Tuesday, 1 January 2008

CA Hardly on GAFCON

It is more than a shame that Changing Attitude (CA) even needs to exist, in its support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) people within Anglicanism. It strikes me as a body that speaks as officially and centrally as it can, as if right in the centre of Anglicanism, whereas of course it has been defending people pushed to the official margins for far too long.

It has pursued a goal of Anglican unity, on the basis at least that Anglicanism unified creates obligations of ethical behaviour on homophobic provinces. If these provinces were to go it alone, there would be no ethical obligation coming from a higher Anglican authority - so the argument goes. I question this: that a clearer Anglican message from an inclusive body would have attraction to some in these homophobic provinces, and the argument would be better made and an example of inclusiveness better available.

It also pursues a goal of Anglican orthodoxy too, that the same beliefs are claimed by lgbt people as everyone else, and so they should be treated the same. I question this too. Theological revision is need if there is to be inclusivity. Much mainline theology is simply too encouraging of authoritarian attitudes that have historically marginalised minorities who have not fitted or have irritated centres of religious power. The whole problem at the moment is that theological argument is being used to limit the ethical argument of inclusion and pastoral support, whereas the ethical argument should the theological argument. Unless, of course, there is a sleight of hand here, that something (say about a historic Jewish Jesus) is being called orthodoxy that is not.

Inclusion of lgbts in a one Anglican Communion would be a good aim, if it was realisable, rather than say aiming for a liberal Anglicanism that would more clearly include lgbt people in ministry and bless the stability of relationships. To me theological liberalism opens up theological questions to ethical scrutiny, and changes are indeed made in order that inclusion takes place.

An argument is that one Anglicanism reaches into hostile parts of Anglican provinces. However, it is States that persecute and imprison, and it may well make not a scrap of difference that an autonomous Anglican province carries on producing homophobic opinion anyway for the benefit of a homophobic or otherwise corrupted government. Better that an Anglicanism exists elsewhere that can ethically inform our government and others for State to State relationships regarding ethical behaviour. It may not have much effect either, but it might have some more, given where power is exerted.

Some points are made about the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), and specifically that that there has been a change of strategy on the part of organisers because some will want to attend both GAFCON in Jerusalem 2008 and Lambeth 2008. CA says that originally there was a boycott of Lambeth and these would meet separately. There is a focus here on many Nigerian bishops wanting to go to Lambeth, against the will of their Archbishop.

Well, on that, we shall see how the bishops obey their Archbishop or do otherwise. If there is a change, it is more significant that this GAFCON is different from Lambeth, and is a launch party. I would think that the more ambitious launch was always the one in mind.

GAFCON is not the same as Lambeth in another key respect too. GAFCON is clearly a believers fellowship gathering, whereas Lambeth 2008 is a Communion gathering. The latter emphasises bishops and dioceses, whereas GAFCON is about the believing fellowship that happens to have episcopal authority. GAFCON will launch a new Communion, but it will be decidedly more Reformed than Catholic: it will be entirely compatible with the pressure group Reform and even much of the Church Society. Thus the episcopal element is qualified (we usually think of this in terms of The Episcopal Church, if in a different manner), though the authoritarian element of bishop power will show itself in terms of disciplining beliefs and behaviour (as it does in some House Churches with Elders wielding some big sticks).

GAFCON has to be clerical and lay if only because Chris Sugden has to be present, and he is main driver of the event, along with Bishops Martyn Minns and David Anderson. It would still be all clerical and lay, however, because of not limiting the range of core personalities who will be involved in making organisation and structure afterwards.

I don't understand Changing Attitude's almost Fawning Attitude to the Lambeth Conference. Is it not now rather flawed?

The Advent Letter was a deeply depressing production that is the agenda of the Lambeth Conference, as tight and narrow as GAFCON would have, if they believed that the Canterbury Communion would follow it. Changing Attitude surely does not believe that Lambeth 1998 1:10 is the Mind of the Communion and that it is the one way to read the Bible in accordance with local (national) Churches expectations of other local Churches in order to preserve the monopolies of each, and that the Communion should produce a Covenant to centralise power and marginalise those Churches who, presumably, would read the Bible more in accordance with the interpretations of Changing Attitude?

