In this video, Archbishop Ben expresses gratitude for the Gafcon movement and for the privilege of serving in this role for the past five years.
Church of England: Same sex blessings
On 12th December, a Press release from the Church of England said the bishops had agreed that the prayers designed of celebrate and bless same sex couples can be used as part of regular scheduled services from December 17th. ‘Standalone’ services, and ‘pastoral provision’ for those who do not agree, such as some kind of alternative oversight, will be considered later. 11 out of the 38 bishops voted against the proposals.
The 40 page ‘Pastoral Guidance’ which accompanies the press release makes clear that the Prayers “are not a form of Holy Matrimony”, although they can be offered in church to same sex couples who have entered a civil marriage. The prayers assume that same sex relationships are compatible with authentic discipleship, as they “ask for God’s grace in the holy ordering of companionship and godly love as they [the couple] follow Christ and seek to grow in holiness.” Churches are free to decide not to offer the prayers, but if so, they should “signpost” same sex couples to those which do.
The Guidance recognises the disagreement that this new theological thinking and practice will bring about in local churches, and offers suggestions as to how discussion can be carried out sensitively among leaders in local congregations, and between clergy and couples who might want a blessing when the clergy/PCC do not agree. There is also a recognition of the threat of social media attacks, ‘no-platforming’ (eg by schools withdrawing access to a local vicar with conservative views), and even legal action, but the document appears to suggest that such difficulties can be resolved with winsomeness and advice from Diocesan experts.
The Anglican Network in Europe has immediately responded, describing the bishops’ decision as one which “arrogantly rejects the authority of scripture and cravenly follows the latest trends in Western secular culture.” ANiE is commended as “a way of being authentically Anglican apart from Canterbury-aligned structures… for those who cannot in good conscience remain in a Church which flagrantly abandons the teaching of Scripture.”
More responses to Synod’s decision in November
“From the historic formularies of Anglicanism, Bishops are called to defend the Church against error ...It is incongruous and palpably disingenuous for Bishops to claim that they are not changing the doctrine of the church on marriage, while simultaneously commissioning prayers and blessing for gay couples in the Church.”
CEEC begins to offer informal and temporary oversight which they hope “will serve as a stepping-stone to the formal and permanent provision which we hope and pray will be agreed as part of a new structural arrangement and settlement.”
Anglican Futures: In search of “Formal Structural Pastoral Provision” - a suggestion for discussion. CEEC has consistently called for a “settlement”, whereby a separate structure within the Church of England can be created, clearly “differentiated”, with its own bishops and commitment to protection of the conservative position on sexual ethics and other theological issues. What might this formal arrangement look like, and how might it be achieved? Anglican Futures explores this in detail by imagining a model that could work, with advantages and disadvantages.
Meanwhile in an interview with Coalition for Marriage, Dr Ian Paul takes a more optimistic line. He believes that the attempt by the Bishops to introduce blessings for same sex couples will fail, as the move will not withstand legal scrutiny. Rather than plan for differentiation or separation, orthodox Anglicans should continue to pressurise the bishops to abandon the blessings and return to the historic teachings of the church on marriage, which remain the law of the land, and confidently proclaim the gospel call to repent and believe in Christ.
However, Dr Paul has not convinced the majority of bishops, as shown by the 12 December announcement. Also, he admits that the confusion and poor leadership means that increasing numbers will “look elsewhere” outside the Church of England for authentic Christian teaching and community.
Gafcon GBE comment
Gafcon GBE is grateful for the clear lead provided by Gafcon and the GSFA, and echoed by CEEC and ANiE, in saying that the Church of England leadership has crossed a line, and any relationship with them can no longer be regarded as authentic spiritual fellowship.
We will continue to advocate for the development of models of faithful Anglicanism in England, Scotland, Wales and mainland Europe which are inspired by the vision of Gafcon and which look to Gafcon for spiritual leadership. We want to encourage all faithful Anglicans to continue contending for the faith, and to develop growing links with Gafcon.
We encourage those who remain in the historic structures, and new emerging Anglican fellowships under Gafcon jurisdiction, to remain in close fellowship and cooperation in mission in these difficult times.
Other Anglican news
“The synod of the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory adopted a resolution asking the national church allow a local option for dioceses to authorize the blessings... such a resolution is unlikely to pass as a supermajority of Irish Anglicans reside in the conservative northern dioceses and would reject any change to church teaching.”
Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen, one of the founder member churches of the Anglican Convocation Europe (ACE), has after nearly five years announced that it has reached an agreement with the Scottish Episcopal Church, whereby the legal separation from SEC is completed and the church building retained by Westhill.
Also, after four years without a Rector, Westhill are delighted that Rev Dave McCarthy has accepted a call to serve with them. Dave has been rector of St Thomas’, Edinburgh since 2014. It is hoped that the new ministry will begin in March 2024. We pray for Westhill and St Thomas at this time of change for both congregations, that both would experience growth and blessing as a result.
Anglican Network in Europe
Please pray for ongoing discussions between representatives of ANiE and the Anglican Missionary Congregations (AMC), exploring closer alignment between the two movements, under Gafcon.
Free Church of England update
The General Secretary reports: “It has been good to work on a Pathway to Ministry for the Denomination, which makes the steps towards ordained ministry clear and deliberate. We are working on the same clarity towards Church Planting in the UK. We would also welcome the prayers of our brothers and sisters as we look intentionally at succession planning within the FCE.”
The Reformed Episcopal Church is an Anglican denomination with strong links to FCE in England. In the US it forms a ‘Subjurisdiction’ of the Anglican Church of North America. See this newsletter for information on the REC ministry in Croatia and Serbia under the leadership of Bishop Jasmin Milic. Please pray especially for their ministry among Roma people in Kapelna, Croatia.
Changing attitudes to death and dying, and opportunities for evangelistic mission.
Think Tank Theos has produced a report, entitled Love, Grief, and Hope: Emotional responses to death and dying in the UK .
The summary concludes: “ours is a society which keeps death at arm’s length and out of sight. Many of us experience bereavement without direct exposure to death, and most do not feel well–prepared for our own deaths…less than half of us (47%) now say we want a funeral at all…The result is a significant realignment in British grieving practices.”
See also: Half of people no longer want a funeral. It’s a worrying trend, by Yvonne Richmond Tulloch, Premier Christianity
“Our society needs to reverse its tendency to push death away and confront the pain of bereavement head on. Churches, and religious services such as funerals, are an important part of that.”
Christianity can only save Western Civilisation if it is true, by Heather Tomlinson, The Critic
“I saw that although the West’s foundations were Christian, its modern construction was doing everything it could to extinguish the faith of its ancestors and deny the existence of anything beyond the material world, despite ample evidence to the contrary. I had been duped by such efforts, and it had done me no good at all. Like Ayaan [Hirsi Ali], I started with practical concerns. Ultimately though, adopting Christianity as merely a helpful belief system is pointless. It has to be true, for it to mean anything at all.”
Some good news from the continent of Europe:
Secular European countries: Gen Z seem more open to faith than their parents.
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* see also this month’s editorial *
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