commended to them the teaching on marriage.

The policy, he said in a letter that accompanied it, is “intended to promote the highest degree of communion and fellowship in a time of challenge for the church. These provisions require consultation. No document can answer every question in advance.”

General Convention in 2015 said that the bishops of the church’s domestic dioceses needed to give their permission for the rites to be used or “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”. (The Episcopal Church includes a small number of dioceses outside the United States in civil jurisdictions that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples.)

There was widespread acceptance of the rites across the church. However, eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses did not authorize their use. Bauerschmidt was among those eight, as was Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs.

The eight bishops required that couples wanting to use the rites be married outside their dioceses and away from their home churches. Some bishops, including Love, refused to allow priests in their diocese to use the rites anywhere.

Last July, convention attempted to remedy to the situation by passing Resolution B012, which went into effect on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2. Bishops and deputies moved the authority for deciding to use the rites from the diocesan bishop to parish priests.

B012 said diocesan bishops who do not agree with same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary,” another Episcopal Church bishop to provide “pastoral support” to the couple, the clergy member involved and the congregation. Some of the eight bishops have interpreted B012 as requiring – or allowing them to require – the involvement of another bishop.

Christopher Hayes, who as a deputy from California proposed the amended version that convention passed, has told Episcopal News Service that the key phrase is “as necessary.” Hayes thinks some bishops are misinterpreting that to mean “necessary” by the mere fact of the bishops’ disagreement, whereas he understands it to mean pastorally necessary. Such pastoral necessity, he said, would be rare.

B012 makes the rites available within every diocese of The Episcopal Church where civil law permits same-sex marriage.

Shortly after Convention, Bauerschmidt said B012 sets up “a particular structure that upholds the bishop’s unique role as chief pastor and teacher and presider at the liturgy,” even when the bishop cannot support same-sex marriage.

Some Tennessee Episcopalians grew concerned when Dec. 2 came and went without a policy from Bauerschmidt. A group of more than 100 lay and ordained Tennessee Episcopalians connected with All Sacraments for All People wrote letters to Bauerschmidt and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Jan. 7 to decry the former’s refusal to institute a policy for implementing B012. They noted that at least one couple and their priest have asked Bauerschmidt for guidance and were told to wait.

“Other committed couples anxiously wait to make their vows before God surrounded by the communities who love and support them,” the group told Bauerschmidt.

“We therefore are reluctantly notifying you of this delay in making the trial liturgies available in this diocese,” the signers told Curry.

Love is the only one of the eight who initially refused to permit use of the rites who has flatly refused to conform to B012. On Jan. 11, Curry prevented him from punishing clergy, laity and congregations who wish to use the rite, and Curry has referred the matter for investigation through the church’s clergy discipline process. Love is appealing the restriction.

Gumbs now has told his clergy to offer the rites without further obstacles. The other bishops, like Bauerschmidt, have said they intend to ask another bishop to assist when congregations ask to use the rites.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

______________________________________________________________

Here is the key to BishopBauerschmidt’s intention on the facility of Same-Sex Marriage couples being married in churches of his diocese:

“B012 makes the rites available within every diocese of The Episcopal Church where civil law permits same-sex marriage.

Shortly after Convention, Bauerschmidt said B012 sets up “a particular structure that upholds the bishop’s unique role as chief pastor and teacher and presider at the liturgy,” even when the bishop cannot support same-sex marriage.”

Quite rightly (in my opinion) the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tenessee – in common with other bishops of the ‘Communion Partnership’ who do not approve of Same-Sex Marriage (all except Bishop Love of the Albany Diocese in New York) –  has taken the option available under Canon Law in TEC to allow another bishop to oversee the Marriage of Same-Sex couples within his diocese. This obviates the need for a disciplinary process against clergy in his diocese who want to conduct such rites in their own parishes.

This would seem to be the only agreeable way to accommodate TEC’s desire to facilitate Same-Sex Marriage in every diocese of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Imperfect Signs of Love – Bishop Jake Owensby

To be signs of a loving God in a messy world.

During our first year of marriage, Joy and I studied at the Ruhr University in Germany. We were part of a large, diverse foreign-student population. Men and women from Iran, Iraq, Argentina, Ethiopia, and Japan majored in engineering, computer programming, literature, and philosophy. By far the largest group came from China.

