Church of England decision reminder to 'guard the flock'

by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, July 14, 2017 (6 days ago)

The General Synod of the Church of England affirmed transgenderism at its biannual meeting in York.
Church of England video screengrab
YORK, England (BP) -- A global group of conservative Anglicans has decried the Church of England's (C of E) affirmation of transgender lifestyles and its disapproval of homosexual conversion therapy.

The chairman of the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) said the votes at the General Synod's July sessions of the C of E in York are evidence of false teaching.

"False teaching is restless and relentless, and the Church of England itself is in grave spiritual danger," GAFCON Primates Council Chairman and Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh wrote in his July pastoral letter. About 300 conservative bishops launched GAFCON in 2008, the group said on its website, "to guard and proclaim biblical truth globally and provide fellowship for orthodox Anglicans." Its Primates Council represents a majority of the world's Anglican's, the group said.

The C of E's General Synod panned conversion therapy by a near unanimous vote July 8 at its biannual meeting in York. A strong majority vote July 9 affirmed transgender lifestyles and gave the House of Bishops authority to prepare "nationally commended liturgical materials to mark a person's gender transition," according to a C of E press release.

The votes came just a month after the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) became the first Anglican congregation in the United Kingdom to legalize same-sex marriage, which Okoh described as a "capitulation … to secular ideas."

"Although the Church of England's legal position on marriage has not changed, its understanding of sexual morality has," Okoh wrote. "The need for GAFCON to safeguard the integrity and clarity of global Anglican mission is as urgent as it has ever been. Our calling is not to be conformed, but to be transformed."

The votes by the C of E and the SEC are the latest in a theological evolution of more than a decade that has rattled the Anglican community. It's first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, was ordained in 2003 in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

As recently as March, noted conservative Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas urged Anglican churches to remain united despite theological differences.

"If we are clergy, we need to remember that when the Apostle Paul warned of false teachers, he didn't urge the Ephesian elders to run away in order to avoid attack, but instead said 'guard the flock'," Christian Today quoted Thomas March 6. "So we need to stand firm -- continuing to teach and do the work of evangelism, continuing to turn up at Synods in order to contend for the Gospel, continuing to encourage one another by meeting together, and continuing to support those who run into difficulty."

But after the SEC's vote, Thomas said he considers the Scotland church out of communion with Anglicans worldwide.

"The decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) to change its canons of marriage in order to allow same-sex marriages in church is very serious. By its actions it is denying the goodness and authority of God's Word to us in the Scriptures," Maidstone said in a June 9th press release. "As a result it is breaking communion with the majority of Anglicans worldwide. … I pray that this declining church will understand that their position is not blessed by God, will repent of their action and turn back to Him."

GAFCON will address the church's changing mores at its 10th anniversary meeting in Jerusalem in June, 2018, Okoh indicated.

"A watching world needs to know that Anglicans are defined first and foremost by faithfulness to the Word of God," Okoh wrote. "By God's grace, we will demonstrate that resolve as we gather in Jerusalem to be heralds of the good news of Jesus, God's Son and our Saviour."

The full texts of the motions adopted by the C of E are:

-- "That this Synod, recognising (sic) the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person's gender transition."

-- That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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