Monday, 30 June 2008

A New Reformation? The GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration

We are witnessing the beginning of a new Reformation in the Church of England. This morning when the declaration was read to us, it was the most joyful experience in my 25 years as an Anglican minister. I confess that on many occasions, especially in the past ten years, I have been ashamed of being an Anglican. Not anymore. This conference was indeed a miracle of unity, focus and purpose.

There were 1,200 participants from 25 countries including 291 Bishops and 12 Archbishops, representing 40 million out of a total of 55 million Anglicans worldwide. Leaders of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), CMS, Crosslinks, SAMS, CMJ, Anglican Mainstream, Reform, Church Society, Christianity Explored and Oak Hill College also participated.

The failure of the leaders of the Church of England to discipline those who have departed from the faith of the Scriptures and who have promoted a false gospel will no longer be ignored or tolerated. The Lord has raised up a united global leadership within the Anglican communion that is unashamedly committed to the gospel, the authority of scripture and the historic creeds, and I am glad to be alive to be part of this new reformation. The Church of England will never the be the same again. The sleeping giant of evangelical orthodoxy has awakened.

I have appended below the GAFCON statement and declaration. Please read it carefully. I want you to know that I wholeheartedly support the declaration.I also invite you to watch the presentations here http://www.gafcon.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=30

You can view photos of GAFCON Jerusalem here http://picasaweb.google.com/gafcon

For the latest news visit http://www.gafcon.org

My Reflection and PowerPoint on GAFCON (and Audio) delivered at the Christ Church First Wednesday, 2nd July 2008.



STATEMENT ON THE GLOBAL ANGLICAN FUTURE

Praise the LORD!
It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. (Psalm 147:1-2)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, send you greetings from Jerusalem!

Introduction

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which was held in Jerusalem from 22-29 June 2008, is a spiritual movement to preserve and promote the truth and power of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as we Anglicans have received it. The movement is global: it has mobilised Anglicans from around the world. We are Anglican: 1148 lay and clergy participants, including 291 bishops representing millions of faithful Anglican Christians. We cherish our Anglican heritage and the Anglican Communion and have no intention of departing from it. And we believe that, in God’s providence, Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the church on the foundation of biblical truth (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:20).

GAFCON is not just a moment in time, but a movement in the Spirit, and we hereby:

  • launch the GAFCON movement as a fellowship of confessing Anglicans
  • publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of the fellowship
  • encourage GAFCON Primates to form a Council.

The Global Anglican Context

The future of the Anglican Communion is but a piece of the wider scenario of opportunities and challenges for the gospel in 21st century global culture. We rejoice in the way God has opened doors for gospel mission among many peoples, but we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness. The vacuum left by them is readily filled by other faiths and deceptive cults. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches.

The Anglican Communion, present in six continents, is well positioned to address this challenge, but currently it is divided and distracted. The Global Anglican Future Conference emerged in response to a crisis within the Anglican Communion, a crisis involving three undeniable facts concerning world Anglicanism.

The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement. Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life. It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship.

The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel. These declarations have resulted in a realignment whereby faithful Anglican Christians have left existing territorial parishes, dioceses and provinces in certain Western churches and become members of other dioceses and provinces, all within the Anglican Communion. These actions have also led to the appointment of new Anglican bishops set over geographic areas already occupied by other Anglican bishops. A major realignment has occurred and will continue to unfold.

The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline, the authority of the Primates’ Meeting has been undermined and the Lambeth Conference has been structured so as to avoid any hard decisions. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’.

Sadly, this crisis has torn the fabric of the Communion in such a way that it cannot simply be patched back together. At the same time, it has brought together many Anglicans across the globe into personal and pastoral relationships in a fellowship which is faithful to biblical teaching, more representative of the demographic distribution of global Anglicanism today and stronger as an instrument of effective mission, ministry and social involvement.

A Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world.

Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.

The Jerusalem Declaration

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.

The Road Ahead

We believe the Holy Spirit has led us during this week in Jerusalem to begin a new work. There are many important decisions for the development of this fellowship which will take more time, prayer and deliberation. Among other matters, we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. We can, however, discern certain milestones on the road ahead.

