GAFCON, Lambeth I:10 and the Church of England

What will the recent GAFCON paper achieve?

The Church of England Daily Digest on 15th November provided a link to an article Christian Today/Premier concerning the release by GAFCON UK of a list of clergy known to be in same-sex relationships or who have officiated or publicly supported gay unions in the Church of England. Presented at a recent briefing to GAFCON Primates “on the situation in the Church of England regarding attitudes, teaching and practice on sexual ethics, official and unofficial”, the GAFCON Report “argues that the Church of England has already ‘crossed the line’ by allowing a culture to develop where violations of Lambeth Resolution I:10 are increasingly prevalent”.

The Church of England and Lambeth I:10

Whilst the Church of England is the clearly the target of the document, examples of GAVCON’s view of the violations of Lambeth I.10 cite: the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada, and Scottish Episcopal Church. Such violations “allowed for a variety of practices that legitimised same-sex unions, while stopping short of an official change to provincial liturgies and canons”. These included:

  • services of thanksgiving for a same-sex civil union in local parishes;
  • blessing ceremonies in local parishes;
  • rites that were authorized by dioceses but not officially by the province;
  • same sex civil unions for both laity and clergy;
  • the promotion of such activities by bishops, clergy, and influential lay leaders; and
  • the lack of discipline for those engaging in such activities”.

The document also contains “a partial list of the violations of Lambeth I.10 in the Church of England”, many of which are accompanied by a link to reports in the media or elsewhere.

Comment

The new GAFCON document should provide few surprises: references to those cited were already in the public domain, and given its primary audience of GAFCON Primates, the tone adopted is little different from the communiqué following the 6th Global South Conference in October, reported in Thinking Anglicans. However, those mentioned within the document will probably feel differently.

There are a number of concerns regarding the accuracy of some of the statements, but we will leave a more detailed analysis to others. However, we both feel that the publication of such a document is not an acceptable way for self-avowed Christians to proceed.

David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "GAFCON, Lambeth I:10 and the Church of England" in Law & Religion UK, 15 November 2016, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/11/15/gafcon-lambeth-110-and-the-church-of-england/

2 thoughts on “GAFCON, Lambeth I:10 and the Church of England

  1. It’s hard to see how most of the alleged ‘violations’ actually do violate the text of Lambeth I:10 by a simple and straightforward reading. Is it, in any case, possible to ‘violate’ a text which has no direct disciplinary authority over most of the ministers named?

  2. Since this is law-themed blog, it is perhaps not out of place to comment on the strange opening to the Gafcon briefing: “Lambeth 1.10 is the authoritative teaching of the Anglican Communion on sexuality because it accurately articulates the biblical revelation about human sexuality.”

    A text is authoritative because of its source (it has authority – as a statute does) even if it is arguably misguided or wrong. Lambeth resolutions are never authoritative in that sense – they express the mind of the Communion when they are passed, but they are not binding as Canon Law would be.

    The Gafcon sentence, however, seems to say it is authoritative because it is right – “because it accurately articulates the biblical revelation”. That is a matter of opinion; and open to argument and discussion, the antithesis of an argument from authority. Actually, the Gafcon statement is an argument from biblical authority. That is nearer the mark – except that church people differ, as they always have, in their reading of the Bible, which is no doubt why Gafcon refers to Lambeth 1.10 and not to any particular passage in the Bible.

    While we are on the “authoritative” status of Lambeth resolutions from 1998, however, we need also to remember Lambeth 5.13 from the same conference, which reaffirmed resolution 72 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan borders. Resolution 72 of 1988 “1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above; 2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.”

    It is ironic that the Gafcon statement is carried on the website of “Gafcon UK” which, elsewhere on the same website, says “The GAFCON Primates Council stands ready to authenticate those who wish to remain Anglican, but if necessary outside local institutional structures: this has already started with the establishment of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).”

    This is a much more obvious violation of Lambeth resolutions than, for example, the status of the well-known senior clergyman named by Gafcon who is in a celibate civil partnership.

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