The office responsible for exchange students arranged regular, heavily subsidized bus trips to other parts of Germany and to other countries of the European Union. The university’s aim was to encourage international understanding of and relationships with Europe. Secondarily, these trips fostered community among the foreign students.

On one of our excursions, Joy and I sat across from a young Chinese woman whom we had come to know. She asked, “How can you Christians love everyone? I love my family. I will take care of my children as they grow up and my parents as they grow old. But there are billions of people. What do you mean you love them all?”

Our friend wasn’t challenging us or calling our faith into question. She was genuinely curious about how we would live out a faith that makes such a bold claim: We will love everyone. No exceptions. No prerequisites.

And we don’t mince words about it. We sing it boldly. “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Love is not one thing among many that Christians might or might not do, like cross themselves or genuflect or eat fish on Friday. To follow Jesus is to love like Jesus.

So Jesus spent his earthly ministry teaching people what love is. Or, more precisely, Jesus showed us who love is. God is love. (1 John 4:8b) And Jesus is love in the flesh.

What Jesus does in the flesh shows us what love is. Love is no mere affection. It is the creative, transforming power of God.

John’s Gospel culminates in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. But in the earlier chapters of the Gospel we read pointed lessons about the nature of love. These lessons gradually prepare us to experience the full impact of the cross and the empty tomb.

Listen to the Gospel’s familiar opening phrase. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Greek words translated “in the beginning” mean at the root of things. At the bottom of things. At the very core of things.

Everything that is, was, or will be owes its existence to God’s love. And it’s not that God made a bunch of stuff and then stepped back to admire the handiwork. Everything depends upon God at every single instant.

Each honeysuckle vine, white pelican, chubby baby, and grumpy old bulldog would tumble into the abyss of nothingness if God ceased even for a nanosecond pouring love into it. It would be like unplugging an electric appliance.

The mere existence of all the animals and plants, of all the oceans and stars, planets and rock formations, is a sign that God’s love is actively present. Creating. Sustaining. Making something happen.

For the rest of eleven chapters, John recounts seven signs of God’s love. The very first of those happens at Cana of Galilee. Along with his mom and his traveling companions, Jesus turns up at a wedding where the wine runs out. At the urging of his mother, Jesus turns several huge jugs of water into wine. And I mean the really good stuff. (John 2:1-11)

The sign is a showing, a revelation, of God as love. God’s presence transfigures things. In some ways, we’ve grown so accustomed to God’s transforming power that we take it for granted or think of it as merely natural. Caterpillars turn to butterflies. A child grows in a woman’s womb. Bare winter branches yield spring blossoms.

Other holy changes might more ably grab our attention. Parents forgive their child’s murderer. Heroin addicts get sober.

None of this is solely human achievement, luck of the draw, or brute natural law. This is God’s love working itself out.

When Christians say that we will love everyone, we’re admitting to an infinite desire even though we are finite beings. We yearn to have God’s love work itself out through us. To be signs of a loving God in a messy world.

God can make water into wine through us. God’s love can make strangers into friends, fear into compassion, resentment into reconciliation. When the hungry are fed, the homeless are sheltered, and the sick receive treatment, God’s love reveals itself.

In this life you and I will not love perfectly. But our imperfections do not prevent God’s love from showing through. After all, a crummy stable and a cruel cross served as signs of God’s love. So too can our own fumbling attempts to love what God loves as God loves it.

To follow Jesus is to be an imperfect sign of God’s perfect love. They will know we are Christians by our messy love.

Looking for a book to study during Lent with a group or on your own? Check out this brief clip about my latest book A Resurrection Shaped Life. You can learn more or get a copy here: https://www.abingdonpress.com/ResurrectionShapedLife

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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ACC Secretary-General honoured for Inter-Faith Ministry

Anglican Communion Secretary General honoured for Nigerian reconciliation ministry

Posted on: January 17, 2019 3:02 PM

Photo Credit: All photos: Kaduna Peace Commission / Twitter

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has received the inaugural Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation 2019 Merit Award for Excellence in Promoting Religious Tolerance and Peace Building in Northern Nigeria. The award was one of five presented last night (Wednesday) by the Foundation, which was created by the Governors of the 19 northern states of Nigeria to honour the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the former Northern Region.