Primates’ Council

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.

We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.

We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.

We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

Conclusion: Message from Jerusalem

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, were summoned by the Primates’ leadership team to Jerusalem in June 2008 to deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion for the past decade and to seek direction for the future. We have visited holy sites, prayed together, listened to God’s Word preached and expounded, learned from various speakers and teachers, and shared our thoughts and hopes with each other.

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

It is our hope that this Statement on the Global Anglican Future will be received with comfort and joy by many Anglicans around the world who have been distressed about the direction of the Communion. We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations.

Jerusalem
Feast of St Peter and St Paul
29 June 2008

Most Rev'd Peter Akinola
Most Rev'd Justice Akrofi
Most Rev'd Emmanuel Kolini
Most Rev'd Valentino Mokiwa
Most Rev'd Benjamin Nzimbi
Most Rev'd Henry Orombi
Most Rev'd Gregory Venables

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Florida Outpouring: Revival Fire?

I have just read a four page article by John Buckeridge in the July edition of Christianity entitled "A fresh outpouring?" Its about the controversial ministry of the Canadian preacher Todd Bentley in Florida.

It reads remarkably like the 1995 articles in the same magazine about the Toronto Blessing. That should not surprise us because the same personalities are involved although the techniques to get people "slain in the Spirit" are different. Buckeridge tells us twice, "Occasionally he will prefer to knee a person in the stomach."

If the article is indicative of Bentley's emphasis, the signs are worrying. Healing is mentioned 17 times. God - his power and presence is mentioned 13 times. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 5 times. Jesus is mentioned 4 times although two don't count. One is a reference to Bentley's favourite T'shirt which bears the motif "Jesus loves me and my tatooes".

Buckeridge compares Bentley with Jesus claiming "Christ himself didn't conform to normal religious practice either."
Twice Buckeridge refers to people who have committed their lives to Christ, "having seen God's power to heal at work today."

What is significant is that the gospel is not mentioned once and nor is the cross, nor is repentance. Laurence Singlehurst is wise to conclude that "these events are not 'revival'. No indeed.

You can access several articles evaluating the roots of the Toronto Blessing and the manifestations of this movement here:

1: Introduction
2: The Roots of Toronto
3: The Phenomena Associated with Toronto
4: "Holy Laughter" and Rodney Howard-Browne
5: "The Roaring Lion" and Marc Dupont
6: "Spiritual Warfare" and David Yonggi Cho
7: How Should We Respond to Error?
8: Gamaliel - A Model of Godly Wisdom?
9: The Marks of the Cults
10: Conclusions
Appendix 1: Some Heresies of the "Faith Teachers"

I also wrote an article for a book published by the Evangelical Alliance entitled, The Toronto Blessing : A Sub-Christian Movement, published in Toronto in Perspective (Evangelical Alliance and Paternoster Press 2001)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Archbishop Venables in Fort Worth

GAFCON Leaders Call for Renewal of Anglicanism and Disavow Accusation of Schism

David Virtue comments on developments so far with the GAFCON meeting:

"Leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) reaffirmed the historic faith saying it is the actions of North American liberals that have caused the rift in the Communion. Archbishop Peter Jensen stated that the consecration of a homosexual bishop has made the situation "irreversible" in the Anglican Communion.

Jensen told a press conference that for some GAFCON will be an alternative to Lambeth. Some conservatives will go to one conference and some will go to both conferences (Lambeth and GAFCON). He said GAFCON is not a further cause for schism. "What has happened in the Anglican Communion has rocked us all."

Jensen said a newspaper report in "The Telegraph" newspaper that Anglican Communion leaders meeting in Amman had formally declared the end of the worldwide Anglican Communion was inaccurate. The report said GAFCON leaders would no longer be associated with liberals who tolerate homosexuality.

