Letters to the Editor

by
25 November 2016

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The GAFCON list and the Bishop of Salisbury

 

From Canon Andy Lines, Mrs Lorna Ashworth, Mr Daniel Leafe, the Revd James Paice, and the Revd Andrew Symes
Sir, — GAFCON UK have published an article on their website showing how the Church of England is allowing clergy and Bishops to flout its own clear teaching on sexuality and marriage, and lists as evidence several well-known cases taken from national and church media.

The Bishop of Salisbury is outraged, not by the cases themselves, which have already created confusion at home, and alarm throughout the Anglican Communion, but by the collation of examples already in the public domain into a list.

In his interview on Radio 4 on 20 November, the Bishop spoke of the importance of speaking truthfully to one another. We wholeheartedly agree, which is why Bishop Holtam needs to be corrected on his assertion (Letters, 18 November) that the Anglican Church worldwide has “not come to a common mind” on the matter of sexuality, and, therefore, allows different interpretations and practices.

In 1998, Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which affirms the historic, apostolic teaching of the Church, was passed by 526 votes to 70, with 45 abstentions. The C of E House of Bishops reiterated the same teaching in February 2014, as did the January 2016 Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury (and “consequences” for those Churches that violate it). The meeting of GAFCON and Global South Primates in Cairo in October confirmed again the same Anglican teaching.

The GAFCON list in its original form may have contained some minor inaccuracies that were subsequently corrected. Will the Bishop also publicly correct his error, and affirm the clear position of his own Church on sexual ethics, rather than continue to claim that mutually incompatible interpretations are acceptable?

 

ANDY LINES, LORNA ASHWORTH, DANIEL LEAFE, JAMES PAICE, ANDREW SYMES
GAFCON UK
c/o 251 Lewisham Way
London SE4 1XF

 

From Canon Colin Craston
Sir, — As a life-long Evangelical, frequently at odds with GAFCON, I warmly welcomed the Bishop of Salisbury’s letter criticising the GAFCON statement about Lambeth 1.10.

As chairman of the ACC, I was present throughout as an observer of the plenary debate resulting in Resolution 1.10. Beforehand, a section of the Conference, drawing together a wide representation of views, had spent ten days of unhurried debate, arriving at an agreed statement. This seemed to be ignored by the hundreds of bishops in the full session. It was hardly a debate, just a rehearsal of preconceived positions. But the last clause of the final resolution clearly establishes that the debate was not finalised. The Primates and the ACC were asked to go on monitoring the debate, something that has not really happened.

 

COLIN CRASTON
12 Lever Park Avenue
Horwich, Bolton BL6 7LE

 

From the Revd Andrew Robinson
Sir, — It’s a pity the GAFCON statement of 13 November generated so much publicity for singling out a number of people who have acted in contravention of the Lambeth 1.10 resolution on sexuality. I had a look at the statement, and then scrolled down to a report that shows a huge list of Christian leaders campaigning in support of the historic Christian view that regards marriage between one man and one woman as the only proper context in which to express our sexuality (News, 14 October).

Perhaps we ought to allow the historic tradition more coverage, and give publicity to those upholding it rather than mainly focus on those who challenge it.

 

ANDREW ROBINSON
The Vicarage, 11 Main Street
Ledston, Castleford WF10 2AA

 

From the Rt Revd Michael Doe
Sir, — The GAFCON statement accusing named members of the Church of England of “violating” Lambeth 1.10 overlooks three facts.

First, the Lambeth Conference is a not a Council or Synod, but a Conference. It was established by Archbishop Longley in 1867 as a place for “brotherly counsel and encouragement”. So the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own website rightly states: “The Resolutions passed by a Lambeth Conference do not have legislative authority in any Province, until they have been approved by the provincial synod of the Province concerned. The Lambeth Conference is not an executive which imposes doctrine or discipline but it is a forum where the mind of the Communion can be expressed on matters of controversy.”

Second, the Anglican Communion is not a Church, but a Communion of Churches. Again, the clue is in the title. Those of us who love the Communion and have served it in the past are pained by its divisions, and its misplaced priorities when evangelism and justice are overtaken by issues of human sexuality. But the answer is not imposed uniformity and dismissive accusations, but a willingness to listen to each other, to work in partnership, and, if necessary, to agree to disagree in love.