The award was presented last night during a dinner in Kaduna, on the eve of Dr Idowu-Fearon’s 70th birthday. The award chairman explained the award to the Secretary General saying: “His Grace, who has been variously described as an intellectual inquirer, a philosopher-priest and a teacher of note, is a cleric-scholar, who developed a great passion for the study of Islam from his early years. He has indeed allowed that to dictate his drive to promote religious tolerance and peace that has culminated in his award of today. . .

“When His Grace . . . became the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion . . . many feared that he would no more have the time to devote to his inter-faith ventures. Thank God we have all been proved wrong because he has shown through the latest positions and continuing work he has undertaken that he still has a lot of fire in his quavers. For instance he is the current Africa Chairman, Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa; the Co-ordinator, Interfaith Initiative for Peace from 2014 to date; and was recently appointed the Chairman of Kaduna State Peace Commission by the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i.

The other recipients were Dr Tagwai Sambo, for Excellence in Public Administration and Inter-Communal Harmony in Moro’a Chiefdom; Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, for Excellence in Public Service and Administration of Justice in Nigeria; Imam Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, for Excellence in Service to Humanity and Representation of True Message of Love; and Dr Lateef Taiwo Sheikh, for Excellence in Promotion of Human and Healthcare Development in Nigeria.

The Foundation was established “to foster the legacy of leadership and good governance bequeathed by Sir Ahmadu Bello for the human and economic development of northern Nigeria”, the Foundation said on its website. It was created as “an intervention agency that will conceptualise and execute programmes directly, partnering with other non-profit organisations or collaborating with special interests that share the same or similar objectives with it in realising their set goals and objectives which should be within the general framework for economic and human development.”

Sir Ahmadu Bello was the first Premier of the Northern Region, and was in post when he was assassinated on 15 January 1966 during a coup. He is remembered for “the legacy of exemplary leadership that enabled him to overcome the inherent formidable challenges of mobilising and harmonising the complex ethnic, religious and political diversities of more than 200 ethnic groups inhabiting the vast region”, the Foundation says.

Today (Thursday) members of the Kaduna State Peace Commission gathered to celebrate Dr Idowu-Fearon’s 70th birthday.

Kaduna -Peace -Commission _Abp -Josiah -Idowu -Fearon -celebrates -70th -birthday _700x 393

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2 Views of Sexuality – Oxford Evangelicals

The church and sexuality: 2 Oxford evangelical views

These articles appear in Pathways, the new magazine for people in the Diocese of Oxford. The theme for the current issue, out this week, follows a recent letter to clergy from the bishops, which offered reflections on current debates in the area of human sexuality:

David Bennett is pursuing a DPhil (PhD) in theology and is a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

David Bennett
David Bennett argues for a traditional Christian understanding of human sexuality.

Coming out at as gay at 14 meant the church wasn’t a safe space for me.

I had relatives with strong views who would say things that were disparaging and even homophobic. ‘You have to be this to be accepted and loved by God,’ I thought, ‘I’m in this category so I hate this religion because it deletes me from existence.

As I kissed a boyfriend in a park a man pulled up on a motorbike, raised the visor on his helmet, picked up a large stone and threw it onto my back. I remember this rage within me, at how such hatred could exist. I connected my experience of Christianity with that act of violence. Christianity became the thing that was in the way of the liberation of LGBTQI people.

But there was a vacuum in my life. The secular ideal of romantic love cracked in my mind. I had that Solomonic moment and knew that the desire I had for love indicated that I was made for something higher. Later, my uncle confronted my easy relativism. He didn’t tell me, but he had a word that I would meet Jesus in three months.

He was right. Three months later I saw a film maker I wanted to interview for the student publication. I said, ‘What inspired you?’ and she said, ‘God’ – to which my face scrunched up. She offered me prayer. As she prayed, I felt tingling on the top of my head. It was as if someone was pouring a vial of oil over me. I heard a voice in my mind: ‘Will you accept my Son Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’ I felt this tug of war over my soul for about five minutes. Finally I said ‘Yes’ and that was when the love of God was poured out through me. I was weeping healing tears.

It’s been a long journey reconciling my faith and sexuality.

I had to become poor sexually to inherit the kingdom of God. I believe scripture lands on the side of the orthodox traditional perspective. But that doesn’t transform people. For me it was getting the law to be written on my heart – not just understanding the law in my mind. And that was a long process as I gave my sexuality to God.

