“The end is Nye.” Except that it is not. A few weeks ago, Mr Nye, a Church civil servant, stepped into the arguments about whether or not homosexual sex pleases God. His contribution is not the last word on the matter; though arguably, if he is taken to represent the C of E and its present positioning on moral matters, it may presage the end of the Church of England as we know it.
The bishops are meeting currently to discuss the Pilling Report, before General Synod convenes in February to bring its democratic muscle to bear on an issue that is tearing the Church apart.
If it was Mr Nye’s intention to bring an end to the critique that Gafcon launched of the state of the Church of England, he rather missed the point. He set out to reprimand Gafcon by trying to explain that a Lambeth Resolution did not have any legal force, and so could not be relied on in the way they thought it could.
But to try to redefine the disagreement as a question of the legal status of a Lambeth Conference resolution, misjudges the nature of the debate and the struggle both in the Church and in wider society.
The struggle is as to which of two different world views will define the character and behaviour of the Church of England. One is influenced by secular cultural tastes and airbrushes those parts of the Bible that critique them out of the picture; and the other is faithful to Scripture and Christian experience of sin and holiness down the ages.
Rather than rely on the law – it may be more helpful to place the issue in the context of the Spirit.
The background to this life or death struggle for the integrity of the Church is set in one of St Paul’s mystical insights into the relationship between our sexualised anthropology and our souls. He puts it very simply.
Where societies offer their spiritual and emotional allegiances to idolatries, there then follows as a direct consequence, a level of disintegration of gender identity and sexual expression.
This cannot be proved sociologically. In fact it can’t be proved by any discipline. It is a mystical insight- an enlightenment of the mind by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s a function of being born again, and so able to negotiate human experience in a new dimension. It’s an essential element of being the Church.
As it happens, our society is experiencing exactly that gender disintegration.
The most serious antagonists in this attack on the Church are the ideological Left who combine the values of Cultural Marxism with the filter of psychotherapy. Whenever they want to undermine their ideological victims, they add the suffix ‘phobic’ to the enterprise.
They have launched an assault of the creation paradigms that the Father has used to fashion humanity in co-dependence. They particularly hate what they call gender- binaries.
So even the simplistic confusions of sexual appetite have become endlessly subdivided into LGBQTi spectrum; ending up with the complexities of “LGBTQQIP2SAA.”
This process of the redefinition of sexual identity and sexual desire muddles what God has given,- the interdependent binaries of man and woman,- with complexity and incoherence on an endless sliding scale.
How might the Church respond to this break down of identity and proliferation of desire?
The Church, enabled with this mystical diagnosis that Scripture offers, has been given the role of easing people out of idolatry, sexual incontinence and incoherence, by introducing people to Jesus. Jesus introduces humanity to the creating Father, and He sends the Holy Spirit to mend and mould us.
Although it is a ‘mystery’ it is a transparent mystery. One that can be understood, and lived. Even Church bureaucrats should be able to access it by the simple expedience of reading the New Testament.
The Church of England has taken a different route however. When faced with the human disintegration of neighbours who are out of relationship with God, it has decided to affirm the incoherence rather than mend the brokenness.
It is a truism in the history of the Church that where the Church loses touch with the Holy Spirit, it takes refuge in politics. Where it fails to transform the human heart, it settles for shifting the fabric of the body politic. Social transformation is certainly a consequence of changed hearts, but it is a by-product not a primary goal.
The great seduction of the Church in our age has been one of replacing the conversion of souls with socialism. But socialism has come in a more toxic and intense brand in the form of an egalitarian Marxism dedicated to equality of outcome, and the sweeping aside of anything that stands in its way.
The reconfiguration of marriage and gender identity is part of this movement. It is particularly tragic that bishops and clergy have been captured by its allure.
Gay rights, homosexual erotic desire and the reconfiguration of Christian marriage into a secularised biologically sterile patterning, is the place where this fissure is splitting the Church.
And that brings us to Lambeth 1.10.
The list that Gafcon published of actions taken by gay activists and their sympathisers must have touched a nerve somewhere in the heart of the Church of England. Someone, somewhere had the idea of sending a Church bureaucrat to reduce the struggle to a legal nicety.
