The End of (the) Communion? (i) What has been said?

Andrew Goddard writes: On Tuesday at the Lambeth Conference there were a number of significant developments in relation to the questions of sexuality and ecclesiology. The Global South, headed by Archbishop Justin Badi of South Sudan, issued a resolution in relation to Lambeth I.10 with a covering explanatory letter. Archbishop Justin Welby also issued a letter to the bishops and then spoke, providing more details, at the beginning of the session on the controversial Call on Human Dignity. His speech clearly had a major impact on the gathering which gave him a standing ovation. From within the Church of England Bishop Jill Duff wrote that “As he spoke, it felt like there was a heaviness of the presence of the Spirit of God in the room” and Bishop Sophie Jelley tweeted,

From Canada, Bishop Jenny Andison, a conservative bishop, was reported as saying, “He shared the pain and the agony on both sides of the issue, all across the Communion. He helped us see each other. People experienced being felt and heard by our chief pastor of the Anglican Communion, and I think that was a gift.”

There is, however, a degree of confusion about what exactly has been said, what it means, and what its implications are for the Communion and then for the Living in Love and Faith process in the Church of England. A significant number of people read it as marking a major shift in the Communion’s previous position into a more “inclusive” stance effectively authorising a range of views. Presiding Bishop of the American church, Bishop Michael Curry, gave voice to this in a video where he highlighted the Call they were discussing and summarised its content in these words: 

We in the Anglican Communion live with a plurality of views on marriage, that there is what might be called the traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman…but that there is another view equally to be respected, a view that includes and embraces same-sex couples who seek the blessing of God on their loving relationships, their commitments, and their families. My friends, I’ve been a bishop 22 years, been a priest over 40 years, and I have to tell you that, as far as I know, that is the first time a document in the Anglican Communion has recognised that there is a plurality of view on marriage…That’s why I say today is a hopeful day.

From New Zealand, Bishop Peter Carrell wrote

Somewhat tentatively, it is possible that today marks a moment in Anglican Communion history in which we have formally recognised that we are a Communion with plural understandings on marriage and human sexuality.

Both of these bishops welcomed this claimed development but others agreed with their interpretation but lamented it: 

All of today’s relentless spin by the Lambeth team, cannot disguise the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, unilaterally declared human sexuality to be adiaphora – ‘a thing indifferent’. Plural truth now reigns, there is no prospect of a resolution of the issue in the future and there will be no attempt to do so.

In what follows I will try to explore what the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote and consider whether this is the best—perhaps only—possible understanding. In a subsequent article I will consider what all this might mean for the Communion and for the Church of England.

What was said? Sexuality and life in communion

The letter sought to “clarify two matters” which could be broadly categorised as relating to sexuality and to life in communion (as in my earlier discussions, here and here, arguing for the need to relate both teaching on sexuality and ecclesiology). In relation to these the speech sought to state “some important principles”, setting out five. Much of both contributions related to expounding the wording of para 2.3 in the Call on Human Dignity. This new wording was introduced after protests about the first draft of the paragraph and its statement that the call was “a reaffirmation of Lambeth I.10”. 

Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity. Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998). Many Provinces continue to affirm that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions” cannot be advised. Other Provinces have blessed and welcomed same sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception. As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.

I discussed this wording and what I saw as the significance of the changes in this earlier article. 

In relation to each of these two areas, the following points in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new statements are particularly worth noting.

Sexuality and the status of Lambeth I.10

The language of reaffirmation of I.10 which appeared in the original version of the Call was removed and was never used by the Archbishop. It is now only found in the Global South’s proposed resolution which they have invited bishops at the Conference to sign. In contrast, the Archbishop is now saying that 

the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence (Letter, similar wording in speech).

The meaning of this is far from clear. The language of “validity” is regularly used in canon law and theology in relation to whether actions produce the intended effects, particularly in relation to sacramental actions in Catholic understanding. This one can speak of a marriage or baptism or ordination as valid or invalid. It is not clear what “validity” means here in relation to I.10. It, and the strange language of “existence”, appears to be a reassurance that the proposed Call does not (as some hoped and others feared) rescind, replace, or invalidate the earlier resolution. This is what the Archbishop of South Africa stated it meant at a Press Conference. As such it represents an important clarification answering one of the concerns of many conservatives. 

This understanding is presumably why it is now thought that reaffirmation of it is not necessary: it continues to have the status it has always had (whatever that was which is a crucial question not really addressed). It is also importantly stressed that this applies to the “whole resolution” and it is claimed that the selective quotation in the Call should make this clear (although viewing only those parts being quoted as still being valid was another possible interpretation of the Call’s wording).