"If there is a rift, it was caused by the actions of The Episcopal Church in 2003 with the consecration of Gene Robinson. As a result, the Anglican Communion has been damaged. The response to that is that people have been crossing boundaries and consecrating bishops with orthodox people removing themselves from local Anglican churches while wanting to remain Anglicans. We are seeing a reshaping of the (Anglican) landscape, so now we have to work to see what that looks like.

"People talk about schism - breaking away - but as far as I am concerned I am not hearing about breaking up the communion. North Americans have rent the communion. We are trying to renew the communion. I want to see it better than ever before. It will be different, however.

"GAFCON is a movement, not just a convention. It will likely have a future life and the present leadership would take that life on." Jensen said that what that looked like is yet to be discussed."

To read the rest of David Virtue's article visit http://www.virtueonline.org

The GAFCON proceedings can be viewed on www.anglicantv.org

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

GAFCON: The future hope for the Church of England

For the first time ever, only a minority of Anglicans will be represented at Lambeth. The majority will be represented in Amman and Jerusalem by the Bishops attending GAFCON - the Global Anglican Futures Conference. 600 Bishops largely from the West will be at Lambeth while 280 Bishops largely from the Global South (where the majority of Anglicans live) will be in Amman.

A week before the historic GAFCON pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Uganda issued this press release:

Background on GAFCON – Global Anglican Future Conference

What is GAFCON?

GAFCON is the Global Anglican Future Conference (www.gafcon.org) being held in Jerusalem from 22nd – 29th June 2008. There are three purposes:


1. To provide an opportunity for fellowship as well as to continue to experience and proclaim the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

2. To develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.

3. To prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission is a top priority.


Who is organizing GAFCON?
GAFCON was conceived by the Anglican Archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Southern Cone (South America), and Sydney (Australia). Evangelical Anglican Bishops from the UK and the USA were also involved in its organization.

How many people will participate in GAFCON?
More than 1,000 people have registered for GAFCON, including more than 280 Bishops, their wives, clergy and non-ordained church leaders. One hundred and seven (107) people from Uganda will be going, including 34 Bishops.

Why is GAFCON being held in Jerusalem?
GAFCON is essentially a pilgrimage. We are going back to the roots of our faith, to the place where Jesus was born, lived, died, and was raised from the dead.

How is GAFCON different from Lambeth?
The Lambeth Conference of Bishops is held every ten years and will be held this coming July at the University of Kent in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury convenes the Lambeth Conference and invites Bishops and their spouses from all provinces of the Anglican Communion. The purpose of Lambeth is to provide Bishops with an opportunity for worship, study, and conversation about matters that affect the Anglican Communion. GAFCON is different because it includes clergy and non-ordained leaders from the church. GAFCON is the first of its kind and is a one-time event. It is, therefore, not an alternative to Lambeth.

Are the Bishops from the Church of Uganda going to Lambeth?
No. The Church of Uganda Bishops decided together not to go to Lambeth this year. Their decision has been supported by the governing body of the Church of Uganda, the Provincial Assembly Standing Committee. The reason the Church of Uganda is not going to Lambeth is because the purpose of Lambeth is for fellowship among Bishops, and our fellowship has been broken with the American church. We broke fellowship with them for three reasons:

1. In direct violation of the Bible and historic Christian teaching, they consecrated as a Bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship.

2. After five years of pleading with them, listening to them, and giving them many opportunities, they have not repented of that decision.

3. The Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow the advice given to him by his own appointed Commission to not invite to Lambeth those responsible for the confusion and disobedience in the Anglican Communion.

The Bible says, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" We have not been in fellowship with the Americans who have violated the Bible since 2003, so we are not going to pretend by going to Lambeth that we are in fellowship. We are not. What they have done is a very serious thing, and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in inviting them is grievous and we want them to know that.

Is the Church of Uganda seceding from the Anglican Communion?
No. We are simply not going to the Lambeth Conference. We are still part of the Anglican Communion, and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion opposes what the American Church has done and the Archbishop of Canterbury's tacit support for it.