The Advent Letter sold Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church and Integrity (UK) down the river. It sacrificed people in order to try to hold an institution together. I would not fawn such a gathering: I'd lay into it, as it stands. The Advent Letter was desperate stuff in the face of people who were going to do their own thing anyway.

Changing Attitude now needs to change its attitude. This Conference is going to happen, an it is going to make a launch. The organisation/ structures that follow will grab some provinces and a minority of Anglican institutions. Some bishops may be missing at Lambeth, but the two English ones may well attend both (most likely?). If they do, they will be trying to lay down terms for an 'orthodox' in the canterbury Communion, but not expecting much to happen fast. They may of course make other decisions regarding organisation and place, but my guess is that any CAUK or CAWE will be headed by Chris Sugden and they will stay on this side, at least for the time being.

These two and their ministering to gay clergy is not going to alter, so it is hardly a main issue for the future of the Communions. What is at issue for the future is on which team they are batting, and, if they are still batting in the Canterbury Communion, whether they break the bats before they face more bowling.

Changing Attitude is living in a hope that the same will carry on, and that the one big thing can be made inclusive. It won't and it can't. This much we do know now.


Erika Baker said...

I don't think I fully understand what you're trying to say.
At the moment, accepting LGBTs into the church seems daring to some, and it appears that a new liberal theology is needed.

But that's not actually true. It is perfectly possible for conservatives to just stretch their existing theology wide enough to include us.

All these hot button issues of the past haven't resulted in a truly liberal church. Instead, the hot button issue of the respective day has been assmilated into the various strands of Anglicanism, the rest of the worship continues along previously existing lines.

Why should that not be possible with whatever Anglican remnant there is after the extremists have left?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Probably the worship would not be affected, at least not too much. It is the most conserved and conserving part of Anglicanism.

A wide range of liberal episcopi vagantes type groups have complete inclusive ministries with broad Christian understandings. Other liberal Churches are similar (Christian-humanist).

Presumably the all one way texts of the Bible would have to be reinterpreted: for example that Paul was talking about idolatry and Greek culture of sex in that more casual context. Some of them find this impossible, they say that at the final analysis Paul would be against even homosexuality in relationships.

They have to say that this is not critical: to say it is not critical is to liberalise a bit at least.

Erika Baker said...

Yes, I know it would take reading the bible differently, or giving those passage a different weighting.
It appears to be liberal - now.
But that doesn't mean it is necessarily impossible.

The conserved and conserving part of Anglicanism would continue - just like it did after usury was accepted, after slavery was seen as wrong, after women's rights were beginning to filter into the church.... it's slow, I grant you. But it's never yet been impossible.

Did you see the "on being biblical" link I mentioned on TA the other day?


It could point the way.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Sure: what is traditional now can be seen as liberal from a past perspective - these things are relative.

I missed that link and as produced here seems to bring a 404 not there at Kings College London.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

This is from here:


Changing Attitude argues it place in the Communion and its effect on the Communion

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

by Colin Coward

Pluralist Adrian Worsfold of New Holland, Lincolnshire in the UK has raised important questions for Changing Attitude on his blog http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/01/ca-hardly-on-gafcon.html

We agree with Andrew [sic] that it's a shame CA needs to exist, but the need is there and exist it does. It exists at this moment in history because the church, for the first time and in an international context, is being forced to deal with human sexuality in general and LGBT sexuality in particular. The church is focussed on LGBT sexuality because it is unable to attend to the more serious issues confronting the majority heterosexual population. Those questions are well rehearsed: why isn't the church attending to cohabitation, marriage failure, divorce, promiscuity, abusive relationships? Of course, in places it is, but the international argument about homosexuality is a tactic to avoid dealing with the bigger issues that affect the majority.

We are a body that speaks as officially and centrally as we can because we ARE right in the centre of the church. Supporters of CA are bishops, archdeacons, deans, General Synod members, Readers, diocesan and deanery synod and PC members. They attend meetings at the highest levels of the church. We may be the people conservatives are trying to push to the margins but that is not where we are, nor are we going to allow ourselves to be pushed there.

We describe ourselves as committed, faithful, mainstream, orthodox Anglicans because that is what we are. We have always been present, visibly or invisibly, in the parish mission and ministry of our church. We are not leaving the church. It is the secessionists who are meeting to plot, who are planning to leave and set up a new church. They would certainly like to take control of the present church or do their own thing in a new church, but despite repeated threats and cries of wolf, they haven't done so yet.