What is not explicitly stated is what is entailed by the resolution’s continued validity, what effects should follow from it being valid in its entirety. The revised Call, however, quotes part of I.10 as “the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole” and so this presumably also remains the case for the whole of I.10. 

Resolution I.10 is, however, in part, a statement which claims its authority derives not simply from being made by bishops gathered together from across the Communion in common counsel but from the teaching of Scripture:

in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage

rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture

In the words of the Global South statement supporting their reaffirmation resolution: “The Resolution does not take its authority from the Lambeth Conference, but from Holy Scripture” (Declaration, 2.2).  Does this not mean that it is still true that any church which uses its autonomy to act against these two statements are rejecting “the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole” concerning “the teaching of Scripture”? Does that not mean “the Anglican Communion as a whole” must then assess its relationship with those churches in the light of that assessment of their actions?

In other words, what prevents the logic of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter leading to this conclusion and thus bringing his position close to that of the Global South?  If this logic is followed is he not at least led to the position of Rowan Williams in the statement he made on his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury twenty years ago:

The Lambeth resolution of 1998 declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion, and what the Communion will and will not approve or authorise. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns or repudiates this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion.

In his contributions on Tuesday, however, the Archbishop clearly reaffirmed only the first of these three points. He did not draw the conclusions about Communion approval or authorisation. He did not refer to actions which create problems for the Communion’s sacramental unity. This points to a fundamental gap and weakness in these otherwise welcome statements about I.10: the lack of reflection on their ecclesiological implications which depends on how we understand “church” and “communion of churches”.

The contributions did however say quite a lot about the actual current situation in the Communion.

The reality of the Communion

The most striking aspect of the Archbishop’s letter and speech for many was his mapping of the “reality of life in the Communion today” (Letter). Here he helpfully expanded on the “Many Provinces…Other Provinces…” in the wording of the Call by writing in relation to “many” that “I think we need to acknowledge it’s the majority” (Letter). He then went further and stated that “For the large majority of the Anglican Communion the traditional understanding of marriage is something that is understood, accepted and without question, not only by Bishops but their entire Church, and the societies in which they live” and that the Call “states as a fact that the vast majority of Anglicans in the large majority of Provinces and Dioceses do not believe that a change in teaching is right” (though the Call itself does not explicitly state it is “the vast majority”). The reality of course is that only 5 of the 42 provinces have in some way officially disregarded I.10 (US, Brazil, Wales, Scotland, and New Zealand) with 2 others unclear or allowing diocesan local options (Canada and Australia) and, given how comparatively small these provinces are, probably 90% to 95% of Anglicans worship in churches which uphold traditional teaching – this is not a 52:48 situation!

His description of the minority viewpoint was that “They have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change. They are not careless about scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature”. This assessment, expanding the Call’s wording, has been questioned by those unhappy with these developments. It is certainly clear—as the Global South are emphasising—that differences over the authority of Scripture and what amounts to being “careless about Scripture” are an area of fundamental disagreement. For example, many would welcome the honesty but lament the conclusions of the Church in Wales bishops who justified introducing same-sex blessings by explaining (italics added) they were departing from what is found in the Bible:

In the view of the bench, the Scriptures condemn “porneia”, unbridled lust, in which sexual activity is divorced from faithful and mutual commitment. It is true that in Scripture such faithful commitment is always portrayed as between a man and woman in covenanted union (marriage), and all other sexual activity, including references to same-sex activity, is portrayed as an expression of porneia. However, with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries, we believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way, and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated. 

The Archbishop also sought in his speech to set out the similarities between the two opposing approaches:

For the large majority….to question this teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries would make the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For many churches to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.

For a minority we can say almost the same… For them, to question this different teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries is making the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For these churches not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.