What is the Anglican Communion?
The Anglican Communion is a family of 38 independent churches that trace their heritage to the Church of England. It is the third largest Christian community in the world – the Roman Catholic Church is the largest; the Orthodox Church is the second largest; and, the Anglican Communion is the third largest. There are 77 million members in the Anglican Communion. The Church of Uganda is the second largest Province with more than 10 million members. The Church of Nigeria is the largest with more than 20 million members. The Church of England claims 26 million members because it is the State Church, and all English subjects are entitled to membership in the Church of England. But, less than 1 million people attend church on an average Sunday.

Is the Anglican Communion going to split?
The Anglican Communion has been deeply wounded. The 2003 decision of the Episcopal Church in America to consecrate as a bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship caused a deep tear in the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Not only has the American Church not repented of this decision and action, but they have continued to advance non-Biblical teaching and practice. Their Bishops and many clergy have presided at the blessing of same-sex unions. Their Archbishop does not believe the Bible when Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me." Another American Bishop has said, "The Church wrote the Bible, so the church can re-write the Bible." It is wrong for them to continue to be Bishops and leaders in the Church. Yet, if their church will not discipline them, we will continue in broken fellowship with them. We cannot tolerate such theological corruption.

Is the crisis in the Anglican Communion about homosexuality?
No. The crisis is about authority. Homosexuality is only the presenting issue. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion – The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference of Bishops, The Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council – advised against the American Church approving homosexual relationships. Yet, the American Church openly defied these resolutions and there was no disciplinary action taken against them. That is a crisis of authority in the Communion. Furthermore, the apparent lack of resolve to take action manifests a deeper crisis, namely a crisis of confidence in the authority of the Word of God as the ultimate standard of faith and moral living.

Can anything good come out of this crisis?
Yes. As Christians we are always people of hope. We believe that the Anglican Communion must base its identity on bonds of truth as well as bonds of affection. That's why we are going to GAFCON. We hope that GAFCON will reassert as normative Anglican Christianity the reality we know in Uganda – that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring substantive change for good in a person's life, in his family, and in our country. We saw it when Christianity came to Uganda. We saw it when the East African Revival broke out in the 1930's and 1940's. We saw families healed, cycles of revenge broken, and oppression from demonic powers lifted. The only hope from the human condition is eternal forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. That's what the Anglican Church is about, and that's why we're going to GAFCON and not Lambeth.

What is GAFCON's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
GAFCON participants are coming to Jerusalem from more than 25 countries for the purpose of pilgrimage. Many are from regions that suffer political instability and violence, and we empathize with all victims of injustice and violence in the Middle East. It is our fervent prayer that both Jews and Arabs find ways to work towards reconciliation and a political settlement to begin to bring a measure of security and justice to the peoples living in the region. We share our faith with Arab Christians, our biblical heritage with the Jewish people, and a common humanity with Muslims. We are going to the Holy Land as pilgrims and we stand against any form of unjust discrimination and violence against any people for ethnic, social or political reasons.

What is the Church of Uganda's position on the ordination of women?
The Bible is very clear that homosexual practice is sin. But, nowhere in the Bible is being a woman described as a sin. The ordination of women and the ordination of practicing homosexuals cannot be compared. They are not the same issue. People of equally strong evangelical conviction come to different conclusions about the ordination of women, but we in Uganda have understood the Bible to teach that God created men and women in His image and both can be ordained to serve God in His Church.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Gay Wedding in London exacerbates attempts to hold the Church of England together

According to the BBC website, "two gay clergymen have exchanged vows in a version of a marriage ceremony. The service, at St Bartholomew the Great Church in the City of London last month, used formal rites and was said to be the first in the Anglican Church. The event has no legal status but critics say it flouted guidelines. The Reverend Peter Cowell and the Reverend Dr David Lord were already civil partners. The couple are said to have exchanged vows and rings in front of hundreds of guests. Anglicans worldwide are split over homosexuality and conservatives have condemned the service as blasphemous. Critics of say the wording of a traditional wedding expressly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. " Precisely.

According to Jonathan Wynne-Jones, writing in the Sunday Telegraph,

An Anglican church has held a homosexual "wedding" for the first time in a move that will deepen the rift between liberals and traditionalists, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.

