Leading Anglican theologian exposes the ‘Third Way’ myth

Leading Anglican theologian exposes the ‘Third Way’ myth

By The Rev’d Canon Charles Raven
Membership Development Secretary GAFCON
http://gafcon.org

Myths are not necessarily old. A new myth is being invented by Anglican church leaders who claim to be orthodox and even evangelical. They tell us that differences between Christians about the acceptability of same-sex relationships are secondary issues and the Church should therefore follow a ‘Third Way’ which maintains unity in contrast to, on the one hand, the liberal insistence on homosexual practice as a right and, on the other, the historic understanding that this is an issue of core doctrine and therefore leads to broken communion if there is not repentance.

Dr Martin Davie is a leading Anglican theologian who served until recently as theological adviser to the Church of England’s House of Bishops. He is disturbed by the way this new myth is becoming increasingly influential amongst Anglicans in the British Isles and his recent blog article ‘Why The Arguments For A Third Way Do Not Work’, which can be read here, is a compelling exposure of a dangerous deception.

He demonstrates that the ‘Third Way’ is based on a very superficial reading of both the Bible and Church history, and so a Church ‘that is willing to accept same-sex sexual activity (or any other form of sexual sin) is a church that has ceased to truly believe in the grace and truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ’.

He concludes that ‘The New Testament thus firmly closes the door on any idea that sexual ethics is a matter on which Christians are free to have different beliefs and observe different practices. There is a basic pattern of sexual conduct involving fidelity within (heterosexual) marriage and abstinence outside it that all Christians without exception are expected to observe. In historically forbidding same-sex activity the Christian Church has simply remained faithful to this pattern.’

We might therefore ask why the myth is becoming so powerful if its biblical and dogmatic support is so weak. Might it be that this offers leaders who are unconvinced about the rightness of same-sex relationships an easy way out? For example, for followers of the ‘Third Way’, orthodoxy no longer entails making an unpopular stand or saying a principled ‘no’ to receiving large grants from Churches like TEC.

This article should be of interest to the whole of the Anglican Communion, not just those in England. The ‘Third Way’ encourages a false sense of ‘business as usual’ while TEC continues to provide substantial funding for the work of the London based Anglican Communion office’s attempts to orchestrate the life of the Communion around this myth.

The actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury strongly suggest that he himself has embraced the ‘Third Way’. There was some hope after the Canterbury 2016 Primates Meeting of an effective restraint on TEC and other revisionist provinces, even though Archbishop Welby refused to use the term ‘discipline’. These hopes were dashed by the active engagement of TEC in the April meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka and it became clear that for all intents and purposes the Archbishop sees TEC’s controversial teaching on sexuality, even to the extent of removing any reference to gender from its marriage canon, as a matter on which Anglicans are free to have different beliefs.

If this myth is not persistently challenged and exposed, the consequences for the Anglican Communion will be tragic. Not only is the ‘Third Way’ myth unsupported by Scripture or church history; if allowed to take root, it will also show itself to be unworkable. The Apostle Paul warns that false teaching ‘spreads like gangrene’ (2 Timothy 2:17) and the eventual result of the ‘Third Way’ will be to habituate the Church to false teaching and ensure the ascendancy of the ‘One Way’ of secular inspired revisionism which by its nature drives out orthodoxy.

As his life drew to a close Joshua appealed to God’s people to ‘choose this day who you will serve (Joshua 24:15)”. The choice was between holding fast to the living God and compromise with the pagan cultures around them. There was no third way then and neither is there today. The challenge of the gospel is always the binary choice between life and death, repentance or rebellion, the lie or the truth. The GAFCON movement and all who want to see the Bible restored to the heart of the Anglican Communion are indebted to Dr Davie for the way that he has demonstrated the clarity of the Scriptures which call us to choose life.

Canon Charles Raven
GAFCON Membership Development Secretary

Obergefell and the New Gnosticism

For decades, the Sexual Revolution was supposed to be about freedom. Today, it is about coercion. Once, it sought to free our sexual choices from restrictive laws and unwanted consequences. Now, it seeks to free our sexual choices from other people’s disapproval.