These descriptions have the ring of truth of about them but raise a number of crucial questions. Firstly, the forms of “derision, contempt and even attack” that Anglicans face are very different in the Global South compared to the Global North as he himself made clear back in 2014. Secondly, the minority churches in contexts where traditional teaching may lead to derision and contempt are shrinking but those in most of the majority churches are growing. In America it is those Anglicans who left TEC to form ACNA (upholding counter-cultural Communion teaching) which are growing and there is evidence of a similar pattern within the Church of England including, despite widespread assumptions to the contrary, even in relation to children and young people (report here, especially pp. 28-29). Thirdly, it needs to be asked how important it should be in the church’s discernment whether or not their surrounding culture views their judgment as worthy of “derision, contempt and even attack”? It is difficult, in the light of both Old and New Testaments, not least 1 Peter (e.g. 1:1, 2:11; 3:14ff; 4:3-4) which the Conference is studying, to give great theological weight to this as a criterion of truthfulness and faithfulness. Finally, is there not something seriously wrong with any church that (given the overwhelming weight of both Christian tradition and the church today and the novelty of their minority position) finds that “to question this different teaching is unthinkable” and believes that “not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence”? Is it surprising that many find it difficult to recognise as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church a church that not only questions and rejects traditional teaching but now finds its very existence is challenged by that teaching and, in what might be described as revisionist fundamentalism, views it as unthinkable to question their own novel understanding?

Unfortunately, in explaining what has led to this distinction between majority and minority views, the Archbishop in both his letter and speech quoted, seemingly with approval, the Call’s language that this has been due to “a process of reception”. As I explored previously, with reference to The Windsor Report, this is a misuse of the language of reception. It gives an unwarranted veneer of ecclesial respectability to the actions. A particular church cannot unilaterally reject the consensus fidelium and claim that doing so constitutes a process of reception that the rest of the church must therefore respect (and, it now seems, also enter into itself). The true ecclesial character of such actions was much better described by the Primates in 2016 when they described the move to same-sex marriage as among “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity” which “are considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion”.

In a case of “the dog that didn’t bark in the night” perhaps the most significant aspect of Tuesday’s letter and speech was the continued total lack of any reference to the decisions and actions of the Primates in 2016 or to the underlying ecclesiology of their actions as articulated in The Windsor Report and the Anglican Communion Covenant. The language of mutuality, accountability, and interdependence is totally missing.

These two documents are now outdated and tragically overtaken by events in terms of their recommendations or viability as a covenant agreed by provinces (as I described here and here). There is, however, still no clarity as to whether their underlying ecclesiology (which has been developed among Anglicans over decades and, more recently, ecumenically) has been discarded and what, if anything, has replaced it. The message from Cardinal Koch, read on Thursday at the Conference, demonstrates, for those with ears to hear, how  questions about ecumenical relations and the unity we seek are inextricably connected with questions about our understanding of the reality of Communion life and our mission to the world.

The Archbishop also told the bishops that “As is said in the letter, and I re-emphasise, there is no mention of sanctions, or exclusion, in 1.10 1998” and that “I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so”. The first statement is obviously correct as the Conference did not envisage such a clear statement of biblical teaching would be simply ignored. It again fails, however, to acknowledge that when I.10 was disregarded the Communion clearly did explore possible sanctions of various forms including “as an absolute last resort, withdrawal from membership” (para 157 of The Windsor Report). The second statement also fails to recognise that there are powers which, while not amounting to discipline or exclusion of a church, are significant. The Archbishop of Canterbury has authority not to invite bishops to the Lambeth Conference which Archbishop Rowan did but Archbishop Justin declined to do. In addition, the Constitution of the ACC (7.2) gives the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (on which the Archbishop of Canterbury sits as President of the ACC) authority, subject to a veto from the Primates, to alter the schedule of the member churches of the ACC. The actions of the Primates in 2016 also shows that the corporate Instruments have what could be described as a certain “authority to discipline” in relation to the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and representation of the Communion in ecumenical dialogues.

Division and Plurality

Overall, the Archbishop has said much of importance about the current state of the Communion. He has acknowledged that “We are deeply divided. That will not end soon” (Speech) and “that Lambeth 1.10 itself continues to be a source of pain, anxiety and contention among us” (Letter). But, as in relation to the significance of I.10, questions of ecclesiology and how we understand “church” and “communion of churches” have been left largely hanging. His speech concludes by reminding the bishops, “We are a Communion of Churches, not a single church”. However, both his letter and speech say little or nothing about the fact that we claim to be such a communion within “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” and that we have developed teaching as to the nature of that one church of Christ and what it means to be a communion of churches within it.

One conclusion that has, understandably, been drawn from this omission is that the description offered here of the reality of the Communion is what we need to come to terms with in the sense of accepting this reality and working with it. As a friend summed it up to me: “He simply surveys the landscape and declares. This is us. All will have a prize”.  On this understanding, the Archbishop is saying that the diversity of responses to I.10 is something to which we have to reconcile ourselves. There is, on this understanding, nothing wrong with a Communion in which, in the words of the Call, there is “a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality” as, in effect this is all adiaphora. We simply have to accept, even welcome, this plurality and “experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue”. The statement “we have a plurality of views” (Letter) should, on this understanding, not be seen as stating a problem, a sign of failure, a consequence of sin and disobedience. Another conclusion, however, would be that while we do indeed need to come to terms with this reality we need to do so guided by a normative vision, shaped by Scripture and tradition, of what the church and a communion of churches should look like. I will explore these different interpretations further in the following article. 