The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding "in all but name". He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."

The bishop said that it was up to the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, to act, adding that it would become a high-profile test case of Church authority.

"Can we stand for the clear teaching of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place," he said.

The service was held at St Bartholomew the Great in London – one of England's oldest churches, which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral – and was conducted by the parish rector, the Rev Martin Dudley.

The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, who is a cleric at one of the Queen's churches, and the Rev Dr David Lord, had registered their civil partnership before the ceremony.

Mr Dudley opened the service by saying: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God to join these men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity. Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and God's people and between Christ and the Church." In the vows, Mr Cowell and Dr Lord pledged to "hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part".

Mr Dudley blessed the union with the words: "As David and Jonathan's souls were knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made."

Canon Chris Sugden, one of the organizers of "Gafcon", said: "The timing is presumably deliberate. The hopes that some have that this movement might be stopped in its tracks as a solution to the crisis will clearly not come about."

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Henry Orombi, told the Sunday Telegraph: "The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. "Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching." But liberals in the Church say the Bible should be reinterpreted in line with contemporary experience. Under Church of England guidance, gay priests can enter civil partnerships as long as they remain celibate. Guidance also says that gay couples who ask a priest to bless their partnership must be treated "pastorally and sensitively".

On 16th June a response to the recent ceremony in London was published by the Church Society www.evangelicals.org :

Service for homosexuals to be investigated
News that a further service for a homosexual couple had taken place in an Anglican Church has made headlines in the national media and provoked strong reaction in the Church. The press have called it a "wedding" and a "blessing" though we can be certain that the organizers have been more careful in their use of words hoping that by such legalism they can get away with it. Others has argued that the Church must now be cleansed and re-consecrated.

The Diocese of London, where the event took place is reported to be investigating Martin Dudley the clergyman who presided over the event. The obvious course of action is a prosecution under the Clergy Discipline Measure but it is far from certain that this will succeed. There will no doubt be endless argument as to whether the event fell foul of any vague statement the Bishops may have issued, there will be reference to the many similar events (someone has estimated at least 50) where no action has been taken, and it is doubtful that those in leadership are convinced anything wrong has been done.

Undermining any attempt at discipline on this matter are the House of Bishops report "Issues in Human Sexuality" which failed to call people to account for teaching error but merely focussed on certain, undefined, conduct. Sadly the Church of England accepted this unbiblical concept.

Secondly the House of Bishop failed to stand against Civil Partnership which are a mockery of marriage. By not opposing the legislation and then permitting clergy to enter into them with some vague requirement for assurances, which most Bishops refuse to seek, any consistent discipline is impossible. The writing has been on the wall for some time and so-called service over the weekend is just another example of how far the Church of England has fallen.

David Phillips, General Secretary, Church Society

Response from REFORM

REFORM has also commented: “The Church faces the same sort of division as the Episcopal Church of the US. Our only hope of preventing this is for bishops to exercise swift and clear discipline. There is no room for carefully constructed statements designed to hold everyone together in an uneasy truce.”

News of the service of blessing for the union of two male clergy at St Bartholomew’s church in the City Of London last month has brought to a head the issue of whether or not the Church of England intends to remain faithful to the Bible’s revelation.

The Church of England now faces the same sort of division as the Episcopal Church of the USA. Our only hope of preventing this is for bishops to exercise swift and clear discipline. Unless this happens, the floodgates of indiscipline will open. There is no longer any room for carefully constructed statements designed to hold everyone together in an uneasy truce. Schism in the church is being caused not by orthodox believers but by clergy pursuing a liberal agenda.

The issue is clear: will a church which is formally committed to the Bible’s teaching on marriage now exert discipline in order to support its belief on what mainstream credal and apostolic Christianity holds to be a fundamental of the faith? This “service of blessing” has brought the issue to a head on the eve of the departure of many orthodox church leaders in England for the Global Anglican Future Conference and Pilgrimage (GAFCON).

