In February 2023, the General Synod (a church parliament of sorts) of the Church of England gathered together to vote on the single most divisive issue to face the Established church in decades: the blessing of same-sex relationships in churches.
Much could be said about how the bishops pushed this plan on the synod in a rather disingenuous manner but that is a bit of a moot point now as the blessings were approved by a slim majority in the houses of clergy and laity, and by a vast majority in the house of bishops.
Most tragic was that in the lead-up to the synod, many bishops came out (pun intended) in favour of altering the church’s doctrine and practices on human sexuality and when it came time to vote the House of bishops was overwhelmingly in favour of approving these apostate blessings and defying God’s word. Even many bishops who had claimed to support traditional marriage played turncoat with God’s word voting in favour of introducing gay blessings. Of the 50 bishops who sit on General Synod, only four rejected the proposal to bless same-sex couples.
This tragic moment came as the culmination of a six-year process called ‘Living in love and faith’ or LLF for short which I have come to rename ‘living in lust and fornication’, as the supposed purpose of this protracted process was discussing different views in the church to find a way forward that respected all, however, it was clearly a vehicle to push for a change in practice at a national level.
At a cost of over £1 million, it produced a corpus of study courses, books and leaflets distributed across English parish churches. The process itself, whilst including some orthodox voices was predominantly pushed forward by revisionists hellbent on altering church doctrine and practice on human sexual ethics.
For decades there has been a near-total vacuum of biblical discipline in the CofE, all manner of heretics and lunatics have been permitted to be ordained and run riot as a successive cavalcade of smaller compromises on God’s Word and traditional doctrine have entered the church since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, from women’s ordination to remarriage of divorcees.
False doctrine is almost never addressed as prescribed in the New Testament and, through relentless entryism activists have been able to infiltrate the halls of power across this once-great ancient church. Sexuality may be the presenting issue but it is merely the symptom of a far more deadly disease: an abandonment of understanding God’s word as infallible, inerrant and authoritative.
All throughout the LLF process, we were told we must seek to hear the voice of God by listening to the experiences of LGBTQ+ churchgoers, and that concept belies the underlying problem! People’s feelings and experiences were placed higher than the bible. God has already spoken, He has made Himself clear on the issue of human sexuality and all other topics. Whilst people’s emotions are important in a pastoral sense, they can never be allowed to supplant the scripture, to be the foundation of doctrine nor to lead us to defy God.
The previous changes to church practice and doctrine are often argued to be ‘secondary issues’ that the different camps in the CofE could agree to disagree over but for many orthodox Anglicans, the red line has always been allowing same-sex blessings or marriages. The reason this is such a big deal is that many Evangelicals and traditional Anglo-Catholics see this as a primary issue of salvation.
To bless same-sex relationships is to redefine what God’s word clearly defines as a sin, and if something is no longer viewed as sinful then it need not be repented of, thus this course of action alters the gospel fundamentally as to be saved we are told by the Saviour that one must “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The bishops who should have been the staunchest defenders of orthodoxy have become the evangelists of this new heterodox nightmare, claiming that doctrine is not changing and all the synod has approved are some liturgical resources and prayers. But how can we as the church bless that which God has deemed to be an abomination?
The so-called ‘prayers of love and faith’ while still in draft form until approval at the July session of General Synod are unlikely to be changed dramatically from their current form. They are marriage in all but name only, with presbyters even able to bless the rings (the wedding bans) of gay couples. A sneaky heterodox cleric could easily informally allow the couple to make wedding vows to each other in the middle of these new liturgies if they desired to have a gay church ‘wedding’.
Blessing gay couples has been common practice secretly in the most errant CofE churches for years and due to the aforementioned lack of discipline this has gone mostly unpunished by our ecclesial superiors. To those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear, its clear the doctrine has actually changed according to the theological principle of lex orandi, lex credendi or as we worship so we believe. To release these prayers and blessings is in practice to alter doctrine and it is anathema to those of us who hold fast to the faithful word.
To the dismay of many it seems the most senior leaders of the CofE, led by our two Archbishops, the ever feckless Justin Welby and the obviously heterodox Stephen Cottrell have led us into a place of Divine Judgement where the Church of England is now opposing God and his perfect changeless word. Perhaps the bishops sold out due to secular political pressure, maybe it was a misplaced desire to remain relevant in a post-Christendom world, or it could simply have been the machinations of the evil one.
Whatever the inspiration, we now have a church where the vast majority of bishops and very many clergy are flagrantly endorsing an erroneous doctrine and a false rainbow gospel. Some still hope for a way back to orthodoxy, particularly within our affable but seemingly toothless conservative organizations such as the Church of England Evangelical Council (established in days gone by the legendary John Stott) or Church Socitey, but neither group is able to chart a path forward and all their proposals thus far reek of compromise and cowardice.
For those of us left in the CofE who are orthodox times are tough, powerful alphabet activists such as James Ozanne have called upon Archbishop Welby to compile lists of clergy with supposedly homophobic views. There are rumours on the wind among the orthodox clergy that those who speak out have put a target on their backs and will find life increasingly difficult. This will be most horrible for faithful clergymen like me who minister in struggling theologically mixed ‘run of the mill’ CofE parishes in the suburbs and rural areas which often have more goats than sheep in the flock, as opposed to clergy in the large, wealthy and thriving inner-city evangelical powerhouse churches.