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF.


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63 thoughts on “The End of (the) Communion? (i) What has been said?”

  1. Interesting to see that +Michael Curry is all for plurality and agreeing to disagree; my impression was that he’s not so generous in his own Province? Or am I misremembering?

    • He agrees that he can disagree with us, but he disagrees that we can disagree with him.

      If you call it liberalism, diversity, inclusion, then it will be a year or two before people twig that it is the opposite.

    • Michael Curry justifies his opinions with his ongoing “Love” theme, not scripture references! Did you happen to hear his sermon on “Love”at Harry and Megan’s wedding? The Episcopal Church encouraged Dioceses in the US to recommend his book on “Love” as a Lenten reading this year. He recently issued a public statement from TEC after the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs Wade that he supported abortions for any reason.

  2. Ian,
    The definition of marriage is given in Genesis 2:24 as well as the reason. It is repeated in Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:7-9, and Ephesians 5:28. Thus, both the OT and NT reiterates the definition as between a man and a woman, male and female. The definition of marriage, while still in the Garden of Eden, before the sin of Adam and Eve, indicates God’s divine purpose BEFORE human governments and the church were in existence. Thus, human governments nor the Church have the authority to change that definition, In fact, to do so makes governments and the Church complicit in the sins of the people who are so engaged in their immoral behavior. The Church is responsible to repeat what Jesus said to the woman caught in Adultery, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

  3. As a Jewish disciple of Jesus who is a member of a Parochial Church Council within the Church of England, I am staggered at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s acceptance of a ‘plurality of views’ on this subject.

    I cannot imagine any of my Jewish ancestors who maintained the teaching given to Moses by God on this subject despite the widespread prevalence of homosexuality in the cultures where many of them lived in exile being willing to turn their backs on our Father in order to follow the world.

    As for those who claim to have come to different conclusions from Scripture, their arguments remind me, I am afraid, of the arguments used by Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. They take scriptures out of context and then apply them falsely.

    Presiding Bishop of TEC Michael Curry’s emphasis on love but not justice smacks of traditional Marcionism and it is instructive to remind ourselves what the Church did about Marcion – it did not accept that it contained a ‘plurality of views’, but instead expelled him as a heretic. Perhaps the Church needs to rediscover a passion for the truth and condemn some of the heresy coming out of places like the Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales? This is probably far too radical for many Anglicans, but what a signal it would send that truth and error cannot be allowed to coexist within the church and that false shepherds have no place whatsoever in the church, let alone as bishops and archbishops.

    • This is probably far too radical for many Anglicans.
      Yes, but Jesus calls us to be radical, because he himself was. Most of the ‘communion’ does not hear that call – one may doubt whether it has the Holy Spirit at all – but it is good to hear that you do.

  4. Following Bryant J Williams III observation that the definition of marriage is given in Genesis 2:24, I’d like to point out that this definition does not involve the church, it doesn’t involve some priest officiating up front.

    From the C. of E. point of view, my suggestion to them would be to not do church marriages if the whole business becomes such a contentious issue. Church marriage involves either having to listen to `good advice’ from someone who thinks they know better. It involves listening to a sermon where either the person giving the sermon is telling the couple what to do, or else it taking the Blackadder Christmas Carol point of view – ‘the couple getting married are all right – unlike some of real chancers out there whom I have seen in my time’ followed by some juicy examples.

    Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Christians have to marry in a church.

    So my first suggestion would be that the C. of E. dumps marriage and doesn’t involve itself when two people decide to get married.

    Secondly, why not dump the bread-and-wine ceremony? Then you wouldn’t have the situation of some bishops refusing to participate. I agree that this one was instituted in Scripture and Jesus says, ‘this do’ – so we seem to be breaking a commandment, or at the very least deviating from an exhortation from Our Lord if we do dump the bread-and-wine ceremony. But I see it in the same way as the bronze serpent – this had led to idolatry, so Hezekiah quite rightly had it smashed to pieces. If we look at all the confuffle surrounding the bread-and-wine ceremony, we see that what was intended as a sign of fellowship has now become a sign of division.

  5. 1. An intelligent person, than whom there are plenty more intelligent, speaks at short notice.

