C of E’s ideological capitulation makes more clergy resignations inevitable

May 28, 2019 by

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Last week the MailOnline carried a lengthy article about an Essex vicar who has resigned from his parish. This was considered a newsworthy story by a secular outlet because it highlights an issue of serious concern for many people, not just practising Christians: the increasingly aggressive promotion of LGBT ideology in schools.

Rev John Parker pastors a thriving congregation and also, like many other clergy, acts as a governor of the local Church of England Primary school, state-funded, but supposedly retaining a Christian ethos which makes these schools popular with parents. As the article explains, when the head teacher announced to governors and staff that an eight-year old child at the school had ‘transitioned’, Rev Parker asked some reasonable questions about the circumstances, and what preparations the school was planning to make. He discovered that his views were unwelcome: not only had the head teacher, backed by the local authority, already made all the decisions, she also arranged for radical trans activist group Mermaids to ‘train’ governors and staff. Rev Parker attended this session and questioned the unscientific gender ideology being promoted. Again his views were dismissed and discussion was shut down. He appealed to the Diocesan Education department, only to be told that they backed the school in their plan to promote an “inclusive environment”.

A source has told Anglican Mainstream:

The education department of the Diocese provided no support for Christian governors about procedures that respected children of Christian parents, or those of other faiths or those that held to traditional beliefs, nor safeguarding concerns expressed to the head.  The Diocese advised the Head Teacher in having no discussion of procedure or communication with parents during or after the child’s transition.  The Diocesan advice to the Head Teacher supported the visit of Mermaids.

Parker says he had been concerned for some time about the direction of the Church of England, particularly the apparent unquestioning acceptance of popular contemporary understandings of sex and gender which directly contradict the clear teaching of the bible. The shutting down of discussion in the school, the lack of respect shown to him a parish vicar and experienced governor, and clear confirmation that the leadership of the C of E now follows a secular agenda which colludes in potential risk to children, led him to take the drastic step not only of leaving his position as school governor, but leaving his secure and successful ministry. Christian Concern are advising on the legal front. See more from Christian Concern here and here

The Anglican Mainstream website has a collection of comment pieces on this story, including concern expressed from outside the church about the increasing influence of self-appointed ‘expert advisors’ such as Mermaids and Stonewall, who are now being used to steer ‘diversity and inclusion’ policy in a number of government-funded institutions.

Unfortunately, not only is this kind of conflict becoming increasingly prevalent, it is the inevitable outworking of the stated direction of the Church of England in matters of sex and gender over the past few years.

Firstly, the responses of the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, and the Diocesan Director of Education to John Parker’s concerns are consistent with the direction set out following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘radical inclusion’ speech in February 2017. At that time Anglican Mainstream reported that Cottrell in his annual Charge to Synod publicly advocated a liberalisation of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage.

While a small number of clergy and parishes publicly opposed their Bishop, as reported herethe majority of conservative clergy preferred to engage the Bishop with private letters and meetings, and did not take further public action, perhaps satisfied with assurances that their own convictions would be respected. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Diocesan leadership has aligned with Mermaids rather than its own faithful clergy – the question will be: what action will those clergy now take, in support of Rev Parker, and in opposing LGBT dogma in their own schools and parishes?

Secondly,  Anglican Mainstream and others have warned for years about the increasing acceptance of transgender ideology at a senior level of the C of E, specifically as it applies to the church and to church schools. Back in 2014 we highlighted the danger of compromise with the culture in the light of  pressure exerted by the Equalities Act, and the first same-sex marriages of that year. We warned about the C of E’s official guidance for schools, in association with Stonewall, called ‘Valuing All God’s Children”, ostensibly written to prevent ‘homophobic bullying’, but which advocated full acceptance of lifestyles at odds with the church’s teaching.

VAGC was updated in November 2017 to include acceptance and affirmation of the new trend of ‘trans children’. An editorial from that time said:

The leadership of the C of E claims that nothing has changed in terms of its doctrine, how it understands the Christian faith. That this new directive on affirming ‘trans’ children is simply a pastoral response to young people in distress. But according to the new guidelines, when a little boy comes to school wearing a dress and wanting to be called Alice, not only must other children all call him ‘Alice’ with love and welcome, with severe punishments for not complying, but all children, parents and staff must believe that this is in fact not a boy, but a trans girl, and that such gender fluidity is normal and good. Archbishop Justin Welby [in his foreword] repeats his assertion made in the February Synod ‘radical inclusion’ speech, that there are no ‘issues or problems’, only young people loved by God. And according to the report, the imposition of gender ideology in schools is not a problem or an issue – we just need to love children and obey the new government regulations.

It seemed obvious to us back then that this was evidence of a compelled acceptance of a new ideology, backed by the State, with inevitable consequences in terms of freedom of speech and conscience. It would certainly have implications for conservative clergy and parents involved with schools.

The end of 2018 saw the Bishops signing off on the guidance for baptism of transgender people. Again, the warning signs were clear – this was not just inadequate theological reflection, but it signalled wholesale acceptance of radical contemporary ideas on gender (pushed aggressively by lobby groups) at complete variance with biblical anthropology. A number of commentators critiqued the Guidance; more than 3000 clergy and senior laity signed a petition for it to be withdrawn (see collection of articles from that time) but like the polite private letters written to the Bishop of Chelmsford, theological debate and petitions carry little weight with those leading the C of E, compared with the power of the new progressive elite with their weapons of social media and state enforcement.

Some C of E conservatives will no doubt feel that Rev Parker’s action in resigning is precipitous; that some diplomatic negotiation with the Bishop and the school head teacher could have enabled the school and the Diocese to be seen to be affirming of diversity while the clergyman’s conscience is respected. Others might point to the recent U-turn by the Scouts [£], who now apparently no longer follow the guidance on transgender matters originally determined by Mermaids, to argue that a pushback by parents might persuade Bishops to change their minds and be more sympathetic to the conservative position. But a more realistic analysis would conclude that whether the Church of England leadership has deliberately abandoned biblical orthodoxy in favour of the new LGBT orthodoxy, or whether it is just confused, pliable and responding to individual cases out of ignorance or fear, it can no longer claim to be a trustworthy institution for the preservation and promotion of orthodox Christian faith.

See also: Anglicans and Transgender: The Church of England in the context of widespread gender confusion. A collection of editorial blog posts from Anglican Mainstream 2015-2018.

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