A BRIEFING paper by the conservative Anglican group GAFCON that listed people in the C of E said to have violated a Lambeth Conference resolution on sexuality (News, 18 November) is “significantly misleading”, the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, has said.
In a letter to the chairman of GAFCON UK Task Force, Canon Andrew Lines, sent on Tuesday, and published online, Mr Nye seeks to “correct some of the erroneous assertions” in the GAFCON briefing paper.
Mr Nye begins by asserting that the subject of the briefing, Resolution 1.10, is “not legally binding”. The teaching of the Church of England on same-sex relationships remains as set out by the House of Bishops in Issues in Human Sexuality, published in 1991, he says, and the “great majority” of clergy and laity have adhered to it. While noting the Shared Conversations on sexuality, he says that “no change has been made to teaching, nor has there been any formal proposal to do so”.
Mr Nye disputes whether issues listed in the GAFCON briefing constitute “violations” of Lambeth 1.10, and sets out the permissions afforded by the Church of England, including civil partnerships for clergy and the offering of “prayers of support on a pastoral basis for people in same-sex relationships”. Churches are “able to indicate that they welcome LGBTI people, just as they would welcome all people” and “clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice”.
He acknowledges that there have “undoubtedly been cases of people in the Church of England who have not kept to the teaching as set out in Issues in Human Sexuality”, but continues: “I do not believe it is appropriate to debate these publicly.” What matters is not whether they are violating Lambeth 1.10, but “the position under the Canons (for the clergy) and the broader law and teaching of the Church of England for the laity. It is not the case that no discipline has been applied to clergy who, in violation of their duties under the Canons, have entered same-sex civil marriages. How discipline in the Church of England is applied is a matter for the Bishops of the Church.”
The members of the GAFCON UK Task Force have acknowledged, in a letter to the Church Times, that the briefing contained “minor inaccuracies” that have since been corrected, but argue that the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, erred in suggesting that the Anglican Communion’s Bishops had failed to “come to a common mind” on sexuality (Letters, 18 November).
A statement on how and why the briefing was compiled was published on the GAFCON UK website on Tuesday. It states that a "large amount of information was gathered by a group of contributors" and that only that which was categorised as "credible", "of greater significance", and "publicly available information" was published. It thus contained "only a fraction of the total information gathered" and consisted "almost entirely of public information that had often received wide coverage and had in some cases been promoted by LGBT activists".
"We were aware that those listed in the document had not attempted to hide their activities, and would consider inclusion in this briefing to be a badge of honour," the statement says. "There was never any intention to 'shame' anyone, but simply to collate information that was already widely known." It notes that "some have been disappointed to have not been included in the briefing and are registering their violations" (News, 18 November).
The briefing was necessary, it says, because GAFCON Primates were receiving "conflicting accounts from members of the Church of England about the seriousness and extent of the breaches of Lambeth 1.10". The authors write that GAFCON has "the highest concern for truth, and continues to work tirelessly to provide the Primates with the best available information". They reject claims that the briefing is "highly inaccurate", arguing that "all updates have been minor", and shown in footnotes.
Any suggestions that the Anglican Communion has not come to a common mind on sexuality is "not true", the statement says. It draws attention to the pastoral guidance issued by the House of Bishops, in 2014, which stated that services of blessing should not be provided for same-sex couples (News, 21 February).
The statement concludes with an affirmation of "the Church’s responsibility for pastoral care, respect and love to all people, regardless of circumstances . . . The commitment to love does not override the commitment to truth, as if love must involve lowering or abolishing the perfect standards of God."
A later, lengthy, response to Mr Nye's letter was published on the GAFCON UK website on Friday.
The unsigned statement said that the letter demonstrated an "institutional mentality which does not locate ecclesial authority with the unchanging Scriptural principles of apostolic Christianity, as affirmed by the global Church".
Instead, the C of E's leadership was putting its trust in legal processes, the statement suggested, and was ignoring the "recent history of departure from orthodoxy, global schism and restoration which is inseparable from any discussion of Lambeth I:10 and Anglican debates on sexual ethics".
The statement ends by asking if Anglicans wish their Church to be "narrowly confined to what [it] hopes will be acceptable to the metropolitan elites in modern secular England", and urges them instead to look to the global Communion for vision and encouragement.
GAFCON publishes names of UK leadership
THE membership of GAFCON UK’s leadership was published this week.
The members of the Task Force, which replaced the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) UK and Ireland Executive in the summer (News, 2 September), are: Canon Andy Lines, the Mission Director of Crosslinks and Chairman of AMiE; Lorna Ashworth, of the Archbishops’ Council; Daniel Leafe, a barrister and a worshipper of Fowey Parish Church; the Vicar of St Luke’s, Wimbledon Park, the Revd James Paice; and the Revd Andrew Symes, Assistant Curate of Fyfield and executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream.
Also listed on its website are the ten members of its “advisory panel of reference”. The only lay member is Prudence Dailey, who represents Oxford on the General Synod. She is also the only woman on the panel.
This week she said that, not being an Evangelical, but “central and traditional”, she did not “fit into the usual mould of churchmanship” associated with GAFCON.
“I think the impression may have been received in some quarters that concern for the Church not to deviate from her current teaching on sexuality — that the only proper place for sexual activity is within the marriage of one man and one woman, and everything that follows from that — is only a concern for evangelicals, and a fairly narrow strand within evangelicalism at that; but nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.
GAFCON had always “embraced a wide spectrum of churchmanship”, and this would be reflected it its UK iteration. She hoped that it would “help the Church of England to resist pressures from the secular culture, and to work towards the renewal of the Church through faith in Christ”.
The remaining nine members of the panel are:
Canon Gavin Ashenden, Chaplain to the Queen
The Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, Harmondsworth, Canon Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu
Prudence Dailey, General Synod member
The Bishop Primus of the Free Church of England, the Rt Revd John Fenwick
The Vicar of St Luke’s, Kingston, the Revd Martin Hislop
The Priest-in-Charge of Llandogo, Canon Nigel Juckes
The Vicar of St Thomas’s Private Chapel, Edinburgh, the Revd David McCarthy
The Vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, the Revd Paul Perkin
The Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, the Revd Vaughan Roberts
The Archdeacon of Cardigan, the Ven. Will Strange