Editorial Blog

Andrew Symes is the Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream. Having accepted Christ as a teenager he has always been concerned for the church maintaining right belief and practice as the foundation of its mission in the world. He is ordained and has wide experience of English Anglican churches, including serving for seven years in a church plant in Northampton. From 1994-2006 he worked in South Africa in pastoral ministry, grassroots theological education and community development. He is married with two children.

Humanism, the collapse of faith and the need for new methods of apologetics

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Editorial Blog, Evangelism, Humanism | Comments Off on Humanism, the collapse of faith and the need for new methods of apologetics

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

“I used to pray before bed, but I’ve definitely become less religious. I used to go to church every week – not any more. I hugely regret not voting for gay marriage. Faith is about love, and religion is too. I should have realized that.”

So says Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP, whose feisty character and working class roots set her apart from most of her more conventional and privately educated male colleagues, and has sometimes gained her tabloid notoriety. This quotation from an interview with Dorries in the Sunday Times magazine (March 11th) illustrates two important trends in our society. Firstly, even political conservatives have become more liberal on social issues. And secondly, this appears to be connected to decline in church attendance.

Among the governing elites in the nation, wide differences of opinion may exist on political and economic issues such as Brexit and levels of government borrowing and spending, but a liberal consensus on moral issues such as same sex marriage is such that it is extremely rare for anyone in the public eye to express a conservative view publicly (such as Jacob Rees-Mogg did last year.)

But as another Christian politician, Tim Farron, has pointed out, a liberal consensus quickly moves on to an illiberal conviction that those who don’t share the liberal view are wrong, hateful and potentially dangerous. They should be marginalized and punished, and the next generation should be educated in the politically correct view only. Many with influence, such as politicians and church leaders, have decided that given this climate, the necessity of avoiding controversy and aligning with accepted opinion means the best thing is to change one’s view, or at least not to articulate the conservative view publicly.

Has this change come about naturally, through evolution, as we grow in enlightenment compared to our forebears? Increasingly people are realizing that there has been a deliberate and revolutionary re-shaping of the culture, and the minds of the populations of the Western world, by an unholy alliance of secular left and right- wing thinking.

On one hand, the proponents of neo-Marxist ideologies believe progress towards equality and mutual prosperity is hampered by the old oppressive social order of patriarchy, heteronormativity, binary gender and the nuclear family, which can be eliminated through control of key institutions, propaganda, law change and education. On the other hand, capitalist marketers have realised that getting people to buy more stuff involves removing any brake or friction in the consumer experience. Traditional moral codes and placing a high value on personal self-control would definitely act as such a brake; while a generation increasingly ‘free’ of such ‘constraints’ will be psychologically more open to marketing messages, and so create more profit for the corporations.


The second insight from Dorries’ remark is that in her case at least, changing her mind about a moral issue such as same sex marriage accompanies what is portrayed as a softer, more humanistic, more tolerant approach to morality in general, and from that to faith. Previously, belief in God and his word was an absolute from which could be derived essential beliefs about morals and behaviour. When we feel uncomfortable about those absolutes, perhaps because everyone around us is saying that they are unfair, repressive, creating false guilt and so on, this causes us to question what we thought we knew about God. Maybe, we conclude, faith does not start with positing a morally pure Creator and his communication to us, but with us, our emotions and relationships of love, and what we hope for as a better world. But for Dorries and many others, if religion is about love, then church and even prayer become optional at best.

It’s not difficult to see the implications if a right-wing politician’s journey from social conservative to social liberal has led to her stop going to church and praying to God. Many millions in the West are making the same journey. What does this say then about the continued trend of mainline churches in the West, to embrace social liberalism as an evangelistic strategy?

Associating God, Jesus, the church and the bible with a ‘thou shalt not’ morality, injustice towards minorities and the preservation of inequality has made the brand of Christianity toxic, the argument goes. Embracing inclusion and a message of unconditional acceptance is a ‘missiological imperative’ to get people back into church. But in fact the opposite has happened. As the message has been received by Dorries and millions of others that religion and faith are “just love”, they don’t see the need for organized worship, the receiving of the divine word and sacrament, and a discipleship of taking up the cross. Paradoxically, the focus on a liberal interpretation of “God is love” has proved more toxic to Christian faith than the idea that God might be against same sex marriage.


So if trying to align the message of the Gospel with contemporary social liberalism appears to be counter-productive in terms of evangelism, what approach should the church take? Many nominal Christians who used to have a basic bible knowledge, socially conservative views and go to church sometimes, now have liberal opinions and don’t go to church at all. This has not just happened naturally, but as the result of the successful propagation of ‘other gospels’ which, like the true Gospel, offer the stick and the carrot – a vision of a perfect society, and warnings of not being included for those who don’t embrace the humanist ideology.

Given such a change, simply talking about God and Jesus to those who have imbibed the contemporary worldview will result in rejection of the message at worst, and a kind of syncretism, seeing God and Jesus as metaphors for secular views of love and justice at best. Part of the essential apologetic task of the church is to show how humanistic understandings of God, humanity, love, sex, marriage, sin, justice and so on are “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8) being forcibly imposed in our culture, and then to deconstruct them with bible, spiritual warfare and the example of sacrificial discipleship.


‘Voices of the Silenced’ – is it best to keep it that way, or should they be heard?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2018 in 2-Important Posts, Editorial Blog, Homosexuality, Testimonies | Comments Off on ‘Voices of the Silenced’ – is it best to keep it that way, or should they be heard?

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Attempts to suppress a documentary illustrate widespread ignorance, intolerance and injustice in Western sexual politics.

What makes a good society? Should there be ‘liberalism’ and ‘tolerance’ for any point of view, within a framework of law that protects against exploitation and violence? Or are certain viewpoints, voices, actually better kept away from the public space, because they cause harm by stirring up hatred, affecting people’s mental health, or simply being inconvenient? And then, who decides?

Some views generally held to be abhorrent and patently false, such as holocaust denial, are illegal in some countries but not in others, because in the liberal West we have usually taken the view that an opinion should not be censored, no matter how wrong or stupid, but rather should be open to debate and held up for scrutiny rather than being given the opportunity to breed in dark corners.

However today, loud, powerful lobby groups are capable of generating such public disapproval about certain viewpoints that they are effectively suppressed, even though, unlike holocaust denial, they are based on truth and beneficial for those who hold them. On 8th February a documentary film about a viewpoint deemed ‘incorrect’ was due to be shown at Vue Cinema in Piccadilly Circus. At the last minute the cinema bowed to pressure and cancelled the screening. With exquisite irony, the film was called ‘Voices of the Silenced’ (VoS) – see here for press reports on this ‘silencing’.