That’s a sharp turn—but it was inevitable. The ideals of the Sexual Revolution call for it: That is one lesson of the year that has passed since the Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. Most of Obergefell’s lay supporters were simply moved by concern for our LGBT neighbors—a worthy and urgent concern that the Church must be the first to heed, as Wesley Hill has beautifully reminded us. But the Court’s ruling itself depended on a broader sexual progressivism; and its cultural fallout has made clearer that sexual progressivism is illiberal. Absorb its vision of the human person wholesale, and you will soon conclude that social justice requires getting others to subscribe to that vision.

In short, the ideas that Obergefell imposed on our government could hardly stop there; as with an evangelical creed, the legal system could not embrace them without feeling bound to spread them. Obergefell is thus best seen as a religious bull from our national Magisterium, the Supreme Court, by the pen of its high priest, Justice Kennedy. With all the solemnity of a Chalcedon or Trent, it formalized new doctrines for our nation’s civil religion—Gnostic ideas about the human person. Ideas that, by their very nature, create an obligation to recruit new adherents. (And ideas that—unlike true religion—could serve their purpose whether or not they were accepted freely.)

Obergefell has thus inspired fidelity and stigmatized heresy, on pain of the (civic) mortal sins of bigotry and injustice. One year later, we can take the measure of its consequences—and prepare for future ones—only if we spell out the ideas it embraced, and why they demand to be enforced.

To hold that same-sex marriage is part of the fundamental right to marry, or necessary for giving LGBT people the equal protection of the laws, the Court implicitly made a number of other assumptions: that one-flesh union has no distinct value in itself, only the feelings fostered by any kind of consensual sex; that there is nothing special about knowing the love of the two people whose union gave you life, whose bodies gave you yours, so long as you have two sources of care and support; that what children need is parenting in some disembodied sense, and not mothering and fathering. It effectively had to treat contrary views as irrational.

That conclusion suggests that the body doesn’t matter. When it comes to what fulfills us, we are not personal animals—mammalian thinkers, to put it starkly—who come in two basic forms that complete each other. We are subjects of desire and consent, who use bodily equipment for spiritual and emotional expression. Fittingly, then, has this new doctrine been called a New Gnosticism.

Beyond marriage, this doctrine entails that sex doesn’t matter, or that it matters only as an inner reality. Since I am not my body, I might have been born in the wrong one. Because the real me is internal, my sexual identity is just what I sense it to be. The same goes for other valuable aspects of my identity. My essence is what I say and feel that it is.

The doctrine is also individualistic. On the old view, you could know important things about me unmediated, by knowing something about my body or our shared nature. And our interdependence as persons was as inescapable as our physical incompleteness and need: as male and female, infants and infirm. But if the real me lies within, only I know what I am. You have to take my word for it; I can learn nothing about myself from our communion. And if I emerge only when autonomy does—if I come into the world already thinking and feeling and choosing—it’s easy to overlook our interdependence. I feel free to strike out on my own, and to satisfy my desires less encumbered by others’ needs.

But again, mere acceptance of this vision of the person isn’t enough to explain Obergefell. The Court did not simply allow new relationships; it required their recognition as marriages, as similar to opposite-sex bonds in every important way. In other words, it didn’t simply free people to live by the New Gnosticism. It required us, “the People,” to endorse this dogma, by forbidding us to enact distinctions that cut against it. It held that your dignity demands more than the freedom to lead your life as a purely spiritual subject. It requires us all to treat you as a purely spiritual subject. Anything else is demeaning; it implies that you are essentially bound by a body.

It’s not that the New Gnostics are an especially vindictive bunch. It’s that a certain kind of coercion is built into their view from the start. If your most valuable, defining core just is the self that you choose to express, there can be no real difference between you as a person, and your acts of self-expression; I can’t affirm you and oppose those acts. Not to embrace self-expressive acts is to despise the self those acts express. I don’t simply err by gainsaying your sense of self. I deny your existence, and do you an injustice. For the New Gnostic, then, a just society cannot live and let live, when it comes to sex. Sooner or later, the common good—respect for people as self-defining subjects—will require social approval of their self-definition and -expression.

This vision of the self explains otherwise novel and puzzling ideas: e.g., that you can’t be authentic without acting on your sexual desires, and that a physically healthy biological male might have been a woman all along. And its consequent illiberalism—the impulse to police dissent—explains an otherwise astonishing development. It explains how the status of absolute orthodoxy—which same-sex marriage advocates fought for decades to secure, and still achieved with astonishing speed—was transferred to transgenderism virtually overnight.