We argue for the maintenance of Anglican unity because we believe unity to be an injunction from the Lord. We believe disunity is sinful and a sign of failure for Christians.

The Anglican Communion as at present constituted puts pressure on gay-hostile primates, bishops and provinces. The presence of Changing Attitude and Integrity means that homophobic provinces cannot ultimately escape from having to think theologically and ethically about the presence of LGBT people in creation and in the church. Those seeking to create a pure church, free from partnered LGBT people, are doomed to failure. Not only will we be present in such a church, we know that some of the leaders of this secessionist movement are themselves partnered and gay.

We don't expect a message from an inclusive group such as Changing Attitude to effect transformation in homophobic provinces. We do expect LGBT people with heterosexual support in those provinces, and with the encouragement and support of other groups in the Communion, to subvert the homophobia of those provinces from within.

We don't believe in theological revision. We believe in theological wisdom and integrity. There is plenty of mainline theology which supports the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. A great deal of theological work being done which counters the theology of power and authoritarian attitudes. Changing Attitude recommends, for example, the recently-published ‘Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics' by Richard A Burridge, Dean of King's College London.

We believe it is right to work for the full inclusion of LGBT people in a single Anglican Communion which includes LGBT people in ministry and blesses relationships. The theology is there. We agree, of course, with pluralist, that changes should indeed be made in order that full inclusion becomes a reality.

Anglican provinces that are homophobic are often coterminous with countries that persecute and imprison. If change is being effected in the churches of those countries, church members, who are also members of society will also be affected, and slowly, change in social attitudes will also occur. We are not so naïve as to believe Anglican provinces will be the agents of radical change, but change will occur from the grassroots, with lay people who learn to think and feel differently about LGBT people - who they will discover to be members of their own families; because, as we have said before, we ARE everywhere.

A change in the global south tactics in relation to Lambeth has already occurred. The GS primates are in conflict between themselves and are no longer confident that they can persuade their clergy to boycott Lambeth, despite extreme pressure being put on them by bishops. Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Michael Poon and the bishop of Jerusalem are the visible face of many in the Global South who are angry with the organisers of GAFCON. The tactics of the secessionists will fail them. Those who were not consulted and disagree with the conference will force change on GAFCON, it's focus and its outcome.

GAFCON may be trying to position itself not to be a rival to Lambeth nor to be the launch of an alternative communion led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, based in Nigeria. It could still become both of these things. We agree with pluralist that there are those in the global south who are impatient to be rid of the Anglican Communion and want to launch their own, independent church. They are insecure fundamentalists. They are not confident in their numbers, nor about who will follow them. Why else do they keep repeating the claim to represent the majority in the communion?

Changing Attitude wants the Lambeth Conference to take place because it represents the best hope for a change of attitude for the majority of the communion and because it provides an opportunity to effect change. We will be working for radical change with our friends in Integrity and Inclusive Church. We may not achieve change, but we'll be working hard for it. We believe change is possible and practical because we are people rooted in God and prayer. If we were as the conservatives try to portray us, as barely Christian, then our faith might be misplaced. But we are people as faithful in prayer and as rooted in God as the conservatives. If change occurs it will happen because there is something godly in what we believe and who we are.

We are not hungry for power and control as are the GAFCON and global south leaders. Peter Akinola, Chris Sugden, Martyn Minns, David Anderson, Robert Duncan, Michael Nazir-Ali and others are clearly hungry for power. We are hungry for truth, love and justice. GAFCON is not going to be an event inclusive of lay people, priests and women. It will be tightly controlled and engineered by the senior male leaders.

Changing Attitude was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter. But Dr Rowan Williams is still the Archbishop of Canterbury, not Peter Akinola or Martyn Minns. A tactic that brings the majority of bishops to Canterbury in July is advantageous for us. It gives us access to bishops and to the world's media. It gives us a further opportunity to tell our stories, educate bishops and change attitudes. After Lambeth, we will review strategy.

We do not accept Lambeth 1.10 or the Windsor Report as the mind of the communion, nor do we accept Issues in Human Sexuality as the teaching of the Church of England. We understand that some Anglicans believe 1.10 to be the mind of the church. We know we are members of a church which reads the Bible in many different ways. It is the secessionists who wish to deny this truth.

