Declarations of ‘corruption’ posted on cathedral doors

10 November 2017

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Protest: the Southwark Declaration pinned to the gate of Canterbury Cathedral

Protest: the Southwark Declaration pinned to the gate of Canterbury Cathedral

A DECLARATION has been posted on the doors of cathedrals in the UK in protest at the Church’s “corrupt” stance on same-sex relationships.

The stunt mimics the story of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany, 500 years ago on the Eve of All Saints, seen as the beginning of the the Reformation. The anniversary has been celebrated variously around the world (News, 3 November).

The document, the Southwark Declaration, which contains five statements, was first published in 2015. It affirms the “supreme authority” of the scriptures and calls on church leaders to uphold the doctrine that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

It was first posted on the doors of St Paul’s and Southwark Cathedrals in London on Tuesday night of last week, and has since been attached to Hereford, Rochester, Canterbury, and Bristol Cathedrals.

An accompanying statement, written anonymously by a Church of England priest, and signed by more than 60 others, accuses the Church of “revisionism”.

The statement says: “The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice on the ground has already changed: clergy are already adopting lifestyles which are not biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God.

“This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark diocese but across the Church of England. It is weakening and destroying the Church as it has done in the United States and Canada. When the Church redefines sin and eliminates repentance, it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus; the Church no longer remains distinctly Christian.”

Bishops have “a narrow window” until the next General Synod in February, it says, to “regain the confidence of Bible-believing Anglicans” and avoid “rupturing” the Anglican Communion.

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The declaration was posted outside Canterbury Cathedral on Wednesday of last week by the Vicar of St James’s, Westgate-on-Sea, the Revd Stephen Rae. Explaining his decision in a statement, he says that the building had become “synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty”, and “stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned its children”.

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance. If a leader of the Church does this, he has misunderstood his calling. We are to hold out to a radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith.”

A priest who posted the document at Hereford Cathedral wrote anonymously that the notice served as call to repentance and “final plea” to the Bishops to protect biblical teachings: “On the anniversary of the Reformation, this notice recognises the urgency of the current situation, where that Lordship is being rapidly sacrificed and given over to revisionism and the contemporary idols and demands of our secular culture.”

Defending the protest, which spread west to Bristol Cathedral this week, the executive secretary of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream, the Revd Andrew Symes, wrote that clerics had “serious concerns” about the direction of the Church on same-sex relationships.

“These clergy feel excluded from the structures of power which are now dominated by an unaccountable elite. Decisions are being made by the church authorities which appear to contradict the basic beliefs on which clergy signed up for ministry in the first place, and then they’re told to shut up and accept it.

“People should not be surprised if some find ways of expressing their concern and frustration with the leadership in ways that are highly visible but not dangerous or disruptive.”

It came after the Archbishop of Canterbury called for “unity in our diversity” during his sermon at the Reformation anniversary service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday of last week. “Luther set the gospel free, and as human beings we seek continually to imprison it behind ritual and authority — or to make it serve politics or causes. Will we be willing ourselves to be reformed again and always, setting aside our differences because we are caught up in the grace that is found through faith?”

The protest is being documented by a new Twitter account @Turbulentparson.

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