It explains why those who deny that men can become women are today’s newest bigots—even when they were yesterday’s feminist heroines. It explains the ferocious reaction to bills that would accommodate both women made uncomfortable showering with biological males, and biological males uncomfortable with showering with men. It explains what emboldened the Obama administration to force every public school to comply with students’ professed gender identity in every domain. These are all the natural follow-ups to forcing wedding vendors, counselors, and charities, private colleges and universities, to treat same- and opposite-sex couples alike, or else face crippling fines or loss of their operating licenses.

Again, none of these effects came by force of law from Obergefell. But they are all of a piece with the New Gnosticism and its inherent coerciveness. We’ll see more of its effects in the near future. We’ll see more parties enlisting courts in the unfolding coercion, by deploying the perfectly tailored concept of dignitary harm: the pain of being told by others that your choices are immoral. Legal academics have argued that this sort of harm strikes at the heart of the common good, and that judges should count it against the moral and religious liberty claims of those seeking to avoid complicity with others’ sins.

It’s surely painful to be told that our intimate choices are wrong. But the concept of dignitary harm is nebulous enough to count against any conscience claim—even while a spurious link to the (systematically very different) harms of Jim Crow makes it weighty enough to defeat any claim it is weighed against. Unsurprisingly, given the tenets of the New Gnosticism, it has been invoked only in connection with conscience claims in the sex-and-reproduction culture wars. Until now free speech claims have been safe against such erosions, by a virtual consensus of our legal culture that political speech needs most protection precisely when it offends. But the consensus may soon be shattered by efforts to fight offensive speech on sex and marriage.

Increasingly, too, silence about others’ intimate choices may be construed as disapproval, as conservative employees of some major corporations are finding out. And failure to facilitate sensitive choices may be construed as efforts to thwart them. Some arguments for the HHS contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act assume as much, as do more recent efforts by the Obama administration to pressure insurers to cover sex reassignment surgery.

We must show that counting dignitary harm in this sense (painful though it is) against any civil liberty would be variously incoherent or self-defeating, and directly at odds with the values of classical liberalism. It would—by design—shut off the springs of moral and political reform, right at the source. But we will not succeed in that effort until we have faced head-on the New Gnosticism that drives it. This will require spreading our own evangelical creed: that we are not disembodied subjects but fleshly icons of the invisible God; whose worth comes not from extorted approval of our personal choices but from His infinite, undeserved love.

Sherif Girgis, a recent graduate of Yale Law School, is completing a Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton.

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Anglican Communion ups Realignment over Homosexual Marriage as GAFCON Leaders Move in for the Kill

NEWS ANALYSIS

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org

It happened again this week when the Scottish Episcopal Church took a step towards homosexual marriage. This is the first step of an Anglican branch in the UK to allow homosexual marriage in church.

The synod voted that a change to its Canon law governing marriage should be sent for discussion to the church’s seven dioceses. A further vote will happen at next year’s synod. It will probably seal the deal.

The proposal would remove the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. There would, naturally, be a “conscience clause” for those who would not want to conduct a same-sex marriage.

The numbers were decidedly overwhelming. The synod vote received support from five of seven bishops, 69% of the clergy and 80% of the laity – indicating that it has a good chance of succeeding when it returns next year.

So far, the Church of England has resisted this sort of action and will not conduct homosexual marriages, or even allow clergy to be in a homosexual marriage. Of course, this has not stopped the recognition of men and women living in what the Bible calls sexual sin, to receive a blessing from English clergy on their homosexual unions. The Dean of St. Alban’s cathedral, Jeffrey John, has been living with his partner for 40 years, and claims to be celibate, even though he has married his partner. He was once shortlisted to be a diocesan bishop in the Church of England. Fortunately, that did not materialize.

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has been kicking the can down the road over homosexual marriage, but it will come up for a vote in July when their Synod meets. A vote for will upset the few remaining conservatives, and a vote against will upset the disproportionately high number of homosexual clergy. This is all a repeat performance of the lamentations and appeals for unity that accompanied the voting over same-sex blessings in prior synods. Then, as now, the so-called unity is bogus. Also bogus were the assurances that same-sex blessings would not lead to same sex marriage. Does anyone truly believe that priests will not be compelled to perform same-sex marriages if the vote goes that way?