What are the main points of the film? Why were critics so keen to stop it being shown, rather than debating the viewpoints in a tolerant manner? And what was the result? The ‘voices’ that VoS allows to speak are men and women who have been involved in homosexual relationships and in some cases have identified as part of a gay or transgender community and lifestyle, who for various reasons became dissatisfied with that, sought help in the form of different types of counselling, and stopped their compulsive behaviour. In some cases, they found that heterosexual feelings developed even to the point of getting married and having children.

The immediate objection to this, which led to the cancellation of the film’s screening, is that it’s promoting the idea of ‘gay cure’, linking it to the dark days of compulsory electric shock aversion therapy in the 1950’s. Critics say “what’s wrong with being gay – why are you trying to change people from gay to straight?”, completely ignoring that the voices are from people feeling oppressed and wanting to change, and those willing to attend to them (often at great personal cost), not from any powerful group imposing their view and solution on others. The point is made in the film that change is not guaranteed, and seeking it should be entirely voluntary, but help should be available and not suppressed.

Another common objection attempts to use science: “hasn’t it been proven that some people are born gay? Won’t trying to change them cause harm?” So the documentary features a second group of voices: researchers who have analysed the debates around the science of sexual orientation, and the rapid evolution of scientific opinion on the subject. They show that medical opinion is now firmly on the side of sexual desire being influenced by postnatal factors and ‘fluid’, ie with potential for change, rather than genetically determined or fixed. The speakers in the film conclude that guidelines issued against therapy for unwanted same sex attraction by such august bodies as the Royal College of Psychiatry and the British Medical Association, laws enacted in States in the US or motions passed in Church Synods, have too often been guided not by science, but by ideology mediated by cultural pressure coming from lobby groups, illustrating the power of sexual politics, or politicization of sex, in the West.

The third group of voices in the documentary come from the ancient world. Presenter Mike Davidson from Core Issues Trust invites viewers to imagine the worldview of Jewish slaves, taken to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem in ad70 and forced to build the Coliseum, or of Christians in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius. The first century AD saw a clash between Roman and Judaeo-Christian sexual ethics: the powerful but immoral and violent civilization of Rome on one hand, Judaism and the new religion of Christianity which was emerging from it on the other. Those in control demanded conformity to their values, and there was huge pressure on Christians to compromise. But despite their voices being silenced in the early days, it was Judaeo-Christian ethics which were on the ‘right side of history’, and eventually became the foundation of our understanding of marriage, family, law and human rights which are again under threat today, as one of the voices of the documentary, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali explains.

The documentary shuffles repeatedly between these three themes of personal testimony of seeking and finding ways to change unwanted thoughts and behaviour, analysis of scientific and cultural bias trying to prevent this testimony from being heard, and finding parallels with the ancient world. Some might find this confusing, but for me it’s effective in helping to communicate the three strands in layers of short clips, rather than getting bogged down in overlong explanations.

As is often the case, the voices of individuals calmly, convincingly and bravely sharing stories of changed lives are compelling, although for English-speaking viewers, testimonies in a foreign language with subtitles might strain attention spans. The visuals of sites in Rome and Pompeii, and the narrative making the parallel of clash of values in ancient and contemporary cultures, is effective in breaking up what would otherwise be a documentary consisting only of talking heads. Is the content convincing? The historical angle certainly adds weight to the idea of a minority being persecuted and silenced for their faith-based sexual ethics.

The film was due to be shown to a few dozen people at Vue. Because of the cancellation and subsequent media interest, thousands of people were alerted to the documentary, the work of Core Issues Trust, and the idea that for some at least, being ‘gay’ might not be a destiny that must be embraced, but a choice that can be refused. But perhaps this is about more than allowing a minority some freedom of choice in thought and behaviour – it’s a courageous challenge to an entire ideology of sex which dominates our culture but because of the lies on which it’s based, has to use increasingly oppressive methods to enforce conformity. Voices of the Silenced is not for entertainment, but is compellingly watchable, and deserves a wide audience.

See here for clips of the film

here for the website

Northern Ireland: The first part of the documentary Voices of the Silenced was also denied a viewing at Queens Film Theatre in the Belfast but a screening will go ahead at Ballynahinch Baptist Church on Tuesday 13th March at 7.30.

The ‘merger’ of three Anglican evangelical groups in England: some questions

Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in 2-Important Posts, Church of England, Editorial Blog, Gafcon | Comments Off on The ‘merger’ of three Anglican evangelical groups in England: some questions

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

After a long period of discussion and, I’m certain, lots of prayer, three organizations which have had overlapping membership, leadership and aims have agreed to merge, or in reality Reform and Fellowship of Word and Spirit will cease to exist, and a new, beefed-up Church Society will be created.

Church Society has a long history dating back to the mid-19th century and itself is the result of previous mergers of voluntary Societies within the Church of England. Its focus has always been on preserving reformed, bible-based evangelical ministry within local parishes, and in doing so, maintaining the presence of this theological position in the C of E as a whole. It’s probably fair to say that in the past, Church Society sometimes has had an image of being fairly staid, old-fashioned and lacking in wider influence – this has certainly been changed by the dynamism of the current leader Lee Gatiss.

Meanwhile Reform and FWS were created more recently to reflect a less ‘churchy’ style and different strategic agenda. Reform in particular brought together conservative evangelicals in the 1990’s to campaign against theological liberalism in the C of E (rather than anglo-catholicism, the previous focus of Church Society’s opposition), to be involved in the ecclesiastical politics of Synod, and to be more creative in promoting mission.

So given that Church Society has significantly modernized under Gatiss’ leadership, and one of the key battles for Reform, namely the introduction of women Bishops, is now over with a significant concession in the form of the official C of E commitment to valuing conservative evangelical ministry through the ‘Five Guiding Principles’ and the concept of ‘mutual flourishing’, in the eyes of many it seems sensible for the organizations to merge. They now become, in effect, a Society for conservative evangelicals, similar to that offered to Anglo-Catholics, with their own Bishop, Rod Thomas; and the prospect of more in future.

Gatiss’ statement on the merger can be found here. No doubt more will be said on behalf of the new organization; much is being said on social media. For the moment I would like to offer some comments and questions in a hopefully friendly spirit.

How big is this news?

Lee Gatiss says of the merger: This is the biggest thing to happen in the Anglican Evangelical world here for 25 years.” He has at a stroke given an enormous boost to the organization he runs, and it will shortly be unrecognizable from the struggling institution he took over, so one can make allowances for a certain amount of hyperbole! But I’m sure many people, for example some of those theologically orthodox evangelical Anglicans in England who aren’t members of CS or Reform, who might take issue with him and put forward other ‘big things’ which have happened. One hopes that this overstatement doesn’t build up expectations on which the leaders can’t deliver in future.

Do different views on strategy threaten evangelical unity?

