Friday, 10 August 2007

Why the Bishop of Chelmsford should now step down from Changing Attitude

The recent report in the Church Times, that a delegation headed by the leader of Changing Attitude in Nigeria is leading a campaign to prevent that country hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, illustrates why Bishop John Gladwin will not have the confidence of many people in his diocese whilst he continues to be patron of that organisation.

The report states that Davis MacIyalla has recently been on a tour of the United States and the UK “as part of the listening process recommended by the Windsor report”. Bishop Gladwin also likes to regard his patronage as 'part of the listening process', and of course there is nothing wrong with listening. However, this latest action, irregardless of how one regards Nigeria's policy towards gay people, shows (as people have been arguing in Chelmsford since before Bishop Gladwin's arrival) that Changing Attitude is a campaigning group with a clear and specific agenda to change the Church of England's teaching.

The action MacIyalla and others are urging is clearly intended to punish Nigeria, and is also directly linked to the stance of the Church of Nigeria. Far from distancing itself from this approach and urging 'listening', it seems that Changing Attitude in Nigeria is at the forefront. And, of course, Davis MacIyalla has the full support and encouragement of Changing Attitude in England, as can be seen from their website.

Bishop Gladwin must realise, not least from the ongoing tension over the ordination of a Chelmsford candidate for the diaconate, that for his name to appear on the list of patrons of Changing Attitude simply makes it impossible for him to be regarded as himself a 'listener'. On the contrary, it sends signals that he is a supporter of campaigners. Whilst that is the case, he leads a divided diocese where he is seen as siding with those whose ideas and actions oppose precisely the teaching which not just Archbishop Akinola but the Church of England in England endorses.

A gracious acknowledgement that this patronage is an error of judgement would substantially improve confidence within the Diocese of Chelmsford that Bishop Gladwin is indeed prepared to listen. Now would be a good time, given this recent news, to take the appropriate steps.

Revd John P Richardson
10 August 2007

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy .


  1. Is the problem with his involvement with the LGCF or Changing Attitude or both? Are these organisations part of the Anglican family of an alien intrusion?

    David Hey
    West Yorksire

  2. Curious that this article was earlier linked to from the main AM site and now no longer is.

  3. Nothing suspicious about it. I've been asked to post to AM while Chris Sugden is offline. After I posted the link on the AM site I found I then couldn't load the AM site at all until I deleted the link!

    I'm still trying to work out what the problem is, but until I do, it stays down.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Liddon's comment was removed, not because it wasn't any good, but because it didn't follow the posting policy.

    Please read it, and do what it says. It is only like making sure that if you write to someone, or to a newspaper, you identify yourself!

  6. I posted a courteous, non-abusive contribution to this debate, and included my surname and location. This, however, is not good enough for Mr Richardson, who insists on his own rules, which are unlike those anywhere else on the web. This desire to control is part of the problem with the african bishops and with the whole constituency which is trying to split the anglican communion. It is also typical of the fear of open debate, and the refusal to listen to another point of view.

    Liddon. Oxfordshire.

  7. Dear Liddon

    It's very simple, and a matter of good practice and courtesy to readers. If you write to your local paper, or to the Church Times or Church of England Newspaper, you have to give them a name and an address.

    I'm sorry this is so frustrating for you, but that's also the rule on this blog.


  8. Well, Rev'd Mr Richarson, I think I agree with you about all this.

    The Church of England is not the Bishop of Chelmsfords and he should not try to re-make the rules without a due process or at the detriment of being able to do his job. It seems he should choose.

    Your blog is yours, so you can make the rules.

    Rev'd Marc Lloyd, Eastbourne

  9. Would you similarly insist any bishop affiliated with "Anglican Mainstream" resign, also? (Just as clearly a campaign organization, as is Changing Attitude!)

    J.C. Fisher
    Albion, Michigan, USA

  10. Dear J.C.

    The problem is not that Changing Attitude is a campaigning organization, but that it is campaigning against the Church's received doctrine and practice.


  11. Fr Joseph O'Leary14 August 2007 at 11:50

    Changing Attitude Nigeria is well known to be campaigning for Human Rights. Sanctions against offending nations are a common ploy in Human Rights campaigns, frequently urged by church leaders. The Bishop of Chelmsford is taking the Christian stance here.
    Rev Joseph S O'Leary, Sophia University, Chiyoda-ku 102-8554 Tokyo Japan

  12. August 2007 at 22:28

    More power to Bishop John's campaigning attitude. Was it wrong for people, including Bishops, 25 years ago to campaign to change the CofE's attitude on the ordination of women? Was it wrong for Christians, including Bishops, in Wilberforce's day to campaign to change the church's attitude to slavery?

    So sorry, there is nothing wrong with a Bishop seeking to change the CofE's teaching on any matter - the issue is whether the campaigning issue is right or not, and CofE people are NOT in agreement about that.

    So Bishop John is in a long tradition of campaigning evangelical Bishops!

    Andrew Holden

  13. Mark Letters, Brussels22 August 2007 at 22:32

    Why should it be wrong for a bishop to take a view? The Bishop of Carlisle has recently alienated many in his diocese by his homophobia, as has the Bishop of Hereford by his. If the Spirit is telling the churches it's time to end their awful history of victimising gay people, surely at least one bishop should have his ear open to listen to it.

  14. I agree completely with Messrs O'Leary, Holden and Letters. Many matters of ethical practice have been debated and changed over the centuries by Christians. How could that happen if teachers of the faith were somehow to be prohibited from challenging earlier understandings?

    The Rev'd David Hodgson
    Wokingham, Berkshire

  15. The question comes down to what Andrew Holden wrote: "there is nothing wrong with a Bishop seeking to change the CofE's teaching on any matter - the issue is whether the campaigning issue is right or not".

    Mere disagreement within the Church, however, does not establish that a thing may be right. The question is whether the position can be shown to be more consistent with foundational principles than the present belief or practice.

    The Church of England has consistenly agreed that same-sex practice is wrong, on the basis of Scripture.

    (I need hardly note, but perhaps should, that the Church of England is also formally committed to Scripture as the final authority in matters of faith and practice. It is no argument against this commitment to observe that the Church has not always abided by it.)

    Bishop Gladwin's support of Changing Attitude undermines that commitment regarding both the Church's teaching on same-sex practice and Scripture. He denies this, but he is wrong.

    He is, moreover, not in the position of a private individual, who the Church observes may hold a different view and practice (see Issues in Human Sexuality). He is a bishop, and, as Rowan Williams has said, his first obligation is therefore to uphold the teaching of the Church on this matter.

  16. The CofE contains many different perspectives and it is not expected that everyone should agree
    If you were honest, you would state clearly that all liberal Christians should not be part of the CofE, in your view.

    Mike Homfray

  17. Hi Mike. You write that "the CofE contains many different perspectives and it is not expected that everyone should agree". That is in danger of being a truism followed by a tautology!

    If you mean that the CofE in fact contains many contradictory viewpoints, that may be true but is scarcely a commendation. Moreover, it is not at all clear by whom it is expected that this situation should prevail, unless you mean by those who have this expectation, in which case it is by no means everyone.

    As to your other statement, about whether liberal Christians should be part of the CofE, it depends what is meant by 'liberal'. There may be views which cease to be Christian, at which point, membership of the CofE becomes moot. On the other hand, there may be 'liberal' views which are nevertheless still within the range of the Creeds and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the Book of Common Prayer and (perhaps with some fudging) the Thirty-nine Articles. I'm not sure I could attempt to define all such 'liberalism', and therefore couldn't say all of it falls outside the Christian faith.