Bishops express sadness at Lorna Ashworth resignation

17 November 2017

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMES

Outspoken: Lorna Ashworth addresses the Synod in 2012

Outspoken: Lorna Ashworth addresses the Synod in 2012

THREE bishops have said that they will miss the contribution of Lorna Ashworth, a conservative Evangelical who resigned from the Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod on Thursday of last week, she cited “an agenda of revisionism . . . masked in the language of so-called ‘good disagreement’”.

Mrs Ashworth represented Chichester diocese in the House of Laity, from which she was elected to sit on the Archbishops’ Council. She is a member of Reform and the GAFCON UK Task Force. In July, she was among the signatories to a letter to The Daily Telegraph calling for an alternative Anglican structure in Britain, similar to the Anglican Church in North America (News, 28 July).

In her resignation letter, published last Friday, Mrs Ashworth described “an ongoing and rapid erosion of faithfulness” at the General Synod. “Instead, an agenda of revisionism is masked in the language of so-called ‘good disagreement’. In fact, ‘good disagreement’ and ‘unity’ have trumped the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

The letter continues: “In light of this revisionist agenda and the heretical teaching that comes with it, I am no longer willing to sit around the table, pretending that we, as a governing body of the Church of England, are having legitimate conversations about mission.

“I refuse to be mistaken as one participating in the fanciful notion of ‘good disagreement’. As such, I am standing down from the Archbishops’ Council with immediate effect and all subsequent bodies, including the General Synod.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that he was “sad” that she had decided to resign.

“Her prayerfulness, magnanimity, and her grasp of all matters in hand has been a great asset to us all,” he said. “Those who elected her were of the view that she had much to give to the working of the Council, especially in the area of Renewal and Reform.

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“However, I do not share her doubts that the Church of England will be part of God’s renewal of the Christian faith in this nation. I am convinced that the Church of England remains faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and will move forward rooted in the Christian faith as we have received it.

“I share Lorna’s passion to make disciples in all nations and her conviction that God will continue to build his Church in this nation. I certainly will miss her in our partnership in the gospel.”

The Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, also expressed sadness at her decision to resign, made “because she does not want to be drawn into compromise with those who seek to revise the plain teaching of scripture. I pay tribute to her sincerity and courage.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said that Mrs Ashcroft had been “a courageous and committed member of the Archbishops’ Council, and the Church of England will be the poorer for her departure from that body”.

He continued: “In the company of voices that makes for an authentic expression of the Church, it is vital that we continue to hold to a conviction of the love of God revealed in the experience of repentance, forgiveness, and change that leads to a better and a happier life. That is the pattern of our enrichment as individual Christians and as the Church. It is also the way in which society is called to recognise and change its institutional failings.

“Lorna’s testimony is a timely reminder of the Church’s call to be, within the society of our own time, conformed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.”

Speaking in the Synod in July, Mrs Ashworth expressed concern that it had become “unable to articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ” (News, 14 July). She warned: “Until we have a House of Bishops full of shepherds who stand only for the truth . . . our work can only offer confusion and plurality to a lost and dying world.” She praised the “foresight” of GAFCON in appointing Canon Andy Lines as a missionary bishop (News, 4 July).

She was among those listed one year ago as members of the GAFCON UK Task Force (News, 25 November).

Mrs Ashworth has represented the diocese of Chichester on the Synod for 12 years, and was elected to the Archbishops’ Council last year.

After her resignation last week, Bishop Lines said: “She has for all this time considered that it is worth being present at the Synod meetings, graciously but fearlessly putting forward a biblically faithful perspective even when she found herself in a minority or even alone in doing so, and encouraging less courageous colleagues to stand up when needed. But clearly a tipping point has been reached, where she has felt that her presence in these senior governing bodies is no longer achieving anything positive.

GAFCON UK “applauded . . . her courageous stand for the truth, and will look to continue working with her in her future ministries”, Bishop Lines said.

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