Third, those present in 1998 will remember the flawed process by which Resolution 1.10 emerged. The sub-section on Human Sexuality, of which I was a member, worked long and hard on a report that admitted that we were “unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised”.

The resolution that we drafted reflected this, and the need for the whole Communion to work together on these difficult issues. The much harder additions, including the now infamous amendment “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”, came from outside our group, from campaigning bishops and lobbyists who brought it to a final plenary where the process was, to say the least, somewhat confused.

In times past, the Church of England sought to impose its will on many of the Churches that now make up GAFCON. Maybe we should apologise for that, but it doesn’t give GAFCON the right to exercise the kind of “reverse colonialism” which their latest statement conveys.

 

MICHAEL DOE
Gray’s Inn
London WC1R 5ET

 

Need for a strategy to cultivate BAME leadership

 

From Prebendary John Root
Sir, — Almost 30 years ago, Jerome Mack, an African American, commented on the British Council of Churches’ conference “Rainbow Gospel” about the “absence of a balance between rhetoric and action”, and the lack of “a consistent focus on strategies to address or eliminate” racism.

The signatories of the letter (18 November) about the lack of black and minority-ethnic (BAME) vocations and senior leadership continue this pattern of rhetoric without offering strategies for action. For example, when they name and shame dioceses with monochrome senior leadership, they should also be able to send them a list of capable, experienced BAME clergy whom such dioceses should seriously consider recruiting; otherwise, they are offering more empty rhetoric.

Their comparison with senior women clergy is invalid. Before the legislation on women bishops was passed, a substantial number of names of well-qualified women were canvassed as likely candidates for senior posts. By contrast, who is likely to be the next BAME bishop? It is hard to think of any names. My impression is that most dioceses are eager rather than reluctant to fill senior posts with BAME clergy, but simply can’t find suitable people. It is simply untrue to say that “the continuing absence of BAME leaders within the Church has been met with barely a whisper.” We have been lamenting it for more than 30 years.

Therefore, the answer to their important question “What more needs to happen before the Church legitimately recognises this as a crisis, and acts accordingly?” is certainly not more rhetoric, which is merely guilt-inducing and demotivating, but (to quote Mack, above) “strategies to address or eliminate” the crisis.

A raft of strategies is needed rather than one simple silver-bullet solution, but, to take one issue, that of clergy training: the Revd Mohan Seevaratnam reported on his deacon’s retreat for London diocese: “I informally asked a number of fellow ordinands from different training colleges as to whether they felt their training equipped them for inter-cultural/cross-cultural ministry? Without exception they all felt not.”

For this to be the case with London is a scandalous indication of how negligent the whole Church of England has been in identifying, training, locating, and supporting clergy to develop its ministry in urban multi-ethnic communities. We will never see substantial numbers of minority-ethnic clergy (and then senior leaders) until we have become much more effective at a local level, most specifically with young British-born black men.

The Church of England rightly seeks to identify people with notable academic and theological abilities, and attends to their training and placement. By contrast, despite the central importance in the New Testament of the lived-out inter-ethnic unity of God’s people, and the great missional challenge we face in our multi-ethnic cities today, we have never developed a policy for identifying, training, and placing people to face that challenge. I call that negligence institutional racism.

The letter rightly underlines the crisis we still face, and the Church of England needs to give thorough and serious attention to producing specific strategies to answer it (perhaps along the lines of Faith in the City). This means stepping out of the dismal cycle of accusation and guilt, and, rather, both identifying and correcting how institutional racism operates, and offering warm-hearted and well-informed evangelistic and pastoral leadership by people from both majority- and minority-ethnic groups.

 

JOHN ROOT
Associate Vicar of St Ann’s, Tottenham
42 Newlyn Road
London N17 6RX

 

From the Revd Andy Rooney
Sir, — While it is true, as the impassioned letter from Prebendary Tunde Roberts et al. says, that the senior leadership of the C of E is unrepresentative of the ethnic diversity of the country, it is reasonably representative of the social pool from which it is drawn: the privately educated upper middle class.

Recent moves to increase the representation of women in leadership are seeing some success, in the Church as in the secular world, in large part because they can be recruited from this social stratum.