Lee also sees the new merger as a bulwark against ‘fragmentation and dispersal’. This seems to be a reference to the confusing proliferation of overlapping networks and organizations, often reflecting different views that evangelicals have on various issues. Of course unity is good, and so is leadership with clear vision. But some readers may detect here a slight danger of appearing to say that anyone who agrees with the theology of Church Society, but sees a different way forward with regard to the state of the Church of England and the various kinds of ‘differentiation’ that are being proposed and enacted in response to the trajectory of theological liberalism, is somehow guilty of ungodly division.

So it would be good to know what will be the approach of the new organization to working with other evangelicals who share the same understanding of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture, but who might differ on other secondary issues? For example, the Church of England Evangelical Council (of which Reform, FWS and Church Society are members) has recently produced a document robustly re-stating the historic biblical position on sexual ethics, saying that some kind of separation from the Church of England structures will be inevitable if changes to church teaching are enacted. In a previous CEEC document, ‘Guarding the Deposit’, a clear warning was given about the limitations of a Society operating under the auspices of the C of E to guarantee the long term future of evangelical belief and practice within the denomination. Is this kind of thinking to be viewed as damaging to evangelical unity? It would be better if the different perspectives could be discussed from a position of recognizing that unity already exists, rather than seeing diversity of opinion on strategy as a threat to fundamental unity.

How to contend for the faith?

There are also a number of references in the Press Release to ‘contending for the faith’; mentioned by Lee and in quotes from representatives from Reform and FWS. Again, many will be fully supportive of the need to challenge false ideas, and bring congregations and hopefully more of the governance of the Church as a whole under the direction of God’s word. But there needs to be further explanation on what kind of ‘contending’ will be envisaged? Is it just a familiar phrase designed to ‘rally the troops’, while in fact Church Society plans to operate very diplomatically and in peace with the C of E structures? Or are they really planning to kick up a fuss about revisionist theology, heretical Bishops and so on? By committing fully and unconditionally to remaining in the Church of England, have they perhaps given away a key bargaining chip in contending for orthodox Anglicanism in England?

What about Gafcon?

Then there is the absence of any mention of relationship with orthodox Anglicans in the global Communion. It could be argued that the development of Gafcon is in fact the ‘biggest thing’ to happen to the church in recent years! This is because, perhaps, the presence of a united, biblically faithful group of Primates around the world who have already demonstrated their willingness to act against heterodoxy in the US, has been the main factor in preventing more rapid moves towards revisionism in the C of E. Though ‘contending’ by English Anglican evangelical groups such as Reform has been strong and clear at times, Gafcon’s influence has been more significant.

The Gafcon leadership have repeatedly expressed concern about the state of the Church of England. They accept that there are many theologically conservative folk remaining in the C of E and carrying out gospel ministry through its structures, and want to support them. But because of the secularization in the culture and the general theological slide in the Western church as a whole, they have acted to consecrate a missionary Bishop to provide oversight for some British Anglicans outside the official structures now, and in preparation for what may be needed in the future. It is not inconceivable that at some stage in the near future, Gafcon Primates could declare themselves in impaired communion with the mother Church. Again, where would this leave members of an evangelical society within that church who have not given themselves flexibility in terms of future strategy?

Meanwhile, membership of Gafcon, enjoying fellowship with the multicultural global mission movement based around shared understanding of faith as expressed in the Jerusalem Declaration, does not require signing up to any particular ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ strategy. I hope that the new Church Society will not see a contradiction between commitment to operating within the Church of England for the moment, while at the same time being part of Gafcon, and supporting other expressions of Anglicanism outside the C of E such as the Anglican Mission in England and Free Church of England.

Read also:  Why should Reform spell disunity? by Julian Mann, VOL

Securing a future or stockpiling whitewash? By Peter Sanlon, Anglican Mainstream

Anglican Unscripted: Ashenden and Kallsen comment



Reflection for Lent: Resisting temptation and the cosmic struggle against evil

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Editorial Blog, Lent, Theology | Comments Off on Reflection for Lent: Resisting temptation and the cosmic struggle against evil

Reflection for Lent: Resisting temptation and the cosmic struggle against evil

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

During Lent, we’re reminded of how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. This was God’s way of ensuring that Jesus’ humanity was mastered, working in perfect harmony with his divinity; that he was prepared for the ministry where popularity would tempt him to pride, and humiliation to despair. Jesus resisted the devil’s schemes, and so later was able to remain humble amid the adulation; hopeful and trusting in God’s sovereignty as he was being crushed.

Jesus went without food; faced and conquered head on the desires for power and prosperity natural to his human nature, so that he would be able, when the time came, to go to the cross and take the sins of the world on himself. He went through temptation in the desert, so that he could later endure torture and death. He did it for us, so that our salvation does not depend on how well we pass our tests, but on the grace that he demonstrated to us.

The Bible does not try to cover up how difficult this was for Jesus. He is not portrayed as detached and otherworldly, as if somehow because of “the joy set before him” he was oblivious to pain. His disciples saw his physical and psychological agony. He succeeded, knowing what he was doing, with immense courage and constant trust in God – in contrast to the disciples themselves, who are portrayed as seeking after human power, failing to grasp God’s plan, cowardly and fearful. Their salvation could only be by faith, not by their own efforts. And yet throughout his ministry Jesus taught that as his followers, they too would be tested and tempted, and that through their practice in resisting temptation, putting self to death and Jesus and his Kingdom first, the church would grow and spread.

So Lent calls us first to look at Christ, how he took on satan at great personal cost and won; how he prepared for his unique sin-bearing role which alone could bring us forgiveness and peace with God. The Gospel is primarily about us looking at his victory and sharing in it. But then, this season also focuses on the next stage of discipleship: to look at ourselves, to imitate Christ in our own battles with temptation to sin. The church has often struggled to maintain this balance, either emphasising our effort and turning faith into a daily grind or self-help philosophy, or so emphasising God’s grace and love that our need to resist temptation, live holy lives and be counter-cultural is lost.


There is a powerful illustration for the necessity of resisting temptation in the Lord of the Rings. For those who haven’t read the book or seen the films (I met someone in this category the other day), it can be summarised like this – Frodo Baggins has to destroy an extremely dangerous and powerful ring with a little help from his friends. (That’s inadequate, a bit like summarizing the story of Pride and Prejudice as “girl finds a husband”, or the Die Hard movies as “tough guy gets his vest dirty”, but it will have to do).

Frodo is an ordinary ‘Hobbit’, a harmless, insignificant creature wanting to live a quiet life. In a scene near the beginning of the first film, the ring comes into his possession, which means that his life is changed forever. He is aware of a new cosmic reality, of forces of evil which will take over if he does nothing. When he and his companions know what the ring is, he must destroy it, and there is a constant temptation to misuse it, and so part of what they have to do is to remain focussed, to constantly choose good and reject evil. If Frodo refuses to go on the journey to destroy the ring, or if he yields to its power, then its not just him that will die, but the whole world he loves.

