The Bishops’ Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships: a response from GAFCON UK
GAFCON UK is grateful that with this statement, the Church of England has ruled out any intention to change its teaching on marriage. The Bishops have taken seriously the views of the global Anglican Communion and the need to maintain consistency with historic and apostolic teaching, while admitting the serious differences in interpretation of this deposit.
We appreciate the witness of those who have upheld the biblical teaching of the Church during the discussions of the House of Bishops and the Reflection Group.
We agree that all Church of England congregations should provide a generous welcome to every person, and to treat all with respect and love regardless of sexual orientation, relationship history and ideology, providing pastoral care and godly guidance for all who seek it. It is our earnest prayer that the Good News of forgiveness of sin, empowering of the Holy Spirit, and fulfilment through a relationship with Jesus Christ lived in obedience to his Word, will be made available to all through the ministry of our churches.
The Report as a whole requires a much fuller response than we can give here. However we do not have confidence that this document will guarantee the maintenance of orthodoxy within the Church of England for the future. We need to express our serious reservations about the many ambiguities in the text relating to how we as Anglicans understand truth and goodness, sin and salvation, and how we should carry out pastoral and liturgical practice.
We see the document as giving a rationale for maintaining the current position, but along with many faithful Anglicans in England we believe that the current position is not at all satisfactory, as it involves a lack of clarity about our message, openness to revisionist theology and practice, and further conflict within the church. We do not agree that the holding of contradictory views in the same church while avoiding rancour and separation is somehow a sign of the Kingdom of God (para 8). We are concerned that the emphasis on freedom given to clergy in terms of pastoral practice, and the possibility of further revision to the church’s teaching in future, will do nothing to prevent a trajectory which aligns with the ethics of contemporary culture rather than the challenging but life-giving teaching of the Bible.
The prayer for Bishops at the beginning of their service of consecration says this:
ALMIGHTY God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy holy Apostles many excellent gifts, and didst charge them to feed thy flock: Give grace, we beseech thee, to all Bishops, the Pastors of thy Church, that they may diligently preach thy Word, and duly administer the godly discipline thereof… (Ordinal, Book of Common Prayer).
It continues to be our prayer that the bishops of the Church of England would indeed return to the standards set out in the Ordinal. Meanwhile GAFCON UK will continue its work of setting out a vision for biblically faithful Anglicanism inspired by the example of our global partners with whom we share the same unambiguous confession of faith. Where, however, in weeks and months to come, Episcopal leadership in our land appears to be absent, or actively permitting changes to the church’s teaching and practice, GAFCONUK stands ready to respond to calls to establish necessary alternative spiritual guidance and oversight from those who find themselves in impaired communion with their Bishops over this issue.
THE GAFCONUK TASK FORCE
Canon Andy Lines
Mrs Lorna Ashworth
Mr Dan Leafe
Revd James Paice
Revd Andrew Symes