In the run-up to GAFCON 2 later this year in Nairobi, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya has issued the first of a series of monthly messages. This first one has much to digest but these 2 paragraphs are quite stark in their open criticism of current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (my emphasis):
While we give thanks for much that has been achieved, especially in the emergence of the Anglican Church of North America and our Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, we are painfully aware that the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada continue to promote a false gospel and yet both are still received as in good standing by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Furthermore, the Church of England itself, the historic mother church of the Communion, seems to be advancing along the same path. While defending marriage, both the Archbishops of York and Canterbury appeared at the same time to approve of same-sex Civil Partnerships during parliamentary debates on the UK’s ‘gay marriage’ legislation, in contradiction to the historic biblical teaching on human sexuality reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
I think I’m correct in observing that that’s the first real public criticism of the new ABC by GAFCON and it’s a substantial double-punch, one right after the other. The more I read it, the bigger I realise it is.
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God bless Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya. Thank you for your prophetic witness to the Church of England.
Whilst it is quite a serious criticism, at least in terms of who it comes from, it strikes me as a somewhat ill-informed one. My understanding of what they have said is that it is a good thing, from a purely political and societal perspective. Given the position of the bishops in the House of Lords and the Settlement it is a perfectly reasonable thing for them to support as it has no direct impact on anything religious.
The problem with the established nature of the CofE is that there is an involvement in all areas of society and yet an expectation that it will speak about faith where faith is directly relevant in society’s eyes.
It is a tricky line to follow and not one that ++Eliud has to contend with in his setting, so comes across as more of a cultural misunderstanding than anything else.
To my knowledge neither ++John nor ++Justin have ever spoken out in favour of homosexuality as something that God approves of.
Thanks for the thoughts, Phil. I think there’s something in what you’re saying but I wonder if ++Eliud also has the freedom outside the constraints you see to recognise a dangerous situation that we may be blind to ourselves.
Wanted to also take you up on a few things:
I don’t think that’s quite right. They have a responsibility along with every peer in that house to speak about what is in the good interests of the nation, whether a religious matter or not. That aside, I’m not sure their language (and Welby’s in particular) needed to be so apparently positive about the nature of homosexual relationships. Protect them, yes. Legislate against discrimination, absolutely. But to suggest they are in and of themselves a positive factor in our community is, I suggest, a step too far if he also wants to be seen to be holding a clear line on human sexuality in general.
Which leads me to,
I agree. But their language at times has been really unclear. It is, I suspect, because they fear causing offence which only leads me to suspect they feel under real pressure internally in the CofE. In which case it could be that ++Eliud is bang on the money – a public statement about “secular” affairs may very well really be a statement about “church” affairs.
Regarding the first point, in terms of civil partnerships I think that they can very easily be described as being in the interests of the nation whilst still declaring yourself to be of a theological understanding that says that homosexual practices are not part of God’s design and not blessed by God. The civil partnership helps to reduce abusive break ups of same sex relationships. It would be a different matter if same sex relationships were illegal, but given that they are not it can only be seen as a positive for society to protect those who might otherwise be abused.
Granted, it can come across as mixed signals, but this is where the complicated nature of the Settlement needs to be appreciated before those who work within it are criticised.
On the second point, I think you are right regarding not wanting to offend. But that is, I believe, in part because the CofE believes the Settlement to be something that it wants, even though it doesn’t know why, and given all the issues that came up after the Women Bishops debacle they are probably keen the keep their noses as clean as is possible without going against their principles. The CofE needs to have a debate about being an established church and get clear in it’s head whether it is a good or bad thing and why. Only then can it start to argue for it’s existence in that way (assuming the vote is in favour) and become clearer in it’s responses in situations like this.
thanks again Phil. I agree with most of your first para, except for a question about this:
Is that actually demonstrable? I know that many would like to think that way but do you actually know of hard figures to back up that claim?
2nd para, I think I’m with you. I’m just nervous that Canterbury increasingly looks like he’s compromising clarity on a key issue for the sake of keeping his nose clean when surely we ought to face up to the reality that the world will always think we’re wrong on these things?
More realpolitik? I guess one person’s compromise is another person’s “cunning as a serpent”.
I think that simply by making the break up of civil partnerships like a divorce it reduced the occurrence of the lesser earner of the partners getting nothing for what they have put in o the relationship. Regardless of your view on homosexuality, that abuse is wrong and CPs go a long way to dealing with it.
The issues around expression are only going to be solved by the CofE becoming secure in it’s understanding of where it stands in the settlement. With all the various threats that have been made, along with Cameron’s idiotic “get with the programme” all the running has been done by parliament. The church needs to take the lead and seek to define it’s role so that it can come from a position of security when it speaks out against the mores of society.