I am so grateful that my church didn’t change its theology but offered me love and the freedom to hear from God in scripture. Jesus lived without sex and he was the greatest example of human flourishing.

God loves gay people, he loves the LGBTI+ community. I feel called to be someone who articulates and proclaims that. If you are gay, that cannot separate you from the love of God.

Living obediently will bring an incredible glory to Jesus. God won’t put a burden on you that’s too heavy to carry. God’s love is unconditional. It is God’s voice and opinion that matters as known in God’s Word and Spirit, not human beings.

Rev Marcus Green writes as an evangelical who questions the traditionalist approach to the Church’s sexuality debates.

Marcus Green
‘God doesn’t create rejects,’ argues Marcus Green.

I can remember exactly where I was the day I realised I needed a new theology.

A friend in Memphis does work in civil rights theology. He teaches me that when you are an oppressed minority and become aware of it, Jesus is dynamite. Every word Jesus speaks is explosive because it’s about you. It doesn’t matter if it’s about lepers or tax collectors or Canaanite women – it’s about you. You hear a gospel of life and hope and freedom, and it is God’s promise for you.

This became real for me on a miserable Tuesday afternoon one February in my early 40s. I suddenly understood I had spent 30 years accepting that as a gay man I was in fact a broken straight man. Every traditionalist word spoken from every pew and every pulpit in every evangelical church I’d ever belonged to had sunk deep into my soul. They had convinced me that being gay meant I was in fact a second-class human being. This is a terrible lie. It’s shocking theology. It’s appalling Bible interpretation. It was cold outside, but that day the truth was already starting to set me free. As the song says, I’m only human: but guess what? God doesn’t create rejects.

I’m going to repeat myself.

God doesn’t create rejects. Seconds. Spoiled copies. Sure, we all have treasure in jars of clay, but no one who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ sits in the cheap seats in the Kingdom of God.

And I knew I had work to do, because in my head was a whole Bible shouting at me about how much God loves every single person. I had believed pharisees who use the Scripture to tie up the broken hearted, when instead I needed to hear the Saviour who proclaims release for the captive. Every time in the Bible when Jesus encounters some poor soul, ground into the dirt by another ‘kind’ religious person, that poor soul is raised up on high.

And Jesus does it for us, too. When I thought I was a broken straight person, life could be unbearable and heavy and would break me further. There are still travails and burdens – but now I know that I too am fearfully and wonderfully made, called by name, loved. Gay people do not need to pretend to be straight/appear to be straight/not seem to be gay in order to fit into God’s Kingdom order. Just because the foot isn’t a hand doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to the body – that’s ridiculous!

We are all gloriously equal in Jesus’ family.

Here’s the lesson from civil rights theology: Why are the texts everyone else takes for granted not about us too? Why is this freedom and life and Good News not for us? Why do these stories only give full hope to other people?

Because if I too am only human, then Jesus died for me. And that is more than enough. No-one should call unclean what God has called ‘beloved’.

Marcus Green and David Bennett have each published books on this topic in recent months:

‘The Possibility of Difference’ by Marcus Green, published by Kevin Mayhew, and ‘A War of Loves’ by David Bennett, published by HarperCollins.

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Following on from the recent Letter from the Bishops in the Oxford Diocese of the Church of England concerning the welcome that should be given to LGBTI+ people by the Church; there was a reaction from more than 100 clergy in that diocese expressing their objection to the direction that the bishops were advocating – the acceptance of  this sexual minority.

In consequence, these two different views from Evangelicals in the Oxford Diocese – one, by David Bennet, an academic, and the other by Marcus Green, a parish minister in the Diocese of Oxford. Each, from their own personal experience and point of view, expresses their unique understanding of the underlying issue; that of being intrinsically gay – and yet with different understandings of its implications.

From his own story, David Bennet was persuaded – by an inner conviction obtained in a ‘charismatic’ conversion experience – that, although his homosexuality was a given, he was no longer free to express it in a sexual expression with a same-sex partner.

In the case of Marcus Green, after a lifetime of adherence to the conservative Evangelical understanding of his innate homosexuality, he discovered – the exact opposite of Bennet’s experience – that his sexuality was a gift from God that was to be celebrated, rather than grieved over.