Faithful Anglican leaders both at GAFCON and Lambeth will now be looking to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London to take decisive action. We urge them to do this before GAFCON convenes in order to prevent a further loss of confidence in the Archbishop’s willingness to tackle the issue and to demonstrate their communion with the Global South. The choice they must make is whether or not they want to keep true to the doctrine of the Church of England (as defined in the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 (Sections 5.1 and Canon A5)) and secure discipline.

A failure to secure such doctrinal discipline will lead globally to a ghettoization of a declining revisionist “Canterbury Communion”. Those seeking to be true to the doctrine of the Church of England will necessarily have to realign themselves with those Anglicans, at home or abroad, who can affirm with integrity Canon A5.

For the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London the choice, therefore, is between being faithful to the Bible’s teaching or acquiescing in the promotion of the liberal sexual agenda. They cannot do both. Words are no longer enough. It is only clear action that will now speak to the worldwide Anglican Communion as well as to orthodox Anglican and other church leaders in this country.

Anglican Mainstream have published copies of correspondence from the Rt. Revd. Richard Chatres, Bishop of London:

To:
Clergy in the Diocese of London
Diocesan Readers
Churchwardens
PCC Secretaries
PCC Treasurers
Deanery Lay Chairs
Members of the Diocesan Synod
Members of the Bishop’s Council

18th June 2008

Dear Friends,

Many of you will have seen the publicity over the weekend around the service which was held at St Bartholomew the Great on May 31st. I attach a letter I have written to the Rector which sets out the situation as I understand it.

So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

With thanks for our partnership in the Gospel.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA
———

18th June 2008

The Reverend Dr Martin Dudley,
St Bartholomew the Great Parish Office,
6 Kinghorn Street,
London,
EC1A 7HW.

Dear Martin,

You have sought to justify your actions to the BBC and in various newspapers but have failed more than two weeks after the service to communicate with me.

I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your Bishop.

You describe the result as “familiar words reordered and reconfigured carrying new meanings.” I note that the order of service, which I have now received, includes the phrase “With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”.

At first sight this seems to break the House of Bishops Guidelines which as I explained in my letter of December 6th 2005 apply the traditional teaching of the Church of England to the new circumstances created by the enactment of Civil Partnerships.

The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.

Yours faithfully.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA



Friday, 6 June 2008

Without a Vision the People Perish

According to a Church of England report leaked to the Daily Telegraph, entitled Quality and Quantity Issues in Ministry, half of all clergy are apparently "unable to meet the challenges of ministry". That is the opinion of a third of the 37 Bishops surveyed. The report also stated that 90% of Bishops believe that a third of the new intake of clergy do not have the necessary gifts and abilities. One unnamed Bishop commented, "Truthfully, it is truly depressing. Egotism rules. Contemporary worship is feeble, 'sweet' and leads no one to the majesty of God."

One clergyman interviewed by the Church of England Newspaper, and willing to be named, David Keen of Yeovil said, "Even by the serpentine standards of the CofE statistics, this is bizarre. If 90 per cent of bishops don't think clergy are up to it, then either a) they are ordaining people they know are not good enough or b) 10 per cent of bishops are ordaining a small army of sub standard clergy."

Andrew Carey, writing in the Church of England Newspaper, quotes another vicar, "I am the senior manager of a large firm. Currently, we are facing a few problems - rising costs, falling sales, poor morale, people leaving - that sort of thing. Recently, I have decided that most of our new staff are a bit rubbish. I have issued a management report pointing this out. What should I do next? PS. I am ultimately responsible for staff appointments."

Coincidentally, the other controversial issue in the Church Press this week is the decision to avoid a debate at General Synod on evangelising Muslims. Paul Eddy, a fellow conservative evangelical had 124 supporters including three Bishops for a motion calling for the House of Bishops "to confirm their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society, and to publish details of best practice in evangelising people of other faiths". Apparently after strong opposition from Bishops the motion was dropped from the agenda. There is only enough time at General Synod apparently to debate one subject this time round - "church tourism".

Paul Eddy responded "This motion has wide support... from the telephone calls and emails I have received, people feel very aggrieved that, at this particular time in the church's history, Synod has not given an opportunity to debate evangelism."