Mr Nye, General Secretary of the General Synod, goes to some lengths to explain that the status of a Lambeth resolution does not have the force of legislation. It can’t be treated as a law.
“Like all Lambeth Conference resolutions, it is not legally binding on all provinces of the Communion.”
“It says nothing about discipline within provinces of the Anglican Communion; the Lambeth Conference has no jurisdiction to do so.”
“The Resolution is an important document in the history of the Anglican Communion. It is not the only important resolution, from that Conference or others. It does not have the force of Scripture, nor is it part of the deposit of faith.”
But Mr Nye is looking down the wrong end of the telescope. He makes the mistake of thinking that the faithful within Anglicanism are relying on Lambeth 1.10 as if it had some legal status or force that could be appealed to.
No Mr Nye, the faithful are looking to Lambeth 1,10 because it was one of those rare moments when Archbishops around the world bound the Church to reflect the priorities of the Holy Scriptures and Divine revelation. It isn’t Lambeth 1.10 that has any serious metaphysical and epistemological status, it is the Bible, which Lambeth 1.10 echoes.
Gafcon are not appealing to Lambeth 1.10 out of a misplaced respect for Lambeth Conferences. But because this particular Lambeth Conference on this particular subject embodied obedience to Scripture in this resolution.
It’s true, this may come as some surprise, since it doesn’t happen very often, but on this occasion it did.
What he seems disturbed by is the use of the word ‘violation’. And perhaps it is that word that has upset the C of E establishment. It is a strong word, and I want to explain why I think it might have been used.
Mr Nye hears it as if it had overtones of violating the law; which is why he is at pains to explain Lambeth 1.10 does not have the status of law. In fact ‘violation’ here has deeper resonances, perhaps more akin to the violation of someone you love who has been despoiled.
One of the great mistakes the progressive left makes, is that it cannot get inside the head or the heart of the faithful Christian. Knowing only a world made up of power and fear, it mistakes the love of God for a phobia of sexual incoherence.
The faithful Christians are distressed not by other peoples’ sexual habits, but by a sense of the profound disaster that comes when the love of God which attempts to rescue us from ourselves, ,is rejected and even trashed.
This distress is made even worse when the rejection of God’s love and help, set out so clearly in Scripture is authorised and energised by the very people whose lives were intended to guard it – priests and bishops.
Mr Nye is unhelpful then when he throws dust in the eye of his reader:
“At present, the House of Bishops is reflecting on conversations across the Church on same-sex issues. But at this point no change has been made to teaching, nor has there been any formal proposal to do so.”
This is true in a technical sense only. The bishops are indeed reflecting on the conversations, but the way the conversations were engineered was intended to allow the bishops to change traditional teaching. Otherwise there was no need to have any conversations!
And no change has been made. Nor has there been any formal proposal to do so. But Mr Nye knows only too well that there have been plenty of informal proposals to do so.
Many Deans have set out to bless what cannot be blessed, as Gay Pride marches have passed their cathedrals. The bishops of Liverpool, Salisbury and Buckingham never miss an opportunity to affirm what God has forbidden. The Archbishop of Canterbury told the progressive crowd at Greenbelt, that if he was not constrained by churches who held the line on Scriptural obedience, he would want to press ahead. He said when asked by an audience member who was due to enter a civil partnership ‘when the Church would be in a position to bless the union’, that he did not know. “I don’t have a good answer to it,” he said. “If we were the only Church here and [there were] no other Churches, and if division didn’t matter, it would be much easier to answer”
It is harder to be soothed by Mr Nye’s assurance that no ‘formal’ changes have been made, when the cage of scriptural obedience is being rattled by the C of E hierarchy from the Archbishop downwards.
Mr Nye makes it clear that in his opinion
“clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice.”
At this point it is clear that Mr Nye doesn’t understand the orthodox position. He thinks the whole matter is one of opinion, and one opinion or argument is as good as another.
This is very much part of Anglican culture. Maybe Mr Nye would say that if there were some clergy and laity alike who wanted to argue that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead they would be “entitled” to their opinion?