    2. Cue endless chatter about his words (which, however, halfbaked, are apparently to be regarded as significant), rather than trumping them with the words of the more intelligent.

    That is certainly worth spending multiple millions on, especially if nothing is to be resolved at the end of it.

    Look at it spiritually. What structures do we see?

    The (self-fulfilling) cancer of fatalism and negativity: ‘We are deeply divided. That will not end soon.’.

    The cancer of the affluent privileged west’s triviality in the face of a life-and-death battle and total absorption with the gossipy stuff because it is more fun short term. (It calls forth endless refutations point by point, as things full of fallacies and flaws are bound to do.)

    The cancer of shorttermism.

    The cancer of captivity to cultural conformity. Look at the countries who signed (USA, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Brazil) and see the correlation with the nature of their cultures.

    All because of giving a foothold at an early stage, as the pentecostal and catholic churches failed to do.

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost….for want of the rider the kingdom was lost.

  6. It is easy to worship together. It is easy to pray together. It is easy to share Communion, as one man is not responsible for the sins of another. But what never happens at Lambeth conferences or interdenominational meetings is to share Bible study together. The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, and altogether too sharp for some people.

        • That is *exactly* what would be beneficial and Christian – think of the benefits.

          The words about their endless prayer and study etc which has supposedly led them to a conclusion the diametric opposite of the text but ‘coincidentally’ in line with their transient culture – does this mean that each of the individuals has done major prayer and study on this?

          I do not remotely believe it. Does anyone? Is it one of those polite things people think they are supposed to say without any evidence? It is a cliche as far as I can see. Where is the evidence for it? I am sure *some* have done *some*. All the data says liberals pray less and study the bible less anyway.

          • “All the data says liberals pray less and study the bible less anyway.”

            This is another of your gigantic generalisations Christopher!
            1. Please point to the peer reviewed study that says “liberals pray less and study the bible less anyway.”
            2. What definition of liberal are you using? Note that many will be liberal is some matters, like the ordination of women, but conservative on other matters. You are, once again, using a very general term to try and claim something specific

          • You call it a generalisation *before* showing familiarity with even one piece of data?

            Are we to regard that as typical?

            Large scale Pew Research Religious Landscape survey 2014.

            Those who call themselves evangelical or born again are c.85% in saying prayer is important to them, ditto church attendance. it is 50-52% for other Christians who don’t own those labels.

            As to Bible study, the whole point of being evangelical is the Bible, and having worked with all kinds of Christian groups for all my working life and before, I know the disparities here.

            Every study I have seen says much the same thing, but it would also be counterintuitive if it did not.

          • And that has been peer reviewed?
            1. It counts Christian Scientists, Mormons and JWs as Christians. That isn’t a universal assessment.
            2. Your claim was about liberals. Nowhere does that piece of research say anything about liberals. It doesn’t even use the term. Not once.

          • So you think a lot of Liberals either don’t identify as ‘Christian’ or are happy to call themselves evangelical or born again??

            Even if one or two were, how are you going to bridge the gap between early 50%s and mid 80%s?

          • I think quite a lot of Roman Catholics (over 50% of the world’s Christians) identify as liberal on quite a number of issues. But what I think isn’t relevant to the general claims you have made. And as you can’t say what you mean by liberal, and as the one piece of research – which doesn’t seem to be peer reviewed – you quote never even uses the term, there is no way of having any meaningful discussion here. And as per Ian’s request, I will not be responding any further.

          • Exactly. The Catholics might well be among the 50%ers not the 85%ers. Catholic vs Evangelical Bible knowledge discrepancies are among the first things one notices, & I have had extensive time with both.

    • I meant share Bible study on subjects of contention. There is plenty in I Peter to reflect on at this conference. Taking passages straight from the ESV:

      As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

      If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.

      I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

      Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. … Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel.

      The spirits [were] in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah. [Those who do not obey now run the same risk, Matt 24:37.]

      Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality.

      The end of all things is at hand.

      • Except Steven,
        If I’m not mustaken, and if I am others no dout will be quick to correct, outcome of their studies is that homosexuality can be holy.

    • “what never happens at Lambeth conferences or interdenominational meetings is to share Bible study together.” This is complete nonsense. A manifest untruth. The Bible is central at these events – but not all agree with what you think it says on certain issues. Quite apart from the considerable time being given to studying scripture at the Lambeth Conference (I was there), did you know, that for the past year bishops from around the world have been regularly meeting in small groups on zoom precisely to study and pray together? The issue is not Bible (evangelicals) or no bible (the rest), but how the scriptures are interpreted. And I note that even careful, conservative bible readers here can be found disagreeing on that.