Frodo’s immediate response is to offer the ring to Gandalf, the wise wizard, who responds “don’t tempt me” in a way reminiscent of Jesus refusing Peter’s suggestion that he does not need to go to the cross. But for both Frodo and Gandalf, for the ordinary person and the eminent influential figure, the call is to deny self and put to death the thing that seems to offer freedom and comfort, but in fact calls them to the service of evil.

In the same way, before someone becomes a Christian, they see their desires, and fulfilling or not fulfilling them, simply as part of being a human being. But once someone has understood that God is real; that Jesus really is alive; that the devil is trying to derail our lives and wreck the world, life totally changes. The choice facing every person, whether low or high in status, to go God’s way or my own, has implications in the spiritual realm not just for the eternal destiny of the individual, but much wider. So resisting temptation is not being a killjoy, or denying a valid part of your humanity as some may say – it is a statement that you are taking part in the cosmic struggle against evil.

In Romans 8:5-7, Paul speaks of two types of person: those who live according to their sinful nature, and those who live according to the Spirit. Temptation is the desire to indulge the sinful nature inside us. The verses following tell us a bit more about what it means to be controlled by our sinful nature – it is “death”, an absence of true life; it shows a mind hostile to God and refusing, even unable to obey his laws.

But there are crucial aspects of the Christian faith which aren’t reflected in the Rings story: the cross of Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. In the Lord of the Rings, destroying the ring, a symbol for the sinful nature, is up to Frodo and his friends. At the end, when he’s on his own, there’s nothing to sustain him but his own courage and inner strength. If he fails, then all is lost.

In Romans 8:3-4 Paul makes three extraordinary statements that tell us something different about our struggle. First, “the law was powerless” meaning that knowing what’s right and wrong is not enough to stop us giving in to temptation, or to prevent the global advance of evil. But second, God’s Son died in my place as a sin offering, so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us”. This is justification: God declaring us acceptable to him despite our failure, because of Jesus’ success, rather than because of our success in resisting temptation. And then thirdly, he makes it possible for us to live in a new way: “according to the Spirit” rather than constantly being dragged down by sinful nature.

This is expanded in vv12-13. Like Frodo, we have an obligation to go on a journey to destroy the precious thing which leads to sin – otherwise the result is death. But unlike Frodo, we are walking with One who has already done it for us, and we can can claim the help of the Spirit of God himself as we turn away from evil and live for Christ.

Evangelicals, ‘differentiation’ and the global Church

Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in 2-Important Posts, Doctrine, Editorial Blog, Evangelism, Gafcon | Comments Off on Evangelicals, ‘differentiation’ and the global Church

by Andrew Symes, Church of England Newspaper:

A document entitled ‘Gospel, Church and Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life’ (or ‘AFL’) has recently been published and circulated within evangelical networks. Although the authorship of AFL is anonymous, it has been endorsed by the Church of England Evangelical Council which met in early January. It is significant because CEEC isn’t a homogenous body – it’s a loose coalition of evangelical groups who have different views on issues such as women’s ordination, charismatic gifts and mission strategy. But there is agreement on the essentials of the Gospel, and the authority, trustworthiness and clarity of Scripture as it speaks to the contemporary debate.

AFL is eirenic in tone; it sets out clearly the historic approach of the Christian Church to issues of sexuality and marriage, and concludes that were the Church of England to adopt different teaching and practice, this would be regarded as “a departure from the apostolic faith”. Such a departure would inevitably lead to “acts of differentiation” by those concerned to preserve biblical faithfulness.

While the reaction of some will be to accuse those endorsing the document as threatening disunity and schism, AFL’s conclusion points out that divisions and differences already exist. There are those in the Church of England who agree with the biblical vision for humanity living under God’s rule, as expressed in AFL; they want to preserve this apostolic faith as currently expressed in the Church’s formularies, prayers and policies. But there are others who are not prepared to promote and defend the Church’s teaching, and an increasing number who are determined to change the external liturgical and canonical expressions in line with a different vision, which they already believe and practice.

The CEEC document does not express an opinion on how far the C of E has already gone informally in bringing about this change, in terms of the statements of its leaders and in accepted practice on the ground. Nor does it spell out what forms ‘visible differentiation’ might take. But a previous document, called ‘Guarding the Deposit’ (GTD) and released in October 2016, did give some pointers in terms of options for faithful Anglicans who feel increasingly alienated by a Church which appears to be embracing ideologies at odds with the historic deposit of apostolic faith, and who need something more robust than the familiar “live and let live” approach of Anglican evangelicals in their networks in recent decades.

So for those who believe that ‘visible differentiation’ may be necessary to preserve authentic Gospel witness in the Church of England, what are the options? Models outlined in GTD include the negotiation of various forms of delegated Episcopal oversight on a non-geographical basis, or even a Third Province. These would be formal structures to give a safe space to parishes wishing to remain biblically orthodox on issues of sexuality and perhaps other matters, within a Church increasingly aligned with the views of secular society. But another model mentioned in GTD, though not developed, involves realignment with Anglicans outside the Church of England who publicly and unambiguously stand for the apostolic vision.

Various levels of informal differentiation already exist in the Church of England between individuals and churches who do not share the same vision of Christian faith, and yet also remarkable unity between those from different networks and emphases who agree on the fundamentals. The same is true on the global level. As the fabric of the Anglican Communion has been torn by constituent Provinces in the West adopting doctrinal and ethical innovations, making claims of ‘walking together’ sound increasingly hollow, so the emergence of Gafcon and its alliance with the Global South movement has provided a focus for unity around shared understanding and confession of faith.

As was stated in a presentation at the recent CEEC meeting, Gafcon offers a vision of global orthodox Anglicanism where participants from around the world can meet in fellowship; mutual learning and support, and mission, without being hampered by serious disagreement on primary issues of doctrine. The movement provides an authoritative prophetic voice: Primatially-led, warning about destructive powers and ideologies in culture; and calling the Church back to God and his word.

Many now see Gafcon as a means of support for the ‘concerned and increasingly differentiated’ Church of England clergy and parishes. Membership of Gafcon, and attendance at the major gathering in Jerusalem in June, does not mean commitment to a particular model of differentiation. Meanwhile the new Gafcon missionary Bishop now offers Episcopal oversight for new expressions of orthodox Anglicans outside official structures, such as Anglican Mission in England; this comes under the remit of Gafcon UK’s wider work. Those who agree with CEEC’s recent document will find this work increasingly attractive in preserving and promoting the Anglican version of apostolic faith and life in our nation.