The reason for both stories is obvious. Synod does not wish to debate evangelism because it has lost the plot. It has no confidence in the Scriptures that teach the uniqueness and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor in the priority of gospel ministry, nor our Lord's mandate to make disciples of all nations. That is why the hope of the Church of England, humanly, rests in the hands of those attending GAFCON and not Lambeth.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Abortion Law Unchanged: Parliament resists popular call for reduction in 24 week limit

I should have noticed her before, but I didn’t. Perhaps it was because of the unfamiliar surroundings – Abu Dhabi airport. Perhaps it was because there were hundreds of other people of colourful nationalities milling around waiting for flights. A few Europeans, several groups of Muslim pilgrims and a lot of what appeared to be migrant workers on their way to work or home. Perhaps it was because I was tired. It was gone midnight and I had already spent three hours waiting for my second leg flight to Jakarta. The computer enhanced female voice of the flight announcer speaking every few minutes ensured no one fell asleep.

But there she was. Standing right next to me as I sat down to watch the BBC World Service news on one of the giant screens. She could only have been 10 years old. She had a far eastern complexion and dark hair. My parental instinct kicked in when I realised she was standing alone and not responding to the airport staff who periodically came up to speak with her.

The men in uniform clearly felt awkward and didn’t want to touch her, so they gently coerced female passengers nearby to speak to her. They urged her to go with them but she would not comply. They spoke in Arabic but she could not or would not reply. They offered her drinks and food. She refused. I spoke to her in English but she would not respond to me either. I felt utterly helpless.

They searched her plastic bag. It contained some clothes and papers but no ID, no passport, no ticket. How could she have become stranded on the secure air side of the airport terminal? Then it dawned on me. Had she been abandoned? Who could do that to a child? What would drive a parent to leave a child in an airport terminal? Then she was gone, although her meagre belongings remained left on the seat.

How could anyone abandon their child? Before we judge, let us remember the decision taken in late May in Parliament to keep the current 24 week limit on abortion, despite the majority of people polled who are calling for a lowering of the upper limit. A survey by MORI shows that 47 per cent of women believe the legal limit for an abortion should be cut from its present 24 weeks, and another 10 per cent want the practice outlawed altogether. Since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed there have been 6.7 million abortions in England and Wales. Of these only 0.4% were performed because of a risk to the mother’s life and only 1.3% were on the grounds of foetal handicap. 98% were for so called “social reasons”. Government statistics tell us that 1 in 5 pregnancies in Britain now ends in abortion.

Among the arguments in favour of reducing the upper time limit is convincing evidence that the unborn child can feel pain much earlier than the current 24 week limit and that specialist neo-natal care allows babies born before 24 weeks to survive. National figures for 2005 showed that 52 babies born earlier than 24 weeks survived. In one specialist neo-natal unit at University College London Hospital between 1996 and 2000, 5 of the 7 infants born at 22 weeks survived to be discharged, as did 47% of babies born at 23 weeks.

But there is a more fundamental argument. The Bible. The biblical argument against abortion is based on the simple application of the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” In the Bible, God repeatedly forbids the taking of innocent human life because we are created in his image. The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to when life begins.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

The Bible clearly teaches the sanctity of each human life from conception. Abortion at any stage of gestation is the taking of human life. This is why I will continue to lobby for a reduction in the legal limit as well as a tightening of the grounds for abortion.

Compassion for the unborn must, however, extend to care for mothers contemplating abortion. That is why I commend the work of LIFE who not only offer free, confidential information, counselling and support for women contemplating abortion, suffering after pregnancy loss or struggling to cope after abortion, but also provide financial and practical help and support before and after birth, including housing where needed. See www.lifecharity.org.uk for more information.

Yes, I should have noticed the young girl in Abu Dhabi airport before. Next time I will, but I also can’t help thinking of the 548 that will be ‘terminated’ today and every single day in English hospitals.

Data taken from 'Abortion Briefing', The Christian Institute, May 2008. www.christian.org.uk