Any nominee for bishop of the Diocese of Port Elizabeth must affirm the 2008 statement from the GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem
The Synod of the Diocese of Port Elizabeth held last week was by all accounts an exciting and fruitful event. One of the main issues addressed by the synod was how the local church could help in the fight against poverty, unemployment and the scourge of racism. It was clear that the church has a unique and valuable role to play in the changing of mindsets and attitudes and in the facilitation of programmes which educate people and bring reconciliation and healing of relationships.
Among the motions passed unanimously was a proposal that any future nominee for Diocesan bishop must affirm the Jerusalem Declaration. The proposer reminded the synod of the current crisis in the Anglican Communion where the old centres of power and control are denying the fundamentals of the faith. In the wider Anglican Communion there are situations where some bishops are openly contradicting the clear teaching of Jesus and the New Testament on issues such as marriage and sexual relationships while other bishops in the same Province or even diocese are holding to the truth. Sadly, this is the situation in which we find ourselves as attested by the last Provincial synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa where the church was split on these issues.
As such it is at the very least confusing to church members to have two contradictory doctrines espoused and at worst, sinful behaviour not only is tolerated but blessed.
The synod was also reminded that we were celebrating the 500thanniversary of the Reformation which began when Martin Luther, moved by the corruption present in the Roman Catholic Church nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Several Church of England Cathedrals were the target this week of a similar campaign to highlight the continuing corruption of the faith within the church by its leaders.
By their ordination and consecration, Bishops are sworn to teach the truth and to banish error. Our diocesan Bishop Bethlehem, who announced his retirement at synod, stressed the importance of making sure that the diocese elects a future shepherd that will uphold biblical truth and not fall prey to human reason when it conflicts with the clear teaching of scripture.
This requirement sets a precedent by which any Diocese which is part of a Province in danger of drifting into revisionism, can ensure that they receive biblically orthodox oversight and thus some measure of protection.