We do not want a Covenant which centralises power and gives authority to exclude churches or provinces. Having read the Church of England's response to the draft Anglican Covenant, published today, we believe a Covenant beneficial to our inclusion in the Communion can still be produced. If an authoritarian Covenant is produced and agreed then we will review tactics again, but we are not there yet.

Changing Attitude is always prepared to change its attitude and review tactics when and as the need arises. GAFCON hasn't yet happened, and a new church hasn't yet been launched. If a new church is launched, we predict that in every Province (as with parishes and dioceses in the USA) there well be bishops, priests and people who will faithfully remain part of the Anglican Communion. We will work with them.

Michael Nazir-Ali and Wallace Benn do not represent large numbers in the Church of England. It is difficult to predict where they will end up if they continue to support GAFCON and the global south in the way they are at the moment. Whatever happens, they will be in no position to lay down terms for orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion.

The secessionists are up against a reality which they and those who are opposed to their tactics find it hard to see. Of course they do - LGBT people are largely invisible. In the majority of provinces we are at present totally invisible. But we are there, everywhere, lay and ordained, bishops, married, single, celibate, partnered. We are impossible to see, impossible to identify, and therefore impossible to ensure that we are excluded. If a new church is formed, it will take the LGBT issue with it. I sleep content in that knowledge. Their enterprise is based on an impossible fantasy. They don't know who LGBT people are, so they can't get rid of us. Worse for them, many in their ranks will be closeted LGBT people, and scandals will ensue as transgressions come to light.

Changing Attitude doesn't live in a fantasy world. We live in a world of prayer and worship, of praise to God for the glory and diversity of creation. We live in hope and faith, realistic that there are forces ranged against us which are abusive and unloving and potentially destructive. We have no alternative but to live in these times of threat and change, rooted in love and prayer. These are seemingly weak weapons, but weapons which can transform the church and the world into a more faithful expression of the Kingdom of God.

Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude

Anonymous said...

FWIW I wonder whether the old categories of 'liberal' and 'conservative' are as irrelevant/dated as the old arguments which produced the Methodist split from the true church;-)

I speak as an outrageously conservative Anglo-Catholic - but I share a toolkit with many other Christians who are much less 'conservative' than I am, and therefore can engage in conversation without any sense of division, only of differing weights placed on different bits of the tradition. The same critical tools are being used by us all.

This has little common ground with (say) the Ahmanson-led anti-critical bunch, who reject (except when it's convenient) the toolkit which we use. Thus I see the division as critical and anti-critical (not 'acritical'). It's possible to hold together a parish church containing a very wide range of critical pilgrims because we have a common language and commonality of a prioris - sense is to be preferred to nonsense, etc etc.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think there is a difference between conserving and conservative. I used to have an awkwardly named category of orthodox liberal, and I never wanted to change it to liberal orthodox despite it being the more obvious way around for the talk at the time - David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham, and several other moderate picky negotiators of Christian details but who kept the big scheme, like John Robinson before him.

The reason was because I contrasted it with heterodox liberal, a different kind of liberal approach. That was the point. Cupitt, Hick, Geering, Daphne Hampson, myself (!) had a different approach with the liberal dynamic - not a negotiator.

These terms still have bite, but the postmodern impact associated with some of the latter group has been imported into conserving greater detail. So there is this Yale postliberalism and Radical Orthodoxy, both of which have strong conserving tendencies in postmodern bubbles - and where Radical Orthodoxy pushes the me-world (the institution) to the furthest it can go. I see the same in Rowan Williams's theology too.

There is no reason why the ends should not have a middle or in betweens.

I do have an assessment of your theology, Mynsterpreost, which agrees that it is not as with my liberalism at base, but it shares its postmodernity. I think you are in "that world" in a way I am not, which means its own bubble, but you are more aware of the other bubbles (as I am) and the necessary interactions between them, than are the Radical Orthodox with their blinkers on.

I am a heterodox liberal, which means my postmodern worlds are set among many bubbles as a kind of fundamental, jumping between them.

(See website at:

(Post deleted for punctuation error)

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Try again!

Revised (again) mainstream triangle here)