      • I can understand why a particular verse could be interpreted in more than one way. But you are speaking as though the entire Bible in all its diversity is interpreted, point-by-point, one way by one group and a noticeably different way by another group? Yet ‘the Bible’ is not saying one thing but thousands of things. All of these are susceptible to polar differences in understanding? You are saying there is a coherent pattern of difference on all these? As one often says, the greater the generalisation, then….

  7. Humpty Dumpty sat in the fence
    Humpty Dumpty caused no offence
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again

  8. It strikes me that the Anglican Communion can be compared to the Baptist Union of Great Britain, with each province being equivalent to a local church. Within the Baptist Union, they all share a history and an identity that binds together, but each church is also seen as not only interdependent, but also independent. The only form of ‘discipline’ is to expel from the Union (& churches are free to withdraw). Within this Union are different traditions, cultures and (apposite in this case) approaches to sexuality and gender. Many Baptist churches are non-affirming; a minority (but growing) are affirming & registering for same-sex marriages.

    Don’t know if it helps either the Baptists or the Anglicans; I’ve only just noticed the parallel & the idea may be not useful when interrogated properly.

      • Is is also, strictly speaking, not true. 😉

        Because the BU holds extremely limited power over individual congregations, it cannot reliably enforce any doctrinal position on them, and nor does it want to. If the BU holds the building, then I suppose it can technically ‘evict’ a church membership from their premises if there is sufficient difference (although I don’t know if this has ever happened), but usually what happens is fellow Baptist churches simply cease talking to each other, cease giving towards the BU, and no longer have a relationship with the regional associations. It is rare anyone is ‘cast out’, the differing churches tend instead to ‘drift away’. That’s over-simplifying it a bit though, forgive me.

        More often what the BU does (as the professional accrediting body for Baptist ministers) is withdraw accreditation. In practice this doesn’t make as much difference as it probably should, as Baptist churches have the power to call anyone to lead them, accredited or not, but it is over this battleground (accreditation rules) that the current debate about SSM in the BU is taking place.

        If you’ll permit me a little explanation for context….

        In short, yes, individual churches are at liberty to take many different stances on the issue of SSM. Baptist churches can register to conduct SSMs, and Baptists ministers can conduct them, and indeed some do. Affirming Baptists remain a not-insignificant minority however. Similarly, Baptist ministers are able to teach and advocate for SSM according to their conscience, and again, many do. These things are subject to a church meeting agreeing them.

        However, while a baptist church can legally register itself for SSM, wherein the minister can advocate and hold an affirming position for SSM, and where him/herself can conduct them, the accreditation rules prevent said minister from themselves being IN a SSM still.

        There are therefore two different standards for churches and minsiters. The former can essentially believe what they like (within the (extremely broad!) confines of the Declaration of Principle), the latter similar, but not quite. The accreditation rules are once again up for debate at Baptist Council, they were discussed as recently as March, but everything is a huge mess, and we do have to work within an odd double standard..

        If time permitted, I’d write something more lengthy. Or maybe I’ll email Andy Goodif and ask him to do it, as he did a wonderful summary of where we are and how we got here in the Baptist Ministers’ Journal. 😉

        Blessings, Mat

        • I shouldn’t write comments this close to midnight at the weekend. This is a mess. Apologies if it makes things unclear.

          • Mat,
            That’s actually not a bad summary of where Baptist churches are on this issue. As you imply, the very high level of self-autonomy that Baptist churches enjoy have to a large extent, insulated them from the actions of other individual churches and as you say, the BU cannot enforce jurisdiction over them except in matters of property where the title deeds may be held by the Baptist Corporation.

            However, in the case of the Baptist ministerial recognition rules then this is a national issue. Currently it states that Baptist Ministers in SSM constitutes ‘conduct unbecoming’ and cannot be accredited. There is a vocal minority in the BU who want to see this rule changed and it is proving very divisive.

            Upon reflection, I think this issue is stretching the Declaration of Principle which is the Baptist’s main instrument of unity (and IMO Baptists regard as on par with Holy Writ), to its limits, and it may snap.

            Personally, I am increasingly coming to see that the DoP in its current form is somewhat schizophrenic and like Alice in Wonderland. How two churches can believe two diametrically opposite things and both claim the same Spirit is behind them – is difficult to explain. I think the Anglicans have a similar problem, but it effect them more since as Ian points out, they function differently and are directed more from the centre.