Hiltz has as much as admitted that the whole synod exercise will be a vacuous farce since, even if homosexual marriage motion is voted down — as it probably will be — dioceses will go ahead with it anyway.

Church of Wales Archbishop, Dr. Barry Morgan, said he was not ready, as a Church, to take the step of authorizing homosexual marriage, but his bishops made it clear that the debate is not over. They committed to working for a Church in which homosexual men and women are “fully affirmed as equal disciples” and to praying with and for them.

Then there is The Episcopal Church, which has swallowed the whole pansexual enchilada of sodomite marriage to the point that it has changed its canons to allow it all to be legal. Like the Scottish church, it has an exemption clause for those who refuse to participate in these unbiblical unions. But for how long?

So far it is only TEC that has taken the brunt of inhibition when, last January, TEC found itself sanctioned (the ABC did not like that word) when it approved homosexual marriage. However, TEC got a pass at Lusaka ACC-16, where it participated fully in that conference of Anglicans on African soil. There was not even the smell of censure, further angering orthodox Anglicans from the Global South.

The Scottish move then will only intensify the brokenness within the wider Anglican Communion of some 80 million Christians.

Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury is struggling to keep the Communion together over the issue. The sad truth is he is losing in the Culture Wars over pansexuality. He is turning out to be a clone of his predecessor, Rowan Williams (without the beard). He is bending over backwards not to appear homophobic lest he fear a backlash against him, even though scripture offers no way out in its condemnation of such behavior.

When he was in Zimbabwe recently, Welby said there are differing views within the Anglican Communion on homosexual unions, but the majority one is that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and woman.

That was not a vigorous endorsement of heterosexual marriage or that God has only ever ordained “male and female” as normative behavior he created for the universe of humanity.

It is a lot easier to state that the primates opposed the criminalization of LGBTIQ people without ever saying that homosexual behavior is morally indefensible. Plead the whine of a handful of homosexuals many of whom are in the forefront of Gaystapo tactics to stifle all dissent of their behavior that has seen millions die over the last 30 plus years, including my own brother-in-law and a dear Baptist friend in the late 80s.

“Thou shalt not” has become “thou shout out”. Even though what happened in Orlando this past weekend was unconscionable, indefensible and morally reprehensible, it still does not address the wrongness of a behavior that not only upsets believing Christians, but Muslims as well, and has caused a murderous backlash in countries like Nigeria, which has seen the slaughter of hundreds of Anglican Christians at the hands of Boko Haran, part of whose murderous creed is the West’s pandering to homosexuality expressly forbidden by the Koran.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s fence sitting has left the Global South, especially its GAFCON believers angry, despairing and bewildered that they will ever see an archbishop on the throne of Canterbury with a backbone, declaratively stating that marriage between a man and a woman is the ONLY acceptable sexual activity approved of by our creator and that ALL other options are sinful and outside his ontological purview.

Nigerian Archbishop and GAFCON Chairman Nicholas Okoh

Enter the Primate of Nigeria.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria is the highest attended, most orthodox, unyielding and uncompromising evangelical province in the Anglican Communion. To a man and woman they have stood firmly on scripture as God’s final revelation on human sexual behavior, and they will not compromise under any circumstance. So it is natural that they would see Welby as weak and prevaricating over the issue, catering to a handful of strident Western pansexualists who believe they can change God’s mind for him. They have watched the spiritual, moral and ecclesiastical carnage that has resulted in shrinking and dying churches over the issue, and they marvel at the spiritual blindness of the West — the same West that brought them the gospel barely a century ago, and which they now see as horribly compromised.

On taking his seat as chairman, Archbishop Okoh almost immediately lit into Welby, saying that the false teaching of The Episcopal Church was now being normalized in the Church of England over its decision to appoint an American Episcopal Bishop as the Assisting Bishop of Liverpool. This resulted in the Church of Nigeria’s Akure Diocese ending its partnership link with Liverpool Diocese. Lambeth Palace said nothing.

But this was just the beginning. The Nigerian Primate says GAFCON will now focus on actions of the Church of England, now that ACNA is established in the US. The Africans are coming and Welby will be powerless to stop them. The Anglican Mission in England will now kick into high gear.

