Letter from Concerned Anglicans in the Oxford Diocese in Response to Ad Clerum of Bishop Steven Croft

Jan 9, 2019 by

from Virtueonline:

(followed by letter from Canon Michael Green)

January 9, 2019

We wish to record our grave concern over the letter issued by the four Oxford bishops on 31st October 2018.

There is, of course, much in the letter that we joyfully affirm:

• We wholeheartedly agree with the call to love one another as we seek to build a common life.
• We wish to strive to play our part in opposing bullying and harassment.
• We wish to respect all people and we endorse the view of the Archbishops that in discussions, no person is a problem or an issue.
• Those who are teachers amongst us aspire to preach and exercise pastoral care with sensitivity.
• We entirely endorse the view that nobody should be told that their sexual orientation makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.

However, we are dismayed that nowhere in the letter is there any articulation of the current teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships, based as it is on the words of Scripture, nor is there any expressed support for it. Instead we read references to ‘attitudes changing’, respect for ‘different views’, and willingness to ‘listen to different streams in the debate’.

We are disturbed by the apparent ambiguity of the language. Much of what is said about sexual orientation is uncontroversial. We know of no church among our number which sees this as an obstacle to faithful discipleship. However, in discussing leadership in the local church, the letter seeks to suggest that this should mean acceptance into leadership of those who identify themselves as LGBTI+.

This carries with it a range of understandings about what is appropriate by way of lifestyle. We cannot see how it is right to accept as Christian leaders those who advocate lifestyles that are not consistent with New Testament teaching. The Ordinal asks a new deacon or priest ‘will you endeavour to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ, that you may be a pattern and example to Christ’s people?’ The mind of Christ, and therefore the way of Christ, is expressed in the whole witness of Scripture.

A further example of ambiguous language arises out of the references to everyone having ‘a place at the table’ in God’s Church. If what is meant by that is a warm welcome, we are entirely agreed. However, in supporting the formulation first produced by the Bishops of Lichfield, the Letter makes specific reference to nobody being excluded or discouraged from receiving the sacraments of baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Such indiscriminate participation seems to be inconsistent with the witness of Scripture: for the early Christians, these sacraments were only for those of the household of faith (eg, Acts 2: 41-42); and the Apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29 clearly discourages participation in the Lord’s Supper for those who have not examined themselves.

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