These two very different points of view – expressed by two Evangelical Anglicans in the Diocese of Oxford – whose views are openly expressed in the newly-established diocesan publication, Pathways – are testimony to the fact that even the Evangelicals in the Diocese of Oxford – and in the Church of England at large – are not immune to the view that sexuality is a gift of God that may not be confined to one man and one woman within the context of Christian Marriage.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Politics v. Human Rights in Brazil

Here’s why some gay Brazilians support their country’s rabidly anti-LGBTQ president.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil, president, anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ

Shutterstock

In his first week in office, newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro started actions to roll back LGBTQ rights. So it was only a matter of time before a newspaper covered one of his gay fans.

Bloomberg.com brings us the story of Tiago Pavinatto, a 34-year-old gay lawyer and newspaper columnist who feels confident that Bolsonaro won’t harm LGBTQ rights because, “He will be surrounded by people who will ensure gay rights be respected.”

Sounds a bit like the gay conservatives who expected Trump to support LGBTQ rights in America.

According to Bloomberg.com, 29 percent of gay Brazilians planned on supporting Bolsonaro in the October 2018 national elections.

Throughout his career, Bolsonaro has vilified the LGBTQ community, largely using gay people as evidence of Brazil’s eroding moral values. He has stated that parents should beat their kids for being gay and that he’d rather have a dead son than a gay one. He has also criticized a school anti-bullying program as a “gay kit” designed to turn kids queer.

Related: Brazilian president launches attack on LGBTQ people hours after inauguration

But Pavinatto and other gay voters see Bolsonaro’s homophobia as a ploy to win over macho and conservative voters in a country where conservative Christians increasingly hold power. They also see Bolsonaro as the only alternative to the country’s former ruling party which was plagued by corruption.

Bloomberg.com says Bolsonaro began backing off of his anti-gay rhetoric three days before the October elections, stating that the government “has nothing do to with anyone’s sexual orientation” and he could see himself appointing a gay cabinet member.

Nevertheless, during his first week in office, Bolsonaro ordered Brazil’s human rights ministry to no longer consider any affairs involving the LGBT community. He also appointed Damares Alves, a former evangelical pastor who blames LGBTQ rights for threatening Brazilian families, as his new human rights minister.

Bolsonaro’s presidential term will last four years.

___________________________________________________

In common with President Trump in the U.S.A., the new President of Brazil, is intent on rolling back his country’s extant legislation allowing full human rights for the local LGBT Community.

It seems that – despite the expectation by the gay conservatives in  Brazil – that the new President would be surrounded by gay-friendly members of his new government – now that he has actually been elected, President Bolsonaro has determined that he will claw back any legislation that grants rights to the LGBT community. As a guarantee of this, the President has appointed his own choice of Human Rights Minister – Damares Alves – an actively anti-gay former Evangelical Pastor.

No doubt, this ultra-conservative Brazilian President will form a special relationship with President Trump – in their common denial of human rights to the LGBT communities under their jurisdiction.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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In Christ “en Christo” – An Inclusive Church

JANUARY 10, 2019 BY A LIGHTBOWN

Talking of being in Christ as the gateway to radical new inclusivity
‘In Christ’ is one of the most beautiful of all New Testament phrases. All Christians should delight at being ‘in Christ.’

John Stott, in his 1983 address at the Leadership Lunch following the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. said that ‘the expressions “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in him” occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone.’ ‘In Christ’ is a vitally important and deeply sacred theological concept, yet it is one that is often used indiscriminately and with pastoral insensitivity. Sadly, it is sometimes used to knockdown and exclude rather than to build up and affirm.

For St. Paul being in Christ clearly trumped all other temporal identity markers, but that is a very long way from suggesting that he believed that being ‘in Christ’ rendered all other identity markers superfluous or irrelevant.

And yet, in today’s church, ‘in Christ’ is frequently deployed theo-politically. It is often used to suggest that all our other human characteristics and relationships are worth nothing because the only really important thing is that we are ‘in Christ.’

When ‘in Christ’ is deployed in this way it is often done from a position of significant privilege and moral certainty. Of course the irony is that sometimes those who use ‘in Christ’ in this way are frequently keen to highlight the nature of their own temporal identity markers and relationships.

The term ‘in Christ’ is, I think, so special, so sacred, that we all need to exercise extreme care when using it. It should never be used to suggest that past hurts and pains don’t matter, or even worse in some ways, weren’t real. It should also never be used to rank, diminish or establish hierarchies of (human) being; ‘in Christ’ is the great equalizer. ‘In Christ’ always seeks to include, not exclude.