It is worth recalling that it was only a few short years ago when the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary jurisdiction of the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Church in North America, arose from humble beginnings to over 120 congregations across 30 States, and in Canada, with over 435 chaplains and clergy, three missionary dioceses and the Deanery of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. That is no small achievement. Before you know it, the AMiE will be a fully-fledged alternative to the Church of England. There will be howls of foul play, but who can blame Okoh? He is merely responding to the growing need for an orthodox alternative to the CofE. It was he who said that the false teaching of TEC is now normalized in the Church of England!

The Province of Nigeria, the largest and staunchest evangelical branch of the Anglican Communion, has been at odds with TEC since it ordained an openly non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy, in the person of Gene Robinson in March, 2003, and then, Primate Peter Akinola formally broke all relations with the North American Church. Other African provinces followed and did and said likewise.

No Schism but Realignment Continues

The secular press repeatedly and falsely claims that schism is either coming or is inevitable in the Anglican Communion, but they misread the cue cards.

What is going on is a grand game of ecclesiastical chess. Whenever the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada seek to manipulate Global South leaders with expensive flights and hotels to participate in Indaba talks on reconciliation, or push millions of dollars onto poorer African dioceses (often behind the backs of their orthodox primates) to buy influence and peddle pansexuality, the Global South fires back by planting churches in the backyards of liberal and “progressive” Anglican provinces and so moves the chess game in a different direction. The Western queen (you can take that anyway you like), repeatedly finds itself blockaded by orthodox GAFCON knights and bishops ready to swing into action against her. Sooner or later it will be checkmate for the Western king, simply because the church pawns of the West are dying out and are being taken off the board by the overwhelming fire power of Global South leaders who have waited patiently to bring an end to the game. It’s a zero sum game.

In every age, the devil is at work to destroy the Church, but we stand firm in the confidence that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, said Okoh.

It’s hard to know how much clearer he could be. “At our recent Primates’ Council meeting in Nairobi, we reaffirmed our solidarity with the leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and the Anglican Mission in England at this testing time.”

Okoh said he is convinced that this is a movement called into being and sustained by the Lord of the Church himself. “The Apostle Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We therefore preach the gospel, make disciples and commit ourselves to prevailing prayer, knowing that the most dangerous attack on the Church today is not persecution from the outside, terrible though that can be, but a globalized secular ideology which has established itself inside the Church.”

Okoh said GAFCON must devote itself to the task of restoring the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion, and this is the way to true unity. “The divisions which have been so destructive in recent years have come about because some have chosen to abandon biblical doctrine and it has become increasingly clear since the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka last month that those traditionally entrusted with leadership in the Communion will do nothing to call them to repentance.

GAFCON remains a rescue mission for the Anglican Communion, he said.

The Future

There is speculation that TEC will not be invited to Lambeth 2020, and ditto for the Anglican Church of Canada and Scotland. That is not going to happen. Both TEC and the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) will be invited regardless of how they vote on homosexual marriage. Furthermore, that is not the central question. The bigger question is whether ACNA Archbishop, Foley Beach, is invited and if he is, whether he would bother going!

As things now stand, and the trajectory western provinces are going, it is highly unlike that the GAFCON bishops will bother turning up, and in doing so, give a thumbs down as they did the last Lambeth Conference. This will only reinforce to Welby that he has lost control of the Anglican Communion and it is de jure no more. It is understandable that GAFCON General Secretary Peter Jensen should describe what happened as a “complete failure”.

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s Primus, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, was told that they will not suffer meaningful consequences for introducing same-sex marriage rites. In conversation with the leader of that Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury said sanctions applied to the SEC, if it adopts gay marriage rites, are applied to the Episcopal Church, then its bishops should expect to be present at Lambeth 2020.

What does that tell you? Well it speaks volumes. Switching the game from issues about Human Sexuality to talk about Anglican polity and governance is little more than rearranging the seating plan in the dining room of the Hindenburg.

