Saturday, 28 June 2008

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us — not!

Back in 2003, when the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was still being considered, the Bishop of Guildford was interviewed on Channel 4 news about the likely impact this would have on the Anglican Communion.

Interviewer: ‘Either a practising homosexual is to be appointed as a bishop or he is not. Which way should it go?’

Bishop (John Gladwin): ‘Well, that’s just exactly the sort of way not to approach this problem and this issue. If this move is something which is good to the Holy Spirit ... um ... and to the people of God, it will flourish. If it isn’t then time will wither it upon the vine. So I think we need to exercise a little bit of patience and to allow some space to see whether a development like this is going to be wholesome to the Church or otherwise.”

And now we know.

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


  1. When asked what were the lessons of the French Revolution, Chairman Mao said that it was too early to tell. Don't you think that the Church should have just a little more historical perspective than you have shown in this post? Oh, I forgot; you knew the answer before the question was asked.

  2. On Tuesday, Dr Jensen and Archbishop Orombi are at All Souls Langham, London to recruit England's conservatives into a break-away organisation.

    The break-away group will reassert the Book of Common Prayer of Thomas Cranmer 1662. They will assert an orthodox approach to reading the Bible and will draw up a purer catechism. I wonder how differently they will strategise for a reading of the Bible in comparison to the ideas put forward by their ally the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali. The plot thickens!

    Dear John - are you going? - I think the vicars in my Parish will be going. I tell you what, I've never been so interested in church politics since I raised my own head above the parapet. Once you're out there and you get a whiff of it, you have to keep popping out for another large inhalation. I've been following GAFCON live streaming, Dave Walker, have just subscribed to the Church Times and I am keeping up with you. Peter kirk has some interesting things to say, as does Ruth Gledhill and Chris Barrow. Am I getting a balanced perspective on it all, do you think? Jody Radical Evangelical has been a bit quiet of late on the issues but I'm enjoying Madeline's voice - she's quite forthright isn't she. I'm going to check out her blog next. I feel like a right little detective - perhaps I should have been called to be a journalist instead. Rachel at If you go on Tuesday - do tell me all about it - won't you?

    God Bless Rachel

  3. I meant Simon Barow - not Chris - sorry Simon. I never was much good with names as my old students could tell you.

  4. Rachel, my expectation of Tuesday's meeting is feedback on what has happened at GAFCON and explanation as to what it might mean for us here. I'm not at all sure it is, or can be, about recruiting anyone into anything, especially not a "breakaway group".

    However, I'm amused by the thought that this group will be based on "the [1662] Book of Common Prayer ... an orthodox approach to reading the Bible and ... a purer catechism," since I already belong to a group that, at least in theory, adheres to all those things. It is called the Church of England.

    You may like to check out the Declaration of Assent, which is made by all clergy at their ordination and when taking up a new appointment. (It is also made by Readers and Lay Workers, but without the words 'and administration of the sacraments'.)

    The Preface begins, "The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The [1662] Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons [attached to the 1662 BCP]."

    Since I've made that Declaration, I'm already in a group which affirms all these things!

    I notice, too, that in its definitions, the GAFCON statement reproduces almost verbatim the existing Canon A5 of the Church of England: "The doctrine of the Church [of England] is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal."

    So you see, I've already been recruited into this 'group'.

    The real question is why this group (I mean the Church of England in England) includes so many in the ranks of its teachers, preachers and pastors who don't seem to uphold this standard, despite having made the Declaration of Assent.

    That is a serious question both ways, because whilst the GAFCON statement may be useful to those in North America who don't include the 1662 BCP and 39 Articles in their formularies, we in England do - and we're still in the poo!

    Notice also, the BCP already includes a catechism. And as an aside, Thomas Cranmer was fairly dead by 1662. His prayer book was completed in 1552, whereas the 1662 version contains a number of revisions, some of which distorted his original intention. The book to read is Colin Buchanan's What did Cranmer think he was doing?.

  5. Hi John

    Now that we've got the Jerusalem Declaration - what do you make of it? What do you think is meant by a 'plain' reading of scripture - does it mean 'plain' as in the sense of the interpretation put upon it by Conservative, traditional evangelical Christians? Don't we all bring to the Bible our own presuppositions and prejudices and by the very fact that the word of God goes through a human brain, it is, that in reality, that it can only come out the other side, unfortunately in ways that are at variance. We'll know God's will perfectly in the next life, don't you think? Until then we'll stuff it up, but surely one Anglican Christian group doesn't have access to 'Truth' over and above any other. We're all working hard at it and messing up a lot of the time. Can you sign on the bottom line of this declaration without any worries?

  6. Hi Rachel,

    The Declaration refers to the "plain and canonical sense [of Scripture], respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading." In other words, there are constraints on our reading which take into account the consensus of history and the Church.

    The phrase "plain and canonical" seems to have come from a suggested amendment to the Anglican Covenant put forward by Stephen Noll.

    However, the concept of a "plain" meaning to a text is itself thoroughly Anglican. In the preface to the Thirty-Nine Articles, it says they are to be read according to their "plain and full meaning" and to be taken in the "literal and grammatical sense".

    All generations have had to deal with such issues, especially when it comes to reading biblical texts. I would commend Mark Thompson's A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture, which is brief but scholarly.

    Meanwhile, I would much rather this than TEC's apparent decision that God reveals himself through (not merely to) its General Convention. That, I think, takes TEC decidedly outside (or is it further outside?) an Anglican theology (compare Article 21, "XXI. Of the authority of General Councils. General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture," emphasis added.)

  7. Oh, but as it is going to lead to a split, it is a very good thing indeed!

    After all, nothing can ever be worthwhile if it has to associate with conservative Christianity, in my view one of the most harmful and negative human ideologies.

    As for the 39 Articles, I'd say that those who believe in them as you do number the 8-10% or so who are conservative evangelicals, and a few others.

    Mike Homfray

  8. I agree with you, as we need to exercise our patience and to allow some space to see whether the development like this is going to be wholesome to the Church. Kindest regards,