Current reforms to the preferment process, drawing heavily on secular leadership models, will serve only to make the leadership of the Church look even more like the leadership of industry and Government, which is also strikingly white.

The selection and training process for ministry is similarly biased towards “more of the same”. Until the Church makes real efforts to bring more fishermen and tentmakers into its leadership, and fewer Pharisees, it will remain shamefully unrepresentative of, and disconnected from, the majority of those it should seek to serve.

 

ANDY ROONEY
123 Duke Road
London W4 2BX

 

Position of confirmation in the Church in Wales

 

From the Archbishop of Wales
Sir, — Mr Terry Sylvester in his letter (14 October) gives the impression that the Church in Wales has abolished the service of confirmation. Far from it. What it has done is made it a service of response and commitment to God’s grace given in baptism and at the eucharist for those who want to make such a commitment.

For too long, confirmation services have been regarded as rites of passage for teenagers. What the Church in Wales is doing is recognising that baptism in itself is the full rite of Christian initiation, and therefore the baptised, as members of the Body of Christ, are able to receive the sacrament of the eucharist instituted by him.

 

BARRY CAMBRENSIS
Llys Esgob, The Cathedral Green
Llandaff, Cardiff CF5 2YE

 

Derren Brown and the ministry of healing

 

From the Revd John Ryeland
Sir, — I read with interest the interview with Derren Brown (Features, 18 November). It was far-ranging, but I will contain my remarks to the ministry of healing. I confess I have not seen Mr Brown’s show.

He seems to want to expose what he sees as false displays of power within the ministry of “faith healers”, including the ministry of the Christian Church. There are, however, ways in which the ministry of Christian healing differs from the caricature that he seeks to expose.

First, in my experience, far from seeking simply displays of power upon needy people, we are first and foremost seeking a deepening of each person’s relationship with God, and it is a great mistake to regard healing as distinct from this. So, healing services are commonly held within the context of worship.

The second difference is that, having met and worked with many people involved in this ministry throughout this country, I have found a deep compassion for those who approach them for prayer. The dedication, commitment, and sacrificial nature of this should not be overlooked — and, as all struggle to balance our finances, please believe me that none of us are in this for the money. I hope that those who come through our doors will feel genuinely loved and cared for, despite what may or may not be the results of happen our ministry.

Finally, Mr Brown questions whether it can be verified that healing actually takes place — a very real question for many people. Owing to the need for brevity here, however, I would simply say that, besides testimonies to the lasting effects of physical healing, there are many people who would testify to the transforming touch of God on their lives as they grapple with issues of mental illness and emotional pain.

Who are we to say what constitutes proof of God’s healing touch upon somebody’s life? Our heartfelt desire is to see God glorified in this ministry and to trust him with the outcome.

 

JOHN RYELAND
Director, The Christian Healing Mission
8 Cambridge Court
210 Shepherd’s Bush Road
London W6 7NJ

 

The gospel in India long predates CMS’s work

 

From Dr Anna Thomas-Betts
Sir, — In your otherwise excellent report “CSI celebrates mission’s bicentenary” is the unfortunate statement: “It concluded four years of events marking two centuries since Thomas Norton first brought Christianity to the city of Alleppey, in what is now the diocese of Madhya Kerala” (News, 18 November; my italics).

I thought Kerala had Christianity brought to it by early Christians (possibly by another Thomas, St Thomas the Apostle), and that a Syrian Orthodox Church had been in existence for centuries, before Norton’s time — unless the implication is that Christianity just means Anglicanism!

 

ANNA THOMAS-BETTS
68 Halkingcroft
Langley SL3 7AY

 

Bradford convert

 

From the Bishop of Bradford
Sir, — You reported (News, 18 November) on the terrible case of Mr Nissar Hussain’s being forced to move from Bradford to a safe house. As the police investigation is ongoing, I cannot comment on specifics of the case, beyond continuing to express publicly my deep sympathy to Nissar, his family, and others affected in this complex and painful situation. For the record, a number of Christians, including both lay and ordained members of the Church of England, have supported Nissar over the years and continue to try to do so.

 

TOBY BRADFORD
47 Kirkgate
Shipley BD18 3EH

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