            Jonathan Tallon may have a point when he suggests that the AC may learn something from Baptists in terms f their collegiate structures and associations. I am interested see if an Andrew Goddard’s future articles suggest that the direction of the AC will consist in more of a loose association of provinces and individual churches and that its present form and the way it functions will be no more. I would imagine that such a move both provincially and in the AC at large, would undermine the authority of individual Bishops which I don’t think they would like very much.

            If the Baptist Union does decide to accredit minsters in SSM marriage then it has crossed a line, and has decisively abandoned the historic teaching of the church that marriage is only between a man and a woman. I think that if this occurs, then I would need to consider whether to hand my own accreditation back as I would not want to be accredited by an organisation that accredits sin.

            I know many Baptist accredited minsters and pastors who feel the same way.

        • Many thanks Mat/ Chris. As a non Baptist I had assumed Baptist Churches were overwhelmingly. evangelical. I thought the older liberal Baptist ethos ( was it strong in the NW) had more or less died out. New Rd Oxford where my landlady worshipped seemed somewhat liberal, I don’t know if it still is and Bloomsbury Central. I suppose much applies to the URC though I imagine it is more obviously liberal tho here in Canterbury the URC church seems to be charismatic evangelical.

  9. “From within the Church of England Bishop Jill Duff wrote that “As he spoke, it felt like there was a heaviness of the presence of the Spirit of God in the room”

    There can only be two outcomes to this statement. Anyone at that conference speaking according to the Will of the Holy Spirit as clearly revealed in Scripture will be strengthened…

    ….but anyone making statements that openly contradict the Will of the Holy Spirit as clearly revealed in Scripture, and therefore directly insulting and opposing the Holy Spirit by making false claims “the Spirit is doing some new thing” in direct contradiction of Scripture, is heading towards “eschatological excommunication”.

    Let’s put it to the test and see who the Holy Spirit is resting on….

    • It is not clear what Bp Duff means.

      Does she mean Isa. 61.3’s ‘spirit of heaviness’

      or Bp Sophie Jelley’s ‘God powerfully present in the room’?

      The two are opposites.

  10. Gill Duff meant the second inference – in effect, engaging in a form of pneumatological invocation and further suggesting a form of (implicate) sacramental epiclesis resting on or “hovering over” certain statements being made in the course of the discussions on Resolution 1.10 – but it will become manifestly clear whom the Holy Spirit is resting on and who falls within the scope of 1 Samuel 15:26.

    • Apologies Jill Duff. The thing about Discernment – as in discerning the presence of the Holy Spirit, is in effect it falls within a prophetic category and that has certain implications…

      • Among liberals, the ‘Holy Spirit’ moves with society (or rather their particular society in their particular era). ‘The Holy Spirit’ is (as has often been said) easily the most abused concept.

        Bishop Jill Duff contributed to The Beautiful Story. One bishop that spoke for so many. Speaking the truth not communityspeak or culturespeak.

        The particular speech occasioning the applause was associated with the demotion of a prime issue to the category of adiaphora.

  11. “the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence (Letter, similar wording in speech).”

    Here ++Welby is recognising the de jure status of Lambeth I.10, while elsewhere he recognises a de facto plurality across the AC.

    In other words, although plurality on sexuality is not de jure, if a de facto union meets a province’s stated criteria for formalisation (common residence, sexual relationship, financial interdependence and support, jointly owned property, mutual commitment, care and support of children, public standing as a couple, length of the relationship), then that province is free to grant certain accommodations to the couple, even if they are not recognised by other conservative provinces.

    Although this means that these de facto unions are not normatively recognised throughout the AC, it does give more progressive provinces some latitude to accommodate or even fully recognise them (albeit non-normatively).

    I’m not a fan, but it’s a very Anglican fudge. Nevertheless, accommodating same-sex couples as de facto unions, while maintaining the de jure status of Lambeth I.10, was probably the only ‘card’ left for ++Welby to play in this episcopal poker game.

    • How low can one set the bar?
      It is ‘still in existence’?
      Well, strike me pink. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Did anyone realise it was still in existence?
      Did anyone doubt it?
      What is the substance of the point?
      Why all this meaningless political language when there are people who can speak straight and true?

      • While one Bishop is cited as not being able to support exclusion fron the AC, an exclusion that amounts to the exercise of discipline within the AC as Oliver Harrison ha pointed out above, renegade Bishops are keen to exercise internal discipline on individuals who oppose the new iron clad fist of division and exclusion.
        In England, rev Dr Bernard Randall seems to have fallen foul of the new revisionism, where the helium balloon of pluralism has been popped
        So much for the reality.