‘In Christ’ is an expression of divine hospitality. ‘In Christ’ includes and raises up the hitherto excluded, marginalized and ostracized whilst asking the privileged to acknowledge their status. ‘In Christ’ is the gift to the many rather than the prerogative of a self-elected few.

‘In Christ’ is a doorway, or Gate, to the acceptance of greater diversity and ‘radical new Christian inclusivity in the life of the Church.’ ‘In Christ’ is the chalice that holds all who commit to love God and neighbour irrespective of difference. ‘In Christ’ is the sacred word animating the sacramental action of a radically inclusive God.

‘In Christ’ celebrates God’s creativity and the infinite and glorious diversity inherent in creation. In Christ doesn’t mean nothing else matters. It means that everything else matters.

The most famous ‘In Christ’ verse is probably Galatians 3, 28: in which we read that ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’

To borrow a phrase from the Three Musketeers surely this means that the spirit of ‘in Christ’ is ‘all for one and one for all?’ Commitment, as John Stott suggested, to God, and to each other, is the glue that ultimately binds us together ‘in Christ.’

‘In Christ’ doesn’t diminish our differences, temporal identities, and experiences but instead receives them, blesses them, and distributes them in, through, and beyond the Church.

______________________________________________________________

Andrew Lightbown is a parish priest in the Church of England, whose weblog ‘Theoreo’ is a little goldmine of inclusive theology – where all of God’s children are seen to be equal in the sight of God, without prejudice orlimitation of race, class, gender or sexual orientation.

His reflection on the ancient paradigm of what it means to be ‘In Christ’ is – paradoxically – spelt out by radical English Evangelical theologian John Stott, whose provenance is often claimed to be the epitome of the present-day understandings of the conservative Evangelical theological base-line.

However, in Stott’s presentation to a North American National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., “he said that ‘the expressions “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in him” occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone.’ ‘In Christ’ is a vitally important and deeply sacred theological concept, yet it is one that is often used indiscriminately and with pastoral insensitivity. Sadly, it is sometimes used to knockdown and exclude rather than to build up and affirm.”

Sadly, in today’s environment, where gender and sexuality have become the issue de jour, it is mainly radically Evangelical churches that are seeking to distance themselves from the prospect of including LGBTI+ Christians, whose loyalty to Christ is being questioned and rejected – because of their intrinsically different gender/sexual status which, though lawful in the secular sphere, is still being identified by certain conservative Evangelicals as a barrier to membership of the body of Christ. LGBTI+ people are being marginalised because of who they are.

What seems to have been forgotten or just ignored is the Gospel counsel to “love one another as I have loved you” – the message of Jesus to his followers, not considering one’s self as more righteous than another, but rather, treating others with the same respect that Christ has treated us in his redemptive life, death and resurrection “For the sake of sinners”.

Even Saint Paul, whose message can sometimes be considered difficult, we have the assurance that: “In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew”, but all have been baptised into the Christ who, alone, is our justification and redemption.

En Christo,

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Quarter of Oxford Clergy resist Bishops’ ad clerum

More than 100 Oxford clergy criticise bishops’ LGBTI guidance

CREDIT: GEOFF CRAWFORD/STEFANO CAGNI

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, speaking at a meeting of the General Synod

MORE than 100 clerics in the diocese of Oxford have written to criticise their bishops’ approach to LGBTI+ people. A letter released on Monday warns that, if the bishops cannot affirm traditional teaching, many of the signatories will consider seeking alternative oversight.

The letter, signed by 104 serving clerics in the diocese, questions whether people in same-sex relationships should be ordained, or receive communion.

The letter addresses the diocese’s four bishops: “We would ask them to recognise the seriousness of the difference between us: advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both. The situation is serious.”

The letter is a response to an ad clerum, “Clothed With Love”, sent by the Bishops of Oxford, Dorchester, Reading, and Buckingham, in October, calling for “an attitude of inclusion and respect for LGBTI+ people” (News, 2 November). Sent to 1500 clergy in the diocese, it called for “dialogue and conversation” with clergy who are seeking guidance on pastoral responses to same-sex couples, and suggested that the diocese may produce “short-term” guidance in advance of national provision.

