Faithfulness to Christ against the odds: the Anglican Communion and the global sexual revolution

Sep 26, 2017 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Global Anglican leaders will gather to meet in Canterbury in early October for a summit meeting. Most of them come from contexts where the Anglican church is continuing to teach and promote the biblical Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for salvation, and the historic Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage. A few Provinces, with most of the wealth and power, are dominated by a leadership wanting to promote a different form of Christianity that is more acceptable to the secular West.

The last Primates meeting, in Canterbury January 2016, only made these divisions clearer. The majority of Primates resolved then to work together to continue the important work of the Anglican Communion, but required TEC to withdraw from full involvement, as they had violated the ‘bonds of affection’ by continuing to pursue their revisionist agenda, of which acceptance of same sex marriage was the latest example. But the TEC leadership, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office, interpreted things very differently. For them, Canterbury 2016 was all about resolving to “walk together”, continuing a conversation, finding unity in diversity, putting differences in doctrine to one side for the sake of common mission, etc.

There have been such scenarios many times before in the twenty-year process of separation between these two groups and their mutually incompatible visions of Christian truth. The pattern goes like this: an expensive, time-consuming meeting brings Primates together in good faith. While there is common ground on shared support for Anglican ministries of mercy, community development and peacebuilding, the majority again and again express their desire to move forward together on the basis of shared understanding of and commitment to the faith once delivered to the saints, and deep concern about departures from it. A document is produced reiterating the majority view and giving some form of censure for TEC and the revisionists. Almost immediately after the meeting the powerful minority ignore and renege on the agreements. As the majority protest, they are accused of being divisive by the officials from the Anglican Communion Office.

Two of the longest-serving Primates have experienced this pattern several times at first hand. Archbishops Nicholas Okoh and Stanley Ntagali have decided not to attend the upcoming conference, because it is clear that the result will be no different; there has been a “breakdown of trust”[1] and the failure to follow through resolutions reinforces “a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity”[2]. Why are more Primates not boycotting the meeting? Of the four others who are not attending, at least two have not publicly given a reason but are known to align with Okoh and Ntagali. Several of those attending are relatively new in post; they may have heard about the bad faith and broken promises at meetings in the past but have not experienced it themselves; some believe that it’s important to be there and defend the orthodox position. Some have been personally welcomed and persuaded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and are mindful of not jeopardizing important connections with British and American government aid departments.

The crisis in the Anglican Communion is now worse than it was ten years ago, when it was clear the Windsor process had failed. Those censured for tearing the fabric of the Communion were invited to Lambeth as if nothing had happened, and Gafcon was formed as a response by the orthodox to restore godly order around shared biblical faith. Today things are worse because it is clear that this is no longer just a theological crisis, a deep division about what the church believes and stands for; an important but ‘in-house’ argument. Now, the church is caught up in a global culture war; the secular humanist agenda with its aggressive sexual politics is no longer just affecting the Western world, but has global ambitions, with an ideology and missionary zeal normally associated with world religions.

Today, Western governments are promoting a deeply divisive and culturally imperialistic agenda through the UN and other powerful agencies, prioritising LGBT and abortion ‘rights’ in developing countries, and deliberately discrediting African church leaders and others who oppose this ideology. Many church leaders in the West have now revised their theology to fit in with this new worldview, and are seeking to promote it, not only in their own church at home, but also across the world. Instead of supporting the church of the global South in evangelism, discipleship, provision of basic needs and community building according to its own theological and cultural understanding, they want to impose the new ‘enlightened’ views of Western culture.

The advocates of the sexual revolution have long recognized that persuasion and cooption works better than force: a society can be taught to accept a different vision for humanity through media-driven marketing of ideas and stories, now made much easier through the internet. The main barriers against the takeover of the ideas of the sexual revolution are, in different ways, traditional cultural beliefs, Islam, and biblical Christianity. The best way of weakening resistance to the LGBT philosophy is not to crush the church (this was tried by communist governments, and didn’t work), but to encourage the church to join the programme, by appealing to shared values of compassion, freedom, equality and human solidarity.

As an example of this: attention was recently drawn to the Wilton Park report[3] commissioned by the UK Foreign Office, which clearly explained the strategy to promote the LGBT agenda globally, through giving encouragement to progressive church leaders and liberal theologies, and isolating, demeaning and treating as ‘extremist’ those promoting the historic biblical teaching. This report was funded by the Arcus Foundation[4], a USA based organization with enormous resources, whose ‘social justice’ focus is specifically aimed at promoting the end of all restrictions on homosexual identity and activity, including disapproval on religious grounds. The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has received funding from Arcus for its LGBT advocacy, showing a clear connection between Western liberal Anglicans and this influential Foundation dedicated to a vision hostile to orthodox Christianity[5].

As well as being very critical of church leaders, especially in Africa, who hold to a conservative position on sexual ethics, the Wilton Park Report commends those leaders who support the new agenda. It singles out Archbishop Justin Welby for praise, calling him a “straight ally of faith” to the LGBT movement. This highlights how deeply this new philosophy of what it means to be a human being has penetrated mainline church leadership.

The sexual revolution demands conformity to its ideology: the full acceptance of homosexual practice, transgenderism, abortion on demand, sexualising of children in society and in church. This requires church leaders to reinterpret the Bible and change its theology, or at least remain silent and accept pro-LGBT theology as valid as part of unity and ‘Good Disagreement’. To do so seems tempting, as it may bring financial resources and good relationships with Western powers, while to oppose it may bring suffering.


Primates from the Global South and their advisors due to attend the meeting in Canterbury should not be in any doubt that the ground has shifted since the fruitless efforts of years gone by to discipline TEC for their revisionist actions which have torn the fabric of the Communion. The question now is not “will TEC be disciplined for being unfaithful”, but “will the remainder of the Communion remain faithful?”, especially in the face of such a powerful onslaught, not just from Western church leaders but now from the whole progressive secular movement which has captured the Western political and cultural establishment.

Who has the strength for faithfulness to Christ and the truth in the face of such opposition? We give thanks for the courage of leaders from Gafcon and Global South, who have given godly leadership on these issues, but the battle has only just begun.

[1] From the 2017 Global South Communique, para 10

[2] From the September 2017 Gafcon Chairman’s letter



[5] The Diocese of Chicago have in turn funded TEC-based groups  “The Chicago Consultation” and “Canticle Communications” which advocate for LGBT issues around the Anglican Communion.

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