Rebellion in the Southwark Diocese – from Sola Scriptura

 – 9 February

[CofE] BREAKING: The Southwark Declaration

The following has been distributed this morning to sympathetic parishes in Southwark Diocese and beyond for affirmation. Southwark has been gripped in a growing standoff between the bishop and his evangelical parishes who are increasingly disenchanted with his unwillingness to uphold Biblical and canonical standards, particularly in the area of human sexuality.

The Southwark Declaration

As clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Southwark:

We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. We affirm with Canon A5 that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.’’

We affirm, with Article XX, that ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.’

We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10. 7, Matthew 19.5), the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 (‘Of Holy Matrimony’) that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse. We affirm resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998).

We call upon all the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese, alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths, live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.

We call upon the Bishops to appoint to positions of teaching authority only those who hold to these truths in good conscience.


I have to be very careful with the attribution of this post – because of the fact that there are twin brothers whose surname is Ould, both of whom are apt to post articles  against the enabling of Gay people to flourish within the Church – on account of their affinity with the oddly-named ‘Standing Firm’ sodality which derives its rigidity to a sola Scriptura, fundamentalist theology.

David Ould, the writer of this article, on the ‘Stand Firm’ website – who is the Rector of Glenquarie Anglican Church in Sydney – might seem the less likely of the two brothers to be involved with the U.K. Diocese of Southwark. However, as most bloggers in the Anglican Communion are aware, the Sydney Diocese in Australia – with its links to GAFCON – is not averse to empathising with its cohorts in the U.K., where David’s brother, Peter (another blogger against gay relationships) is, himself, a parish minister. 

‘Sola Scriptura’ devotees are renowned for their insistence on a literal application of every word of the scriptures – except where they indulge the latitude they themselves allow for themselves on issues like banned foods, mixed fibre clothing, women wearing hats in church and other assorted shibboleths which not even they would want to insist upon.

Thus, for them, it almost stands to reason that – in standing firm on issues of gender and sexuality – they are addressing the most important thing (for them), which is that of how human beings are able to measure up to the ancient patriarchal standards of sexual behaviour. (It seems, in passing, that in the circumstances of Genesis 19:8, they might excuse the patriarchal behaviour of Lot, who surrendered the virginity of his daughters in order to appease the demands of the men of Sodom for ‘male flesh’).

Whether, or not, the rebels in the Diocese of Southwark, might join up with the GAFCON-backed A.M.i.E rebel-Church in the U.K. is anyone’s guess. Whatever happens there will no doubt help to exacerbate the stand-off between GAFCON and the C. of E. And, make no mistake, Mr Ould and the Sydney Diocese will be part of the conservative fundamentalist bloc in the Anglican Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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3 Responses to Rebellion in the Southwark Diocese – from Sola Scriptura

  1. Zane Elliott says:

    Fr. Ron,
    you really need to try and get a grip on reality.

    You make spurious claims like ‘‘Sola Scriptura’ devotees are renowned for their insistence on a literal application of every word of the scriptures ‘ poppycock and balderdash. This is about as fair an assesment as ‘Liberal Anglo-Catholics are renowned for their failure to see Jesus’ resurrection in anything more than metophorical terms, most of them don’t believe he was raised bodily from the dead’. How many Sola Scriptura Anglicans have you actually met and talk to about theology face to face?

    If you could explain to me how adhering to Canon A5, affirming Article XX, the Book of Common Prayer, Canon B30 and resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998) qualifies one as a rebel I’d be much obliged.

  2. Peter Carrell says:

    I am in agreement, Ron, with our colleague Zane (all three of us licensed by our Bishop).
    1. There are various ways of being Sola Scriptura in approach to Scripture and literalism is but one of these. To give but one example to refute you, you would struggle to find six day creationists among the clergy of the Sydney Diocese.
    2. Given that the CofE has not changed any formal teaching about human sexuality in recent years, it is scarcely rebellion if a group of clergy ask their bishop to teach the church’s official teaching.
    Nevertheless I understand a further point you are making that the way we go about upholding Scripture may create a climate within the church which inhibits the flourishing of the lives of those identifying with the church. That is a fair subject for debate. But I respectively submit that the debate is not itself assisted towards flourish net if misunderstanding occurs within it about the presuppositions of those we disagree with.

  3. kiwianglo says:

    Why am I not Surprised, Peter, that you and Zane are in agreement in opposing my comments about the sola scriptura tendency towards a literal interpretation of the Scriptures by those in our Church who have problems with accepting our Provincial movement towards the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships in the passage of Motion 30 by ACANZP, recently? Especially when one of you has, apparently, actually attended at least 1 GAFCON meeting!

    The conservative Evangelicals in the Diocese of Southwark, on whose reactionary letter to their diocesan Bishop i have made my comments (above), are basing their campaign on an out-dated understanding of gender and sexuality that, I believe, is already being radically questioned by the Church of England, and which is currently being addressed by its programme of ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality’ that has already been launched in the diocese of the C. of E.

    The fact that the ‘current teaching’ of the Church happens to be in accordance with the feelings and understanding of both of you, may be only a matter of limited duration – even in ACANZP. The Anglican Communion (minus the Gafcon Provinces) is already moving away from an endemic culture of misogyny and homophobia – which has been the result of an outdated patriarchal understanding reflected in Church polity, and which has blighted the lives of both women and LGBT people in both Church and society.

    My attitude towards these matters has been affected by a refreshed understanding of how Jesus, the Redeemer, treated the marginalised and despised of society in his own day – and for which he suffered death on the Cross. The Church can no longer be involved in persecuting people on account of their race, gender, social position or sexual-orientation. We are all sinners whom Christ has sanctified. To God be the glory!

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