It also commended the five principles set out in the diocese of Lichfield, which state that “nobody should be excluded or discouraged from receiving the sacraments of baptism or the Lord’s supper on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity”, and affirm that “LGBT+ people can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church” (News, 18 May 2018).

In their response, the 104 clergy write that they are “disturbed by the apparent ambiguity of the language” in the ad clerum. The assertion that “LGBTI+ people can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church” carries with it “a range of understandings about what is appropriate by way of lifestyle”, they argue. “We cannot see how it is right to accept as Christian leaders those who advocate lifestyles that are not consistent with New Testament teaching.”

With regard to the statement on the Eucharist, they observe that “indiscriminate participation seems to be inconsistent with the witness of scripture . . . [which] clearly discourages participation in the Lord’s Supper for those who have not examined themselves.”

The signatories are also concerned “by the references to LGBTI+ ‘identity’, when as Christians we want to urge that our identity is to be found ‘in Christ’; by the generalisation of ‘gender identity’, when there are so many aspects to this question; by the apparent desire to see the Church innovating liturgically in order to meet an expressed desire of some same-sex couples; and by the organisation of a group of LGBTI+ advisers which does not include same-sex attracted people who advocate celibacy in faithfulness to scripture”.

They express alarm that the bishops’ letter lacks “any articulation of the current teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships, based as it is on the words of scripture, nor is there any expressed support for it”.

Their main concern, they write, is with the “direction of travel” of the diocese. “In its desire for new expressions of ‘inclusion’, it could end up excluding those who hold to the traditional teaching of scripture, and doing a great disservice to those of us who experience same-sex attraction.

“We are not here simply stating an aversion to change; we are, however, convinced that failing to hold the Bible’s teaching out to everyone, including those who identify as LGBTI+, is to show a lack of that very love the letter urges us to exhibit.”

The signatories disavow any sense of being “morally superior” and acknowledge that they have “much to learn from others, including those with whom we disagree”; but they conclude that “the issue concerns the teaching of Christ’s Church, however lacking we may be as disciples of Christ. . .

“We would love our bishops to articulate clearly God’s love for us in helping us see both the attractiveness of deep friendships, but also the appropriate setting for sexual intimacy — namely in marriage between a man and a woman. However, if they are unwilling to do this, we would ask them to recognise the seriousness of the difference between us: advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both.

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“The situation is serious. If not addressed, we would all struggle to support the leadership of our bishops in this matter, and a number of our churches may want to seek alternative means of receiving episcopal ministry, in recognition that your position is seriously differentiated from theirs. This would be a tragedy.”

The letter also warns that a separation would have “both pastoral and possible financial implications for the diocese”.

The signatories say that there is “much in the letter that we joyfully affirm. . . We wish to respect all people, and we endorse the view of the Archbishops that in discussions, no person is a problem or an issue. . . We entirely endorse the view that nobody should be told that their sexual orientation makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.”

Several of the signatories to the letter lead large Evangelical churches in the diocese.

It was co-ordinated by four Evangelical priests: the Vicar of St Andrew and St Mary Magdalene, Maidenhead, the Revd Will Stileman; the Rector of Aborfield with Barkham, the Revd Piers Bickersteth; the Rector of Buckingham, the Revd Will Pearson-Gee; and the Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, Canon Vaughan Roberts.

Signatories include four clergy members of General Synod: the Revd Sam Allberry, an NSM at St Andrew and St Mary Magdalene; the Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, an NSM at St Leonard, Eynsham and Cassington, and a tutor at Wycliffe Hall Theological College; Canon Charlie Cleverly, the Rector of St Aldate’s, Oxford; and Canon Frog Orr-Ewing, the Rector of Latimer Minster.

Signatories are overwhelmingly Evangelical, but Anglo-Catholic signatories include the Vicar of St Martin, Fenny Stratford, Canon Victor Bullock; the Vicar of Hanslope, Canon Gary Ecclestone; and the Vicar of St Mary and St Giles, Stony Stratford with Calverton, Fr Ross Northing.

Several of the signatories teach at Wycliffe Hall, including the Director of Ministerial Training, the Revd Greg Downes, and the Vice-Principal and Academic Dean, the Revd Dr Justyn Terry.

Six of the clergy signatories are women. The letter has also been signed by 28 members of the laity — three of whom are members of the General Synod— and 16 retired members of the clergy.