See also:

Three cheers for the CEEC statement on marriage and sex, by David Baker, Christian Today

Evangelical Anglicans warn they might walk away if C of E departs from ‘apostolic truth’, by Mark Woods, Christian Today

Gafcon Chairman’s February 2018 letter


Synod debates about liturgy open up bigger questions of truth and religious freedom

Posted by on Feb 6, 2018 in Church of England, Editorial Blog, Liturgy, Transgender | Comments Off on Synod debates about liturgy open up bigger questions of truth and religious freedom

Synod debates about liturgy open up bigger questions of truth and religious freedom

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

If the Church of England approves prayers to celebrate and affirm gender transition and / or same sex relationships, does it matter? Some would say it doesn’t, as long as individual parishes are not compelled to use such prayers. Some churches long ago stopped using most formal liturgies anyway, so perhaps the question is irrelevant. But others would say such prayers are very important. For the LGBT activist, specific prayers are necessary to publicly validate identity and experience in the setting of the church; “to actually name us and our reality”, as Christina Beardsley says about ‘trans’ people.

Theologian Martin Davie agrees with the LGBT activists about the importance of officially sanctioned liturgies in the C of E and how they express truth: what we all believe. In his recent essay he revisits the theme of ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’, meaning that what the church believes and what it prays must be aligned. Davie points out that unlike some other Protestant denominations, Anglicanism defines its system of belief not just on a statement (the Thirty Nine Articles), but also a series of prayers and rubrics (the BCP and the Ordinal). But of course Davie argues strongly against the adoption of the proposed new liturgies, precisely because they would imply that the church believes something different to what it has always believed. While some may claim that such prayers in church would only be a minor local expression of pastoral care for individuals, in fact LGBT activists know very well that they would be a symbol of a radical change in how the church understands itself and reality.

The Anglican formularies are derived from an accepted understanding of Christian faith based on Scripture, and prayers that we say reflect that. It’s not the case, as some have claimed, that prayers develop according to our evolving experience and understanding of God, and then we get our theology from these prayers (Davie cites the Anglican Church of Canada as having embraced this erroneous idea). Rather, Article 20 is quite clear:

‘The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s word written.’

In other words, Scripture comes before liturgy and controls its content. Considering the question of prayers of affirmation for same sex couples, Davie concludes that the only way this could be done with integrity is if the C of E repudiates all its existing teaching on sex and marriage in the Canons and Prayer Books, and says it no longer believes in the teaching of Scripture as historically understood. As it wouldn’t do this, what we would have is incoherence, where the church officially contradicts itself, for example by allowing prayers that celebrate same sex unions as the ‘Hereford Motion’ urges, while not contradicting the theology of the BCP marriage service.

But what about liturgies for gender transition? Davie is not impressed by the Episcopal sleight of hand, by which they did not recommend a new liturgy but have given permission for clergy to use an existing reaffirmation of baptismal vows service.

Regardless of the wording, the Bishops have in fact declared it is “an acceptable part of Christian discipleship for someone with male biology to identify themselves as female and vice versa”(Davie). While the Church has not sufficiently grappled with the recent phenomenon of transgender, and hasn’t produced any teaching which the new services may or may not align with, what is clear is that a biblical theology of creation and the nature of humanity is contradicted by the Bishops’ guidance. Prayers which celebrate someone’s ‘gender transition’ are not just a local expression of love and welcome for an individual – they articulate a new, non-Christian understanding of reality which is why the LGBT activists were so keen for the Bishops to go even further.

There is a contradiction at the heart of the new rhetoric of gender which is illogical, but also compelling. On one hand, we are told (for example in Beardsley’s article, and in the ‘Radical Inclusion’ speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury last February) that there is no ideology or agenda, just individuals with a profound personal conviction about their identity, who need to be welcomed with love and not shunned by the church. On the other hand, we are all expected simply to accept that a ‘trans person’ is not just identifying as a gender different from his/her biological sex, but that he/she is different on a profound ontological level. A ‘trans’ person according to this account, does not just feel ‘trapped in the wrong body’; rather he/she is a variant kind of human being, has been created as such, and has come to discover this previously hidden truth about gender and personhood which we all need to discover.

This is certainly an ideology. As Ryan Anderson explains, this is “a metaphysical claim”. It is in fact a religious claim, a manifestation of a faith. And it seems that the leadership of the Church of England are determined to avoid the necessary theological analysis of this faith. In accepting the concept of ‘trans children’ in the anti-bullying guidance issued to schools last November, and in speaking in official Synodical documents about ‘trans’ people’s journey to find their true identity somehow being equivalent to the Christian journey, the Bishops have gone further than advocating compassion for people with gender dysphoria – they have accepted aspects of the new Gnostic faith of gender fluidity, incorporated it uncritically into their understanding of Christian faith, and expected all Anglicans to simply go along with it.

But what about the responses with which we began this exploration – those who don’t use liturgy anyway, and those who think new liturgies don’t matter as long as they’re not compulsory?

Firstly, all churches use liturgy, and perhaps the most easily recognizable is the informal type used by worship leaders in charismatic churches. I’m not criticizing that style of worship at all – I’ve participated in it myself as a musician and worship leader. But the words used between songs to encourage devotion and worship, and the songs themselves, often develop a form that is repeated week by week. To what theology is it tethered? That’s another long discussion, but the point is that what a church believes is shown in its liturgy, formal and written or informal and spoken/sung, for good or ill. You can’t avoid lex orandi lex credendi just because you don’t use the Prayer Book.

Secondly, because the debate about LGBT liturgies is not just about compassion for individuals but about the nature of the Gospel, truth and justice for all, for many activists, once the Church has agreed to such liturgies, they and the worldview they illustrate should be mandatory. Jayne Ozanne argues that in the secular world, once “equality” laws have been passed, there should be no exemptions, for example for Christian bakers who object to icing a message on a cake supporting same sex marriage. Presumably she and others who think the same way would also insist that the same principle of “just love” (her phrase) should apply in the Church of England – that once Synod has approved services blessing a gay couple, or someone’s new gender identity, those prayers reflect what we now believe about reality, and the principle of “just love” should make this compulsory across the board.

What appeared at first to be a minor issue of pastoral provision for a small minority of individuals has quickly become first a theological crisis in the church, then a threat to religious freedom. Do enough faithful leaders in the church understand this, and can they turn the situation around?

Understanding more about Israel

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Christianity, Editorial Blog, Israel, Judaism | Comments Off on Understanding more about Israel

Understanding more about Israel

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

I can still remember the lecture when I was at theological college more than 25 years ago. I had never bothered to get to grips with Romans 9-11 before that: the chapters where Paul addresses the question of God’s plan for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. I had always assumed that, now that Christ had come, Judaism was just the same as any other non-Christian religion. Salvation was not by race but by grace. And anyway I was preparing for a ministry of grassroots community development and theological education in Africa, so for me, what the Bible has to say about Jews was irrelevant.

