The former Bishop of Birkenhead was given a standing ovation this morning at the GAFCON conference in Kigali, as the 1300 delegates thanked him for his faithful service of bearing witness to the apostolic faith to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
The Rt. Rev. Keith Sinclair followed the Most Rev. Glenn Davies of the diocese of the Southern Cross and the Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll of Uganda Christian University in the morning plenary session of 18 April 2023. The Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev. Jackson Ole Sapit introduced the trilogy under the title “Gafcon – A Gift from God”. Archbishop Davies recounted the history of GAFCON, Dr Noll offered an exposition on the 2008 Jerusalem Declaration, while Bishop Sinclair spoke to the topic “Lambeth 1998 to the Present”.
Bishop Sinclair framed his remarks by noting Lambeth 1998 was the last time all the “bishops of the Anglican Communion met together as one body to take counsel together.” Unlike the last two conferences, Lambeth 98 “followed the pattern of earlier conferences, praying under the word of God and sought to express the mind of the whole Anglican Communion, as part of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.” It was not a stage managed affair.
Resolution 1:10 on Human Sexuality from the 1998 conference, he noted, was an encapsulation of the Communion’s mind on the issue of human sexuality and it had passed “overwhelmingly”. The bishops at Lambeth in 1998 did no more than “faithfully” summarize “the teaching of scripture in relation to human sexuality” – upholding faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and holding that abstinence was right for those not called to marriage.
Lambeth 1:10 further restated the church’s pastoral support for those who experienced same-sex attractions, and offered its love and pastoral support to them stating: “they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”
However, the bishops understood “biblical holiness” especially for those ordained and for the authorized prayer ministry of the Church excluded those who engaged in same-sex acts. For this reason the conference could not “advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions” as “homosexual practice” was “incompatible with Scripture.”
The bishops at Lambeth called the church “to be full of truth and grace built on the word of God.” This resolution was not merely a negation, but called “the whole church to the obedience of the whole gospel as revealed in the whole of scripture for the blessing of the whole world.”
He noted Lambeth 1:10 would “challenge our different cultures in different ways.” But Christians were also called to be “countercultural” at “all times and in all places.”
However “faithfulness and cultural transformation” did not follow Lambeth 1:10, he said, summarizing the events of the past twenty years. He cited the text of the 2003 Primates’ Meeting statement issued after the affirmation of the election of Gene Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. The primates wrote that if Robinson’s consecration took place “we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.”
The Church of England, he said, was proposing to do what the primates in 2003 said should not be done.
The appeals to “good disagreement” by the Archbishop of Canterbiury in 2016, and his 2022 statement at the Lambeth Conference that traditional and revisionist views on human sexuality “could be permitted within the Anglican Communion without any decision being made between them,” had set the stage for last February’s General Synod debate.
“It seems that what was permitted at Lambeth 2022 is now being promoted within the Church of England. The plea for unity is made constantly without regard for the truth which is at the heart of Resolution 1:10, the teaching of Scripture,” he said.
Bishop Sinclair stated there were “still many orthodox and evangelical voices in the Church of England who uphold that truth and have not accepted the claim that unity can be divorced from it.”
At this moment, GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans sees the Church of England as having “set aside” Lambeth 1:10. “The church which God used to bring the gospel to so many parts of the world because of her faith in that scriptural revelation, now seems to have succumbed to the very cultural captivity it appealed to so many to renounce.”
While the bishops of England have yet to respond to the outcry over the synod vote, he asked his brethren to bring to synod “revised prayers and guidance” that “explicitly demonstrate they are within Resolution 1:10, which must mean there can be no blessings of sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage.”
“What we have seen over the last years is the unfolding of a tragedy,” he said, and he began to weep, adding:v”We are praying for a change of heart; we are pressing for a settlement of visible differentiation to make it clear we cannot walk together on a matter which is contrary to the teaching of scripture.”
At the close of his address, the Rt. Rev. Lee McMunn of the Anglican Mission in England, the master of ceremonies for the conference, thanked Bishop Sinclair for his speech, and for his faithfulness to the Gospel in his ministry as a bishop.
The conference continues.