Clergy in those big safe parishes are somewhat protected from the vitriol of alphabet activists and angry bishops who want to keep orthodox voices silent or see them run out of the church entirely. But I suspect it won’t be safe for the large orthodox parishes forever, eventually, if the backsliding of the Church of England goes anything like the heretical insanity of its daughter church the Episcopal Church in the United States (which is a few decades further along the heterodox path to hell), then even the largest most faithful orthodox parishes in the CofE will eventually fall under the relentless pressure of an organization that has capitulated almost entirely to worldliness.
The decision of the Church of England to depart from the faith once delivered to the saints of course has global implications as it is the Mother Church of the global Anglican Communion, a multinational confederation of independent churches with a shared heritage that are all in communion with the see of Canterbury. The Communion evolved from the colonial structures of the British Empire, in ages past brave missionaries often faced fierce opposition in bringing the gospel of Christ to far-flung lands as the Church of England spread alongside Britain’s colonies around the world establishing churches in most continents. Today the world’s Anglicans number around 100 million, and whilst many Western Provinces such as the USA, NZ, Canada and parts of Australia have become woefully progressive, capitulating to the woke cultural zeitgeist, the former colonial churches in the developing world have remained remarkably orthodox.
In the last decade or so out of these daughter churches and from faithful remnants in the West grew two powerful theologically conservative groups, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) which represent over 75% of Anglicans Christians globally. The Church of England may be the wealthy Mother Church but it is now totally outnumbered by African and Asian believers in its daughter churches. And these faithful godly Christians have been calling on wayward Western provinces to repent of apostasy for years, and warning the Church of England not to go down the same path.
In fact, even at the actual February meeting of the General Synod in London as the CofE was on the cusp of abandoning the Bible, a prominent member of the global majority of Anglicans Archbishop Sami of Alexandria literally pleaded with the delegates to vote in favour of Biblical fidelity and to avoid splitting the international Anglican family.
In reply, Archbishop Welby spoke of understanding that changing doctrine in England could result in martyrdom for global majority Anglicans but then he proceeded to vote in favour of gay blessings anyway. The orthodox Anglicans around the globe did not take this affront to traditional doctrine lightly, on Ash Wednesday the GSFA primates (Primate = the most senior Archbishop of an Anglican province) released a statement indicating they would no longer recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the first among equals.
Furthermore, last month at the 4th GAFCON conference in Kigali Rwanda bold moves were made that reiterated and expanded upon the earlier GFSA decision, meaning the Archbishop of Canterbury has been resoundingly rejected as the leader of the world’s Anglicans and, the Church of England’s position of historic privilege is now lost as the Anglican Communion will be reset by a grassroots movement of its most faithful churches. It’s now likely that in months to come, these orthodox organizations will deploy contingency plans to select a new first among equals drawn from the biblically faithful Archbishops around the world who are unafraid to speak God’s truth.
All this turmoil may sound like a bad thing to many, however, whilst it is immensely tragic to see the Mother Church descend into false teaching, the response from the majority of global Anglicans is a very positive move of the Holy Spirit. There is hope for the future of the Ecclesia Anglicana! A new vision is emerging of confessional Anglicanism, not united by mere intuitional unity through historical connection with Canterbury, but rather bound together by biblical orthodoxy. A purer, holier, more faithful global church family that includes orthodox dioceses and provinces who wish to remain in impaired communion with Canterbury and also ‘continuing’ Anglicans who have completely severed all ties with the established churches that have drifted into error.
This emerging confessional Anglicanism will be stronger than what came before, its strength is found in a shared love for the infallible, inerrancy of the Bible and the Reformation formularies of the Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and 39 Articles of Religion. If the rhetoric at GAFCON IV was anything to go on then this renewed church will be far more focused on discipleship, evangelism and genuine Christian charity (as opposed to woke virtue signalling and social justice the heterodox provinces are notorious for).
It will be a global Anglicanism that is fit for the rigorous challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st century because it is filled with God’s Spirit and empowered by His blessing, certainly, it may suffer persecution for unflinchingly standing firm on God’s word but it will be refined through the fire and even more effective for the gospel if that’s the case. In the old Western provinces faithful independent Anglican churches have emerged as new shoots from the old stumps.
Over the last decade the Anglican Church in North America has grown immensely as the Canterbury-aligned Episcopal church withers away, more recently in Australia the Diocese of the Southern Cross has been established as a safe haven for orthodox Anglicans struggling in demonically apostate dioceses such as Brisbane or Perth. Even in England, where the CofE is utterly dominant, new and existing GAFCON churches are growing rapidly.
The Anglican Network in Europe which is a recent innovation is launching many church plants and the Free Church of England which has a rich heritage of over a century of independently rejecting innovations in doctrine that the CofE embraced is carefully planting exciting new churches. Confessional Anglicanism is breaking new ground in the UK, as the old Established churches wither on the vine risking being cut off altogether.
John 15:1-4 comes to mind as I reflect on this entire situation, it seems to me that our Lord Jesus is trimming the vines in His vineyard. Those branches that have abandoned Him and His word have had ample warning for many years, the time for Christ to chop them away seems to be upon us, whereas the faithful churches that are standing firm are being lovingly pruned to allow even more gospel growth.
In some sense, this is a thrilling time to be an Anglican Christian, but it is a season of making hard choices and my advice to each and every Anglican is to make sure you choose to serve Christ by fleeing from false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing, investing time, gifts and talents into godly orthodox churches that will bear fruit for God’s glory.