Clergy and laity doubt accuracy of letter to the States

27 April 2018

ISTOCK

THE accuracy of a letter sent by the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, to the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the lack of consultation and transparency accompanying it, have been criticised.

In a response to a consultation by the Episcopal Church on same-sex marriage (News, 20 April), Mr Nye said that there had not been time to consult the wider Church, and that it “reflects discussions among staff of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council only”. This raises questions of governance, says a letter to the Church Times, signed by more than 110 members of the clergy and laity, who say that they wish to “dissociate” themselves from Mr Nye’s response.

“Unless the content of the letter is tested synodically, he surely cannot claim to speak for the Church of England as a whole,” they write. “Mr Nye’s letter, written on Archbishops’ Council stationery, gives the impression that he was acting as an agent of the Council and its trustees and writing with its authority. But, as he acknowledges, his response is simply the fruit of conversations held among a small cadre of professional staff. As a governance matter, this will not, we think, do.”

Canon Simon Butler, Vicar of St Mary’s, Battersea, and a member of the Archbishops’ Council, confirmed online last Friday that Mr Nye’s letter “does not reflect the views of the Archbishops’ Council. We have never been asked. . . As a Council member I was not even made aware of the existence of this consultation, let alone asked to comment.”

Mr Nye’s suggestion that “for a majority . . . in the Church of England, Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will”, was a “sweeping assertion” that could not be substantiated, given that the Church had “never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this”, the Church Times letter says.

Another letter, from members of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group points out that Mr Nye’s responses had not been reported to the General Synod in February, or published by a C of E body. It was, “at best, an over-simplification of opinion within the Church of England”.

A letter from OneBodyOneFaith to Mr Nye published elsewhere this week said that the response of LGBT people to developments in the Episcopal Church “often seem absent in your pronouncements”, and that the Anglican Communion had been used “as an excuse for our failure to acknowledge the diversity of views in the Church of England, and to speak with integrity and courage the truth of our people”.

“We saw in ECUSA’s brave and costly decision some hope that change might come for us, too,” it says.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, argued online that Mr Nye was “stating the existing position of the Church of England”.

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