THE College of Bishops in the Church of England has “blatantly ignored the global Anglican consensus” by agreeing that clergy should be permitted to bless same-sex unions in church, the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon) has said.
On Wednesday, the College of Bishops announced its response to the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) discernment process, central to which was the provision of prayers, dedication, and services of blessing for same-sex couples, alongside an apology to the LGBT community for their exclusion hitherto.
In an open letter distributed on Thursday, the Gafcon chair, Dr Foley Beach, writes of a “crisis of leadership” in the C of E. “Once again, our Western Anglican Provinces continue to ‘go their own way’ on matters of faith and practice without consultation or concern for the majority of Anglicans around the Global Communion.
“Their actions not only deny holy practice, but reject the authority of scripture, the teaching of the historic Church, and the consensus of the Body of Christ from every tribe, tongue, people and nation alive today.”
The Global Anglican Future movement dates from a conference (hence Gafcon) in Jerusalem in 2008. It is a loose fellowship of conservative Anglicans both within the Anglican Communion and those who have broken away to form their own Churches while still using the label “Anglican”.
Dr Beach continues: “Especially troubling is the clear and wilful decision by the bishops to blatantly ignore the global Anglican consensus (as well as many more other Christian traditions) and ‘bless’ in the Name of Christ and the Church what God clearly calls sin. God does not bless sin regardless of the stamp of endorsement by church leaders, clergy, and bishops.”
And he adds: “We cannot follow the Church of England down this path which leads to spiritual and moral bankruptcy. Lord, have mercy upon us all.”
An affiliated conservative group in England, Anglican Futures, described the Bishops’ announcement as “illogical” and “lamentable”. A spokesperson said on Wednesday: “Offering prayers of blessing to those in same-sex marriages, while claiming to maintain the doctrine Holy Matrimony as a marriage between one man and one woman for life is illogical.
“It is lamentable because it denies the gospel and will please no one.” The statement said that it had been “evident for at least 18 months that this was the most likely path for the bishops to take”.
The Director of Anglican Futures, Susie Leafe, said, “The idea that celebrating ‘equal civil marriage’ will not undermine ‘Holy Matrimony’ is laughable. Anglican Futures is already providing practical and pastoral support to faithful Anglicans, as they reassess their relationship with the bishops of the Church of England, this announcement is likely to bring many more enquiries.”
The Church Society said that “we can’t bless what God curses” and that “Not all love leads to God.” The evangelical charity also argued that, contrary to what the Bishops said in their statement, the proposal constituted a change of doctrine.
“Sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful. . . To change this, in order to bless homosexual relationships, is not just a piece of minor tinkering.”
The Bishops’ “compromise” was therefore “unworkable”, its statement concluded.
It added that, while “sincere and specific apologies should be given to specific individuals” who have been hurt by the church, “We cannot apologise for following Christ and proclaiming his word, as if that was not somehow the best way for us all to live. But we can and should apologise where we have fallen short of the standards demanded of us in God’s word.”