Can there be ‘good disagreement’ in the Church of England?

Mar 15, 2021 by

by Ben John, Christian Concern:

The Wilberforce Academy’s Ben John reflects on the recent Jesmond Conference, a conference for Anglicans which aims to ‘stimulate discussion’ on British society through a Biblical lens.

The theme of this year’s Jesmond Conference was “Good Disagreement?” in light of the Living in Love and Faith resources published by the Church of England. David Holloway, Vicar at Jesmond Parish Church, gave four short talks detailing different considerations we need to understand the present crisis and how to respond. Given my engagement with the Living in Love and Faith trailer and the backlash I received, I was excited to attend.

Contending for the faith

Jonathan Pryke grounded the conference with two Bible readings, the first looking at Ezra 9-10 as an Old Testament case study in contending for the faith. He emphasised the need for us to understand the seriousness of the situation in church and society, to be people who tremble at the words of the Living God, and who contend humbly but boldly.

The second Bible reading looked at 1 Corinthians 5 and the what/why/who/how of church discipline. This talk almost seemed alien for the Church of England, where church discipline is largely non-existent.

‘Soft totalitarianism’?

In David Holloway’s first session, ‘The seriousness of the situation in society and in the church,’ he drew from Rod Dreher’s recent book Live not by lies, and the diagnosis of the threat of “soft totalitarianism” in the West today. Holloway noted how this was manifesting itself with the push to ban so-called conversion therapy (i.e. pastoral support for those with unwanted same sex desires). Interestingly, this came on the same day that there was a debate in Parliament triggered by a petition to criminalise the practice.

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