Chris Sugden reflects on ACC-14 and why both Evangelicals and Catholics need to stand firm together in the faith

A case is being heard this week in the Vancouver courts to settle whether St Johns Church, Shaughnessy, the largest congregation in the Anglican Church of Canada, is an authentic Anglican church and therefore entitled to retain its property, or whether it has to cede it to the Diocese of New Westminster and its bishop, Michael Ingham. Bishop Ingham’s authorization of same-sex blessings in 2003 was the earliest expression in the Anglican Communion of the current wave of heterodox practices causing the current crisis. In the USA, members of the church vestry at Grace Church and St Stephens Parish, Colorado Springs, are being personally sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their rector was turned out of the rectory by The Episcopal Church in March. These realities seem to be little known in the Church of England.

The listening process

The strategy of the senior leadership in the Anglican Communion would appear to be to keep both those promoting the liberal agenda, through suing faithful Anglicans, and those being persecuted, while maintaining traditional Anglican faith and practice, talking. This was clear at the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica (May 1-13). First, referral of the Anglican Communion Covenant to the Provinces was delayed by at least nine months. The General Convention of TEC can proceed in July without the restraint of the Covenant being accepted by the ACC Court cases can continue without the conservatives, who are being sued, able to claim the moral high ground, of being ready to accept the proposed Covenant, while being sued by those who are not. Second, the ‘listening process’ will be prolonged for three years, and extended to ways in which the Bible and tradition are handled. It is funded by a SI.5 million grant from the Satcher Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, which is part of an institution funded by the Ford Foundation which has a goal of harmonizing opposing views on human sexuality. Thirdly, plans – but not funds – are in place for a Communion-wide study on the interpretation of the Bible. A pilot scheme in New Zealand began with biblical interpretation, then culture, and then human sexuality. The proposal at the ACC presented the conservative view on Scripture as a man of straw.

Clarity of purpose

The underlying assumption of’ keeping talking’ is that contradictory points of view are finally reconcilable. Those who persist in this approach, though holding orthodox views, are admitting that the truth cannot be known well enough to say that some things are wrong, and should not be part of a church’s belief or practice. But while we do not know everything – we see in a glass darkly – the Christian view is that we have been shown enough to make the choices that need to be made. Those who hold the levers of power are offering further delay and prolonged discussion. The Archbishop of Canterbury expects, even if he does not will the outcome ‘that the Communion shifts towards an agglomeration of more strongly bonded and less strongly bonded bonded Provinces or constituent parts’ in which the less strongly bonded are still part of the instruments of unity. The GAFCON Provinces will form the heart of the strongly bonded parts. As 80% of the Communion they are already bonded as such in the Primates Council. For this reason Archbishop Henry Orombi, a member of the GAFCON Primates Council, preached at the New Wine Leaders meeting in Harrogate in early May on Elijah and the Prophets of Baal: ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him: but if Baal is God, follow him’ [1 Kings 18.21].

Looking forward

Between June 23 and 25 the Anglican Church in North America will be inaugurated. Bishop Bob Duncan holds that the coming together of Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals was the seed-bed of the strong orthodox developments now in the United States. Such a coming together will be expressed in the United Kingdom and Ireland at the Be Faithful! gathering on 6 July at Westminster Hall. It is most important that Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and all concerned to maintain the faith once delivered to the saints, to express fellowship with the 80% of the Anglican Communion whose bishops and leaders issued the Jerusalem Statement in June 2008, and to identify the medicine of the Gospel in mission afresh for the financial and political crises facing the nation. You may register online at ; or send a cheque for £15 a head to Anglican Mainstream, 21 High Street, Eynsham, OX29 4HE. Bring a coachload!