GAFCON UK Statement on remembering senior churchmen who have recently died.
We note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement offering condolences on the death of David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham. The Archbishop’s tribute makes no mention of the issue for which Dr Jenkins was best known, namely his public denial of miracles in the New Testament, including the Virgin Birth and the Physical Resurrection of Christ in the mid 1980’s.
In one sense, God used this churchman’s revisionist theology for good. The national media correctly identified the anomaly of a senior Bishop publicly questioning core doctrines of the church. This created a debate in the nation about the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and enabled many Christians to use the issue as a way of discussing the Gospel with friends and neighbours. The controversy also ensured that other Bishops who may have held similar views have largely kept quiet on this issue since.
But on the other hand, it is deplorable when church leaders use their position to teach, as the Ordinal puts it, “erroneous and strange doctrines”, and promote a version of Christian faith which denies the clear witness of Scripture. This creates serious division, and fatally undermines the mission of the Church. Tragically, some Bishops today are guilty of the same error as Dr Jenkins, for example in publicly questioning or denying biblical teaching on sex and marriage.
While we would want to offer our condolences to Dr Jenkins’ family and wish them well as they remember the Bishop’s good qualities, we would prefer to offer tributes to two other Anglican leaders who have recently died. J. Alec Motyer was a theologian and educator who influenced many with his faithful expositions of Scripture; Bishop John Ball was motivated by love for Jesus in his work as a missionary in East Africa and in his leadership of Crosslinks. We give thanks for their adherence to God's word, and their fruitful ministries.