But now here was this lecturer asking us: how many of you have heard the first part of Romans 1:16 expounded in a sermon – I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We all put our hands up. But what about the second part: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile? Most of us confessed that this aspect, picked up again in chapters 9-11, had been missing up to that point in the teaching we had received. It was eye-opening, and forced me to wrestle with Paul’s theology of the chosen people, culminating in the conclusion: all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Since that time the question of Israel and the Jewish people has been on the back burner of my mind, sometimes coming to the fore theologically (does God still have a special relationship with Jewish people, and how is this relevant to global mission?), and politically, when we see a news item on tensions and suffering in the West Bank and Gaza, or anti-Semitism in political parties and on university campuses in the US and Europe.

So when I was invited to join a small group of clergy on a special tour of the Holy Land, I realized this would be an opportunity to learn more; perhaps to clarify my thinking but also to see first hand some of the complexities.

Knowing the history when visiting a site is always fascinating, anywhere in the world. But there is something extraordinary about being at Joppa, the place where Peter had his vision of the unclean animals in Acts 10, or at Shiloh where the tabernacle was set up in the time of Judges. Or being told “that is the mountain where Abraham and Lot parted company”; “over there the Crusaders were finally defeated by Saladin”.

Likewise, one can read books and watch news items about Israel and Palestine, but we had the privilege of meeting people and hearing their stories: articulate, passionate and resourceful women and men from Jewish settler communities in the West Bank (illegal? Or essential? Certainly contentious); Palestinian political leaders angry at what they saw as an unjust and oppressive ‘apartheid’ system; a British diplomat, an Israeli Professor of international relations, a check-point manager, a Jewish survivor from 1940’s Vichy France. Palestinian Christians with different views; one working for political liberation, one running a centre for evangelism and community development, and an Aramaic speaker determined to preserve this small community and its churches of ancient heritage.

Perhaps the best way to sum up the trip is to focus on four themes or areas in which my understanding increased and my feelings were touched, rather than making a chronological list of places visited and voices heard.


Like many English Protestants visiting the Holy Land for the first time, I’m disappointed at the way massive church buildings cover the supposed places of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection and other key moments of his ministry. While this is a way of showing devotion and of witnessing to the reality and Lordship of Christ in some traditions, when I read the Gospels I have a strong sense that the message is “he isn’t here, he is risen!” Hasn’t the desire for possession of the geographical space where Jesus’s physical body touched led to vast and unnecessary expense on stone and silver and gold, and the awful stain of the Crusades?

True, Christ is known and worshipped in spirit and in truth, not by prayer in a consecrated building or on a mountain in Samaria. Unlike some, I can’t say I felt that being in a certain location made me closer to Jesus. And yet it was certainly awe-inspiring to see the Synagogue in Magdala, to have Communion on the Mount where Jesus taught; to take a boat trip on the magnificent (though increasingly depleted) Sea of Galilee; then in Jerusalem to read again the account of the healing of the lame man by the pool of Bethesda while actually being there.


While on the plane I finished the magisterial account of the city by historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore. Seeing and walking around the old city itself, and then looking at the huge scale model of the second temple period, at the Israel Museum, helped to complete the picture for me. The scale of the Temple Mount in particular is astonishing – no wonder the disciples said to Jesus “look at these stones”. Overall, as archaeology uncovers parts of the city of Jesus’ time and before, the city reveals its history of prosperity, decline and conquest, over and over again, so the stones show mind-boggling amounts of investment of money and human labour, to build and to pull down.

Of course Jerusalem is also a visual symbol of human fascination with the numinous; held by Muslims and Jews to be the place where God is most present, and where the final judgement will begin (a view also held by many Christians). And so it is a place of conflict, bearing witness to centuries of struggle over control and ownership; a place where empires have clashed from the time of Assyria and Egypt to Britain and France.

Jewish people

And the city is the focus of devotion and identity, both in Israel and the diaspora, for this remarkable race. The talent, innovative skill and determination to make the country work is evident visibly in the fertile productivity of the farms in a dry land, the cutting edge medicine and IT, and the enthusiasm of the tour guides. I was particularly struck by the strong sense of shared identity which transcends the different nationalities that make up the Israeli people, which comes from centuries of history, ritual and of course terrible suffering (as the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre reminded us). Family is central – we had the privilege of being hosted for a Shabbat meal – and there is belief in the future despite the chaotic arguments of Israeli politics. While many modern Israelis do not believe in the God of the Bible, they all understand the significance and power of the story that has shaped them. What a contrast with so many young people in Britain: rootless, ignorant of the nation’s Christian heritage or their family history. To quote the title of a popular TV programme: “who do you think you are?” – the Jews know, but the majority of Western Gentiles do not.


But where does this leave us in terms of forming an opinion? I think I have stayed where I was before I went. Politically, I celebrate the success of the nation of Israel but see the need to pray for the leaders as they navigate the balance of maintaining their own security and prosperity, with peace with and justice for the Palestinian people. In terms of Paul’s vision in Romans for a great movement towards Christ among Jews in the last days: humanly speaking, the Israel project and the strong religious and cultural heritage seem to be a blockage to that, but God fulfils his promises… I don’t accept, like some Christian Zionists, that full Jewish ownership of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple and military victories, not faith in Jesus, is the key to the salvation of the Jewish people and the establishment of Christ’s reign. But nor do believe in a replacement theology which denies that the Gospel is “first for the Jew”, and which sees the church as making Israel irrelevant.

In the end, there’s a space left for not having sorted everything out in our hearts and minds, and it’s good that while fulfilling our responsibilities of love and prayer, we can leave the judgements to God.

[Many thanks to the Anglo Israel Association for making this trip possible.]

The new threat to freedom of belief

Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in 2-Important Posts, Editorial Blog, Freedom Of Speech | Comments Off on The new threat to freedom of belief

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

The secondary school I attended was founded in 1870. It had a Methodist foundation, and was set up in anticipation of the Universities Test Act of the following year, which eventually removed the ban on those who were not communicants in the Church of England from attending Oxford and Cambridge University. I was not from a Methodist family and was confirmed in the C of E during that time, but the story of the school’s founding always reminded me of the severe restrictions on religious freedom which used to occur on a daily basis in this country. Also, it speaks of the cost that many of our godly forebears in the ‘nonconformist’ churches paid for following Christ according to their conscience.

Before the repeal of the old laws, those who had a different worldview from the nominal Anglican male elite, whether Roman Catholic, Jewish, nonconformist or even atheist (there were not many Muslims in Britain at that time), simply did not have access to senior positions, or the means to achieve the highest levels of education. In other words, there was a restriction on freedom of belief. The many factors which brought about change, and led to eventual full democracy and the freedoms taken for granted a century later is part of a long and involved history, rightly celebrated, part of which is a tolerance based on shared belief in God and the dignity of all human beings as set out in the Bible.