We do live in an ‘entitled’ culture. But no Mr Nye, faithful Christians are not entitled to argue that the Bible has got it wrong. If they want to do that, they must do it from outside the Church; not inside. There is no such entitlement Mr Nye. At least, not if you accept the authority of Scripture.
So what Mr Nye is saying is that there are plenty of clergy and laity alike who don’t accept it, and they want to argue for the cogency of their heterodox opinions.
And that is where Mr Nye and orthodox Anglicans part company. That may indeed be the point at which the faithless and the faithful take different roads as Gafcon suspects may be about to happen.
As a final riposte, Mr Nye invites Gafcon to know its place:
“How discipline in the Church of England is applied, is a matter for the Bishops of the Church.”
Of course it is Mr Nye. Or at least it certainly should be. But this is an old chestnut.
Are the bishops accountable to the faithful in their acting as guardians of the faith, or are they senior management bosses who make their own decisions and don’t thank the employees for asking them if they are applying the firm’s rules correctly?
They are not first and foremost managers – we have Archdeacons and Diocesan Secretaries for that. They are guardians of the apostolic faith and we get clear glimpses from Ezekiel among others, that a failure of responsibility from those God has entrusted with the faith will be and are now, in deep trouble if they prefer irresponsibility to responsibility.
And once again, the rebuke to mind their own business, when the faithful Anglicans both within the C of E and elsewhere ask how the bishops are managing as guardians of the faith, won’t do.
Perhaps this letter from the bureaucratic heart of the Church of England is a sign that Gafcon’s ”list of disobedience has touched a nerve.
No- it was not 100% accurate. It didn’t claim to be; it didn’t need to be. It just needed to tell the story about the extent of the disobedience and the direction of the trajectory that the C of E is taking- the same one as TEC took, for the same reasons, with what will be the same outcome. People can judge for themselves the difference between pretence and practice.
And to the Bishop of Salisbury who tried to undermine Canon Andy Lines with emotional blackmail in their BBC Radio 4 interview, these are not vulnerable victims. You are behind the curve. This is an outdated trope. The vulnerable victims are now the Christian bakers, teachers and nurses, whom your secular allies have hounded out of the public space. Instead, your ‘victims’ took to rainbow websites in their hundreds to celebrate their disobedience and their rejection of orthodox Christianity.
Mr Nye ends with the hope “that this will give you and readers of the paper a clearer picture of the state of teaching and practice in the Church of England.”
Yes, My Nye, it does indeed.
It leaves us with some questions though. Why was it thought sensible to ask a Church bureaucrat to answer a matter of spiritual integrity as though it was a legal triviality?
And does this error in judgement act as a warning that the present leadership of the Church of England intend to break with Scripture and Tradition, and divide the Church as they endorse secular and anti-Christian sexual mores?
I was impressed by the analysis that George Conger of Anglican Unscripted offered in their commentary on the latest media spat about the C of E, and its troubles over reconciling the secularisation of sexual ethics with orthodox Christianity.
“Learn from our experience they warned”.
If the orthodox Anglicans turn on each other, they will dissipate and collapse, allowing the liberalisation of the Church to progress faster than it would otherwise have done. And since they offered this advice, the evangelical criticism of the Gafcon statement has progressed apace.
The criticism from the liberal lobby was incoherent. “Don’t damage vulnerable people” advised the Bishop of Salisbury, in a voice loaded with empathetic emotion on Radio 4. Except that the vulnerable people of his anti-victim trope rushed to sign up to a website celebrating their rejection of Lambeth 1.10.
“Don’t publish a list if is not 100% accurate” was another complaint. This ignored that the point behind the publication was to give a sense of the scale of the rejection of Lambeth 1.10.
“Don’t publish such a list unless you are certain what your ‘game-plan’ is” insisted another commentator.
Leaving aside the law of unintended consequences, the game plan is very simple.
The struggle is to save the C of E from the corruption of secularised sexuality that we are warned off by the mind of God in Holy Scripture. The struggle is to be faithful to God when His healing and saving Word to us is ‘violated.’ The aim is to honour Jesus in the face of a culture which denies Him.
The bishops and the General Synod of the Church of England will be reminded that they cannot serve two masters, and will have to choose.
With Gafcon, many of us will say “as for me and my house… we will serve the Lord.”