A letter of response from the bishops emphasises that “Clothed With Love” was a pastoral letter: “It is not intended as a theological statement of a position or as a contribution in itself to the wider debate in the Church.” It was written “primarily to address the significant sense of hurt and exclusion felt by LGBTI+ Christians and their families”, and had “helped each of us to have significant pastoral conversations”.

The wording concerning the Eucharist was consistent with the policy set out in the Canons, Issues in Human Sexuality and the House of Bishops guidelines on same-sex marriage, they said.

“There is no desire on our part to diminish support for those who are seeking to uphold and to live within the Church of England’s current teaching,” they wrote. “There is no intention either to exclude in any way those who hold to the traditional teaching of Scripture now or in the future. . . If the Church discerns that some further development in polity is needed at this point on human sexuality we will need to take equal care both locally and nationally to honour and respect those who continue to hold the traditional view.”

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, wrote that one option open to him was “to remain as silent as possible on these difficult questions, avoid them wherever possible and take refuge in ambiguity. This does not seem to me to be the right course of action at this time.”

The letter began with reassurance: “As bishops we respect and value each of you, the ministry you offer, and your commitment to scripture and the historic tradition of the church.”

On Monday, Mr Pearson-Gee suggested that the letter confounded the suggestion that only a “handful” of people were concerned by the bishops’ ad clerum.

“Those opposing include almost every single leader of the largest churches, as well as many other leaders across the spectrum, including Anglo-Catholic Brothers,” he said.

On Wednesday, another member of General Synod, the Rector of Winslow, the Revd Andrew Lightbown, said that he agreed with the signatories — “who by and large represent a few of Oxford’s larger churches”  — “that the overall direction of travel appears to be moving towards greater  inclusivity, albeit one which respects those who wish to adhere to the historic position. This should, given the Archbishops’ desire for a radical new inclusion in the life of the Church for LGBTI people, be expected.”

He was “very concerned by the way that the term ‘in Christ’ was used . . . and by the seeming rejection of the Canons and bishop’s guidelines in respect of admission to the sacraments. As the Oxford bishops rightly say a great many people, from both sides of the divide, have over the long-term reflected theologically on these issues before arriving at their current positions.” 

Read the letter and the bishops’ response here

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There are 400 beneficed clergy in the Diocese of Oxford (C. of E.) and the number of clergy – both active and retired – who have signed the letter of challenge to the Bishops of the Oxford Diocese is 100. This puts into its proper context the level of opposition to the Oxford Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, whose link appears in the last line of the above text.

Although one of the critics of the Bishops’ Letter states that there are more than the suggested ‘handful of people’ concerned about the ‘ad clerum’; it is obvious that less than one-quarter of the active or retired clergy in the Diocese of Oxford is actually involved.

It has been noted elsewhere that more or less the same cadre of protesters was involved earlier in the rejection of the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John (currently Dean of Saint Albans) as Bishop of Reading in the Diocese of Oxford – because of his relationship with another man. From this, it would seem that the Diocese of Oxford (largest in the C. of E.) has the potential to overturn the Church of England’s new openness to LGBTI+ people in the progress of its mission and ministry towards this significant minority in the Church.

In my opinion, the Oxford Bishops have given the correct response to the 100 protesters, allowing for their conscientious objection to the Church’s openness to the LGBTI+ people, while yet reminding them (the 100 signatories) that the Church and the Diocese of Oxford will proceed according to the Church’s canons and not be bound by their objections.

It remains to be seen whether the threat from the 100 to seek ‘alternative jurisdiction’ to that provided in the Diocese, will actually lead to defections from the Church of England – similar to recent defections from our  Diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand’s ACANZP.

There is already a dissident quasi-Anglican Church in England (AMiE), supported by the GAFCON/FOCA group – similar to other dissident groups in North America (ACNA ) and other parts of the Anglican Communion.- that have separated out from the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion with the active support of GAFCON and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, whose archbishop is an executive of GAFCON.

It may well be that the gathering of worldwide Anglican Communion Bishops at Lambeth in 2080 will signal a division between fundamentalist Anglicans, discipled under the GAFCON banner (who will boycott the Lambeth Meeting) and the remainder of the ACC loyal to Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference. The division will be based on different understandings of the Bible – (a) ‘Sola Scriptura’ or; (b) the more liberal Proclamation of the Good News of God’s Love for Sinners like ourselves on the historically authentic foundation of: ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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