In recent years many commentators have pointed out a new threat to these hard-won freedoms. We are now familiar with various well-publicised cases showing how freedom of thought and expression is now increasingly restricted, not now by attempts to preserve Anglican hegemony, but by a new political correctness tied to the sexual revolution. While 60 years ago limitations on what could be expressed in public derived from Christian morality and sensibilities (for example the ban on certain kinds of obscene publications), today the ideology governing the new censorship is anti-Christian.

So for example, sexually explicit and blasphemous “comedy” with foul language as a staple is regularly aired on TV, but street preachers are arrested for quoting the Bible, Christian bakers receive large fines for refusing to decorate a cake with pro LGBT slogans, trainee social workers are dismissed from university courses and teachers are blacklisted for expressing traditional Christian views on marriage and gender. Speakers at University societies, even lecturers, are no-platformed, and judges are disciplined for expressing what are deemed politically incorrect views on abortion and marriage.

The way we lose our freedoms happens gradually, and subtly. It doesn’t necessarily begin with laws; there just needs to be enough social disapproval against expressing certain views. Then, as Christians, we find that our thoughts are regulated not just by the police investigating “hate speech” allegations, disciplinary procedures at work, or by furious attacks on social media, but by others in the church. In fact, the censorship can come first from our theologically orthodox friends. “I see you’re planning to do a sermon on sex and marriage”, a vicar is told by a supportive member of his PCC, perhaps even his wife. “Please don’t say anything controversial that might upset people”. A teacher faces a gross misconduct charge for ‘misgendering’ a pupil at school, or a social worker is sacked after asking to be excused from decisions allocating foster children to same sex couples – and they find they receive no support from their church, rather an embarrassed turning away. These examples, all based on true incidents, show how the free expression of biblical truth in public is curtailed by a fearful and image-conscious Christian community as much as by the postmodern neo-Marxist campaigners in the media and the academy.

At General Synod in July it was not just the liberals who supported the call for a ban on ‘conversion therapy’, an ill-defined phrase which ends up including any counselling or prayer ministry sought by those who want to move away from same sex desire (see this clearly written recent account). Some evangelicals, and theologically orthodox Bishops voted for the motion, thereby voting in favour of LGBT ideology and the restriction of biblical Christian sexual ethics and pastoral practice. Perhaps they wanted to show their opposition to unkindness towards people identifying as gay (which all right-minded Christians share), but believed that they would be free to retain their understandings of sex and marriage in the private sphere as long as it’s not ‘imposed’ on anyone else.

How wrong they are. The new missionary-imperialists of pansexuality will not stop at “full inclusion” of sexually active LGBT people in the leadership of the church, blessing of gay relationships and same sex marriage in church services, just as they will not stop at teaching children to accept and celebrate gender fluidity and transition. It is not just the lack of welcome and bullying experienced by the LGBT minority which is seen as the problem, but the beliefs behind it, which lead to the actions – for example ‘misgendering’ a ‘transgender’ child.   According to an increasingly prevalent view, traditional beliefs that biological sex corresponds to gender, that heterosexual marriage or celibate singleness is good while homosexual practice is sinful, are in themselves harmful. The fact that some people believe these things causes distress, and so these beliefs should be ‘stamped out’.

American academic Christopher Rosik, reviewing a recent influential paper which appeared in the journal of the American Psychological Association, shows how LGBT campaigners use the findings of ‘research’ to state categorically that religious beliefs showing “a basic lack of approval” of homosexual practice cause “minority stress” even among those who have no contact with those who hold these beliefs. The newly formed Ozanne Foundation appears to hold a similar view. Rosik’s piece should be read carefully, as he concludes that it will soon be difficult to “hide from the social and policy implications of research that declares their historic Judeo-Christian sexual ethic to be a severe threat to the health and wellbeing of LGB persons.”

LGBT people feel a lack of full validation for their identity and behaviour, because of the existence of conservative religious beliefs in society. This causes distress, and so the belief system should be discouraged. This is the basis of the new attack on freedom of thought and expression. It should be challenged at the highest levels, and this is why Anglican Mainstream is supporting a new campaign to “reclaim religious freedom” through a new Act of Parliament.


New Year’s resolution: encourage each other to be faithful

Posted by on Jan 2, 2018 in Church life, Editorial Blog | Comments Off on New Year’s resolution: encourage each other to be faithful

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Just before Christmas, on the shortest day of the year, a senior and well respected clergyman, vicar of a central London church, gave a powerful ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4. So many elements of the Christmas story, he told us, are about poverty and exclusion. No welcome, no room at the inn for Mary and Joseph – who then became refugees. The shepherds were those on minimum wage, perhaps the first century equivalent of zero hours contracts; the Magi from the East may have experienced racism and suspicion as they travelled in Judaea. Reflecting on the Christmas story should make us more compassionate towards the ‘other’ and work for a more just society; we should not sanitise the nativity, for example by focusing on scenes which “idolise the nuclear family”.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, in a talk to supporters of Christian Concern which became an article published in Church of England Newspaper on the same day, 21st December, came to a very different conclusion. The traditional family pattern has not been unfairly promoted at the expense of other domestic arrangements. Rather, “The family has been under sustained attack in this country for the last 50 years. The family is the basis of a stable society”, said the Bishop, going on to highlight the dangers to children of changes in marriage and divorce laws, and in the promotion of radical gender ideology in schools.

Is the London clergyman, Sam Wells, simply giving one aspect of the Christian message, and the former Bishop of Rochester another? Certainly, Christians should constantly be open to challenge from God’s word about how we are caring for the poor and outcast personally and as churches. We should be concerned about the desperate, urgent and tragic plight of refugees, asking whether the government is being held to account on its policies, and acting in generosity. While not exactly original, it’s good that this is related to the Christmas story in the public area. But why did Revd Dr Wells think it necessary to have a dig at those who think the nuclear family is important?

Bishop Michael goes on to talk about other important issues of concern, such as abortion and the sanctity of life, and calls on Christians to assert their right to continue to express their beliefs publicly on these and other issues. This might be seen as a ‘conservative’ position, much as Wells’ is ‘progressive’. But unlike Wells, who saw an opportunity to attack conservatives, Bishop Michael did not attack those who are concerned about homelessness and refugees, because for him, care for the poor and care for the family are both important aspects of Christian teaching.

However, one is currently more fashionable than the other. Talking publicly about social justice will win applause (and rightly so), but sharing ‘traditional’ views on marriage, family and sexuality, even privately on social media, can be unpopular and even cause people to lose their jobs.