        • It’s Love.
          (Or the propaganda is: This is what love looks like.)
          Hence the fact that Bp Love was actually the victim, the collateral damage, is a parable.
          Love Wins – is the propaganda.
          Love Is The Loser In All This, Love Gets It In The Neck – is the reality.

  12. Having just read Jill Duff’s words to which Andrew gave the link, I have not the first idea what she was on about. Frankly she seemed to have had a severe emotional experience but was unable to articulate how it related to the hard issues under discussion. Are we talking about Jill’s conversion to revisionism? Has the incoherence of ‘good disagreement’ morphed into full unity around the truth? If so, what truth?

    Seriously, I find her piece in Premier Christianity very concerning – even more so if it is describing an evangelical’s final surrender to spiritual psychobabble (feelings centred theology).

    We will need open reporting, hard thinking and honest analysis after Lambeth 2022 before any conclusions can be drawn but so far I’m getting the impression that there’s been the mother and father of stitchups. And, given recent history, that would come as no surprise.

    • Well, the linked article by Duff, is a far cry from Revivals, such as the Welsh Revival: deep conviction of sin, repentance, conversion.
      Or, Jock, from even the Lowestoft revival.
      Or, from David Pytches.
      The Holy Spirit will not contradict scripture.

      • Geoff – yes – I agree – the Anglicans have given up; the `good’ Anglicans seem punch-drunk to me. Taken one hit too many – are looking for survival rather than revival; on the defensive rather than taking the good fight to the enemy.

        I think it’s all part of being a State church. If Her Majesty, who is earthly head of the church, has signed acts of parliament, putting into law various things stating that certain things are legal, it would probably be very difficult for the church of which she is head to take a different line ……

      • So what was the deep sense of presence that the participants got? It could develop into (become apparent that it was) a malign spirit instead. Or it could be an overwhelming healing love so strong that it brings truth in its train. Or it could be the natural high from a climactic (and relatively undemanding) jamboree and meeting of souls. However, these are so different from one another that few could not have had the discernment to know which.

        • Christopher – the shirt that Justin Wellby is wearing in the picture above looks rather similar to something that the former Beetle George Harrison was wearing when he was chanting Hare Krishna. This observation may help to elucidate what may have been going on in terms of any mystical feelings.

          • I enjoyed my PhD on mystical feelings and the like. By their fruits you shall know them (was the last line). These become apparent as they develop over time.

          • Christopher – is it possible that they were smoking marrywanna? That might explain the heavy atmosphere which they attributed to the Spirit, their mystical feelings and why they ended up having a love-in.

          • Hmmm. I read somewhere that the incense recipe used by the high priest in the OT had hashish in it. To be used only by the high priest, once a year. Is hat true or my imagination?

  13. When the leader of a communion of churches arrives at a decision that is not in accordance with the scriptures why do people stay with those churches?
    Surely there are plenty of other Christian churches outside of Anglicanism that hold to the scriptures, do not bend in line with modern thought and would welcome you.

    • I can’t think of a single denomination that opposes usury (the lending of money at interest). It is forbidden in the Bible (OT & NT) yet is the foundation of capitalism. Of course that’s no reason to sell the pass on marriage, divorce and sexuality (in fact it’s a reason not to) but we’re less Biblical than we think.

    • I left, or perhaps I should say my Episcopal Church left me after 47 years of a very active worship and church fellowship experience. My beloved parish church is conservative, but I just could not be a hypocrite to God’s Word under the national leadership of TEC. I now belong to an orthodox Anglican Church using the 1928 prayer book.

    • It’s difficult to find a “does not bend in line with modern thought” church that doesn’t operate like a cult. I turned my back on a normal gay life when I became a Christian but the controlling nature of the evangelical churches I have encountered so far has put me off going to church altogether.

      • Joe S – yes, I’ve seen the controlling nature of ‘serious’ churches – and this is something that has also put me off church altogether. Right now I’m not involved with any church – and it’s precisely the issue of keeping my young son away from anything cult-like or controlling that keeps me uninvolved. (If it wasn’t for my son – and the overwhelming imperative to protect him from weirdness – I’d probably take the view that a Christian has to get involved with some church.)

    • Thanks Ian,
      That is helpful. More important it is clear.
      Could someone clarify the authority the Archbishop of Canterbury has? Is it in line with what Welby is quoted as saying.
      Or is it just his plural understanding.
      Is it a divergence from historical precedent and vested authority of office?
      Is whatever authority the office has limited to England and even then is there authority to exercise discipline?


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