Bishops’ Reflection Group: Church Times leader

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Church Times has a leader this week which discusses the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. This is titled An unenviable task.

Do please read it in full.

The two concluding paragraphs:

…It is always dangerous to underestimate the ability of the C of E to avoid resolving an issue, but it does seem clear that many of the Bishops, and possibly both of the Archbishops, are determined to halt the Church’s endless wrangling about sexuality, on the obvious grounds that it undermines mission, brings the Church into disrepute, and causes real harm to many individuals. The direction of travel is towards liberal­isation. The sticking-point is how to accomplish this without com­promising the consciences of conservatives or triggering an exodus — or, at least, too much of one. The lesson learnt by most during the Shared Conversations was that it is possible to respect the opinions of another without relinquishing one’s own views. But the growth of what has been, in essence, a greater sense of perspective exposed the few who cannot see sexuality as anything other than a communion-breaking matter.

The remarks from GAFCON after the revelation that the Bishop of Grantham was in a celibate same-sex relationship marked a new low: “We remain opposed to the guidelines for clergy and bishops, permitting them to be in same-sex relation­ships as long as they publicly declare that the relationship is not sexual. This creates confusion in terms of the Church’s teach­ing on the nature of sex and marriage, and it is not modelling a helpful way to live.” This has rarely been said so boldly, and conservatives of this stripe cannot expect the bishops to come up with any measures that satisfy them. The C of E is a broad Church with able bishops, but it is beyond their ability to accommodate a view that rejects even the existing compromise.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 September 2016
_________________________________________________________________
Thanks to ‘Thinking Anglicans’ and Simon Sarmiento for this CHURCH TIMES link
 
With the current palaver on conservative web-sites in New Zealand still featuring anti-gay polemic, and threatening schism if our Church goes ahead with the blessing of Same-Sex Unions, this salutary message from the premier Anglican newspaper in England, the venerable ‘Church Times’, gives evidence of a new mood within the mother Church of the Anglican Communion to actually take steps to  set right past injustice towards the LGBTI community in that Church.
 
The threat of the same sort of schismatic movement that has already occurred in North America – with the GAFCON-backed ‘Anglican Church in North America’ (ACNA) vying for the allegiance of U.S. and Canadian Anglicans in those 2 countries – upon the enacting of an open policy to intrinsically homosexual bishops and clergy – would now seem to be playing out in the territory of the Church of England.
 
With the inevitable warning of both TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to the Church of England that, if she did not speedily do something about subversive conservative overseas interference from other Provinces of the Communion on her own doorstep (AMiE and GAFCON U.K.); the C.of E. would find herself embroiled in the same sort of disruption that has occurred in North America over the last few years; it would appear the prophecy is about to be fulfilled.
 
In the face of a growing pressure from GAFCON-supported ‘Anglican’ entities in the U.K.,the C.of E. is now faced with the prospect of either; (1) going forward with reform that will allow the church to employ LGBTI clergy and to Bless legal Same-Sex Marriages – in which case the Anti-Gay Lobby members will desert the Church and form their own quasi-Anglican Churches, as had happened in North America; or (2) opening up the Church to include its LGBTI members more fully as partners in ministry and mission.
 
Thus, the Church of England – as in ACANZP, our Church in New Zealand – faces a crisis of confidence. Will the Church bow down to the fundamentalists on matters of sexuality and gender? Or will it move into the 21st century understanding of these issues – on the basis of the Church being open to ALL people – a Hospital for Sinners, rather than a Museum for Saints – bearing in mind that all humanity lies in the first category, with very few of us qualifying for sainthood.
 
‘Justification’, in Christian terms, lies securely in our memberships of the Body of Christ, who ‘died for us sinners’; rather than in the false understanding that we can somehow earn our own salvation by our ‘good’ behaviour. (parable of the Publican and the sinner).
 
Here is the Church Times Editorial on the situation in the Church of England:
 
“The direction of travel is towards liberal­isation. The sticking point is how to accomplish this without com­promising the consciences of conservatives or triggering an exodus — or, at least, too much of one. The lesson learnt by most during the Shared Conversations was that it is possible to respect the opinions of another without relinquishing one’s own views. But the growth of what has been, in essence, a greater sense of perspective exposed the few who cannot see sexuality as anything other than a communion-breaking matter.”
 
My own view, after discussing this matter endlessly here on New Zealand conservative blog-sites, has come down to thinking that, in order to preserve its own integrity, the Church of England (and ACANZP in New Zealand), needs to go forward in the only direction indicated by the Gospel imperative. The Church will not expel those who think differently; if they decide to go,they will be excommunicating themselves – a matter for their own private consciences – something sacred to each one of us.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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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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