Wells’s sideswipe at Christians concerned about the rapid changes to family life was unfair and completely unnecessary. Perhaps he felt that he could ingratiate himself with a section of the metropolitan elite, both inside and outside the church? In doing so he, and those in the church leadership who say similar things, will only continue to alienate many ordinary people, who want the church to be Christian and to speak up for marriage and family, even if they are struggling in that area, and they don’t attend church themselves.

It needs to be pointed out, of course, that Wells, as a senior clergyman destined for higher office within the Church, is not alone in his views. In November the C of E leadership enthusiastically endorsed ‘Valuing All God’s Children’, a guidance document for Church of England schools, which appears to suggest that anything other than the full acceptance and promotion of LGBT and particularly transgender ideology can amount to ‘transphobic bullying’. In the same month the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a speech in Moscow that instead of promoting a biblical vision of marriage and family, the church should simply accept the reality that there are different views and different types of relationships. One commentator calls the ABC’s views “deeply concerning”.

How should biblically orthodox Anglicans respond to the secularisation of society and, increasingly, its influence on the Church institutions? In his article in CEN, Bishop Michael goes on to suggest: “We should strengthen our churches and enable believers to be faithful. But the Bible also calls us to witness for the good of society. We cannot abandon this call and withdraw into a holy huddle.”

The holy huddle is not necessarily just the church which worships behind closed doors and makes no impact in the community. It may be looking to project a friendly face to society but keeps its doctrinal and ethical views and practices to itself, afraid to witness to the lordship of Christ outside the church, believing that the lives and behaviour of those outside are none of its business.

As we face the New Year, we need to develop plans for how we can move forward in publicly and counter-culturally witnessing to Christ, with the aim of producing not just church growth, but transformation in society. Here are some suggestions on how we can encourage each other to be more faithful and outward looking:

  • develop Spirit-empowered disciples with a Word-based worldview through preaching and teaching, so we can assess issues and act biblically, rather than tribally (ie basing our opinions on political or church group affiliation)
  • pray more comprehensively and with more insight; to pray about individuals and issues; to identify the spiritual powers and false philosophies behind the problems we are asking God to solve
  • help Christians already involved in the community through family life, work or volunteering (most of us) how to reflect biblically and theologically on what we’re doing, to consciously bring Christ into our speech and actions
  • celebrate and support the courage and good efforts of others in their work and witness, especially those who stand against the flow of secular culture in Christ’s name.

Editorial Blog Selection 2017

Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Editorial Blog | Comments Off on Editorial Blog Selection 2017

Editorial Blog Selection 2017

2017 Anglican Mainstream analysis and comment: A selection of editorial blog posts from Andrew Symes


The Church of England: The increasing dominance of revisionist theology. Reports and comment

Bishop of Chelmsford calls for “prayers of thanksgiving” for same sex relationships. A report and comment on the way Stephen Cotterell used his Charge to Diocesan Synod to promote his vision of “radical inclusion”.

Encountering contemporary liberal theology – in its own words. What is the vision of the Christian faith offered by the ‘Modern Church’ organisation? Should it be accepted as valid by evangelicals as part of ‘good disagreement’?

The ongoing influence of new Gnosticism among C of E evangelicals. Ten years ago it was Chalke, McClaren and Bell. Now a new popular spirituality for those who have ‘grown up and moved on ‘ from the old certainties of evangelical faith: the writings of Richard Rohr.

Transgender liturgies – why are we even asking the question? The call for Synod to approve prayers in church to mark ‘gender transition’ ceremonies is not evidence of new levels of compassion, but capitulation to pressure from the secular culture.

Synod supports ban on ‘conversion therapy’ – what it means. “This decision…was not made for reasons of Christian theology. It was made on the basis of fake science… fear of the LGBT lobby …and emotional manipulation by apostate activists within the church leadership.”

C of E’s new gender policy backs up ‘heresy’ claim. A guidance document for church schools, appearing to fully endorse radical gender ideology, is released just after Lorna Ashworth’s resignation from General Synod and Archbishops’ Council, citing ‘erosion of faithfulness’.


Some responses of biblically faithful Anglicans to what’s happening in the C of E 

Call to continue Gospel vision at thanksgiving service. A large gathering at All Souls remembers Mike Ovey, celebrates his life and pledges to continue building on his legacy. A report.

Unofficial Bishops, non-C of E Anglicans: fragmentation and schism, or new reformation? Analysis in the wake of the announcement of the consecration of Jonathan Pryke (Jesmond) and Andy Lines (Gafcon Missionary Bishop).

Following an apparent triumph by revisionists at the July General Synod: England’s orthodox Anglicans: agreed on Synod’s implications, divided on what to do.

A robust document is critical of the direction of the Church of England:  Have C of E evangelical leaders suggested that a Rubicon has been crossed?

“Don’t abandon the flock” – command from the Lord, or excuse for inaction? Examining the arguments of those determined to stay in the C of E whatever happens, who are critical of those exploring other options.

An option for ‘differentiation’ between orthodox and revisionists becomes clearer: Anglican realignment moves forward as AMiE conducts first ordinations 

Imagine: future conversations about differentiation – A fictional account of a meeting of orthodox Anglicans in England in January 2019


The global Anglican Communion, Gafcon and mission

Reading the Bible upside down. The global fellowship of Gafcon provides affluent Anglicans with an opportunity to look with fresh eyes at Scripture, still as God’s word, but from the perspective of the poor.

Local church and global mission. A couple return from long term service in Africa to teach their new English congregation about mission (fictional account, based on true stories).

Growth and decline in the Anglican Communion: a review of a book edited by David Goodhew. Much of interest, but the book refuses to mention Gafcon, or admit that growth and decline are linked to theology.

Gafcon events in England and USA. Report on the consecration of Andy Lines, and successful open meetings to promote Gafcon.

Faithfulness to Christ against the odds: the Anglican Communion and the global sexual revolution. A preview of the Canterbury Primates meeting, with some background to the challenges faced by theologically orthodox Primates.

Myths, misinformation or parallel realities? The thinking behind the Primates’ Communique. Given the divisions within the Communion, where does the language of ‘walking together’ comes from?

Early church, Reformation and Anglican realignment: making some connections. What biblically faithful Anglicans in Britain can learn from the Anglican Network in Canada


Gospel and culture 

Responding to Islam and religious pluralism. A report on Christian Concern’s ‘Cultural Leadership Symposium’ on mission in the context of living among people of other faiths.

After Pentecost: small miracle, big implications. Acts 3 gives the first example of  powerful religious institutions trying to control and domesticate Spirit-empowered Gospel ministry, but the apostles say “we must obey God rather than men”.

Learning from the parable of Tim Farron.  “Christians should be true to what the Bible believes and what Christ commands, and not try to water these things down to try to be more popular.”

Can biblical faith flourish in an intolerant secular society? Tim Farron and Bishop Tim Dakin give their answers.