LONDON - Last week, Reform, the conservative evangelical network within the Church of England, released a formal statement about a national campaign to protest against bishops who supported the ordination of homosexual priests. It seemed to declare that a more high-key action by the evangelicals is going to take place in the gay ordination schism.
The paper from Reform, has further echoed the voice of the Global South Primates who had previously issued a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury blaming him for his slow reaction to the liberal’s homosexual agenda in the Church.
The statement read, “Some believe we should wait for the Eames Commission to report, since this might make disciplinary action within the wider Anglican Communion possible and have helpful spin-off effects for the Church of England... we are not confident that the present approach matches the urgency of problem we face. We believe it would be wrong to countenance delay and possible inaction in the face of such clear defiance of God’s Word by some of our leaders.”
The statement clearly concluded the three propositions of Reform regarding the homosexual issue:
1) The received teaching of the church is that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony;
2) There is a need for appropriate discipline within the Church where there are sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony;
3) Only those should be ordained who themselves will teach, and seek to model in their own lives, the received teaching of the church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony.
In the viewpoint of Reform, homosexuality and sexual intercourse within same-sex relationships is a fundamental matter, and not a matter for debate. The statement suggested that by engaging in debate it may help to win hearts and minds to the Biblical position. However, it noted that the “1998 Lambeth statement on Biblical authority and human sexuality has gained worldwide support; it has failed to stop the consecration of Gene Robinson, or prevent the Bishop of Oxford proposing that Jeffrey John become a bishop.”
Reform said in the statement, “The Church of England is a natural home for evangelicals and we will not willingly surrender it to a revisionist minority. It is this same commitment to God’s Word that aligns us with the mainstream majority in the worldwide Anglican Communion. We, therefore, see no reason why we should leave our church ... time has now come for churches and individuals to take a stand on this issue and to work for ‘deep change’ within the Church of England.”
Reform sadly described that the status of the Anglican Communion nowadays is “impaired.” It is a form of principled estrangement, where a church is no longer able to accept the “spiritual” oversight of its bishop on principled biblical grounds. In the statement, Reform listed 11 dioceses that in varying degrees are “impaired communion” in reality.
Following the Reform’s paper, the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) submitted a paper to the Lambeth Commission on August 1. It echoed a similar standpoint to Reform's, “We want the Commission to note, first, that the seriousness of this debate should not be underestimated. We are aware that for both sides the issue is salvation, and that the two understandings of the meaning of salvation are incompatible and mutually exclusive. Our concern on this issue is therefore not fundamentally ecclesiological, sacramental, doctrinal, nor biblical, (critical though all those issues are) but pastoral, for in classic Christian teaching, homosexual actions leave the actors facing God’s judgement without Christ’s mediating work.”
They suggested, “there should be provision of sanctioned oversight for the marginalized orthodox, and it is necessary that such oversight should be provided without the primates feeling the necessity of obtaining the permission of the Province or Diocese in question.”
However, most important of all, the CEEC said in the conclusion, “The essentially reversible nature of this is a reflection of the theology of the discipline exercised in 2 Corinthians, where the final goal is neither marginalization nor exclusion but reconciliation. The proximate means to full reconciliation, however, is neither dialogue nor creative tension but reversible expulsion. This is consistent with Paul’s expressed goal of love (2 Cor 2:8) and avoids the divisive consequences either of disobediently refusing to confront error or of denying the salvific and reconciling goal of discipline.”