In time, the Global South will win. Only a totally blind man cannot see the numbers written on the subway walls and tenement halls. The West is withering and dying from age and bad morals with no clear gospel to proclaim to stop it. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “Jesus Movement” cry is little more than a three-card monte game, betting the church will grow without a clear salvific message. Screaming about racism and white privilege will get old. GAFCON and the rest of the Global South have the numbers, and they are tirelessly and relentlessly faithful to scripture in proclaiming the gospel of God’s redeeming grace. The chess game is moving rapidly in their favor. The Western (white) king is in a corner surrounded by black bishops, rooks and knights. The game is almost over. Checkmate awaits.

END

England’s Repressive Tolerance

Carrying a placard which read, “Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord,” sixty-nine-year-old street preacher Harry Hammond went into the center of Bournemouth on a Saturday afternoon in 2001. As he started to speak, a crowd surrounded him, pushed him to the ground, pulled down his banner, and threw water and soil on him.

The police arrived—and arrested Hammond for inciting his own assault. They did not arrest anyone who had assaulted him. In court, they said that they had been uncertain whether they should protect or arrest him. He was found guilty, and ordered to pay fines and costs totaling £695 (about $1,000). Soon after his conviction, he was hospitalized, and he died shortly thereafter.

The legislation used to arrest and convict Hammond was the Public Order Act 1986. The act holds that “A person is guilty of an offense if he . . . displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.” The defendant must “prove . . . that his conduct was reasonable.” A subsequent appeal by Hammond’s executors was denied by two judges of the High Court in London, who upheld the finding that his speech “went beyond legitimate protest” and that the need to maintain order overruled his rights to free speech under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The first Public Order Act was passed in 1936 to prevent Oswald Mosley’s notorious Blackshirts from marching through the Jewish neighborhood in the East End of London. It prohibited groups “organised or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces” and “enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and either trained or equipped for that purpose.” Those who drafted the original version of this act would be amazed to see its new application.

The 1986 version of the law was not intended to ban street-preaching like Hammond’s, but did not need to be redrafted for it to be used as the basis for his arrest. It was merely applied to suit the cultural and political agenda of the day. In the 1990s, the British government prioritized certain offenses, such as those considered homophobic, and the police responded by reinterpreting the existing law to include them.

The Hammond case first drew my attention to the gathering legal opposition to the Christian faith and the growing trend toward discrimination against Christians in general. In the subsequent ten years since the case, the interpretation of British law has further hardened against manifestations of Christian belief, bolstered by the attitude of publicly funded state organizations.

In 2005, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the primary state-sponsored media organization in the United Kingdom, televised Jerry Springer: The Opera. In the show, Jesus is presented as gay, in a nappy, and in a sexual relationship. The BBC received 55,000 complaints—its largest number ever—but asserted its commitment to freedom of speech. When one of those complainants attempted to sue, the BBC used taxpayers’ money to employ some of the most expensive barristers in England to win the case, and afterward the production company considered bankrupting the individual who had brought the action.

Some time later, Charles Moore, former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, appeared on Question Time, a BBC current-affairs program, and criticized the Muslim Council of Britain for thinking it was “a good thing, even an Islamic thing,” to kill British troops. Rather than defend Moore’s right to free speech, the BBC offered an immediate apology for any offense caused and paid £30,000 ($47,000) of taxpayers’ money to the council.

These sorts of double standards are evident in the legal as well as the media environment. The British government has strongly enforced hate-crime legislation but was happy to invite supporters of Hezbollah to the U.K. to address the police on “Political Islam.”

I have had direct experience of the ways in which the nature of public discourse about Christian faith has changed in the U.K. Toleration is now only granted to liberals and free speech is selectively sanctioned or withheld by the state. Our national heritage of political stability and genuine religious liberty is in real danger of collapse.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the courtroom. In one case in which I was involved, the court had limited witness statements to 2500 words. Mine came in just under that limit, while the barristers for the other side submitted 11,000 words. The judge then changed the limit to 7500, and proceeded to allow my opponent to criticize me for providing a short witness statement. This sort of behavior and the often hostile attitudes of the court make unfair judgments all the more crushing.

I am treated very differently in court when I am not defending a Christian who is expressing his beliefs. For example, I recently represented a client who had murdered someone for £20 ($30) and the judge treated me cordially and with respect.

In 2005, however, I represented Stephen Copsey, a Christian who had been dismissed from his job because he would not regularly work on a Sunday. During the hearing, the judge aggressively asked Mr. Copsey to show him “where in the Bible it says you can be lazy and not work on a Sunday, and your colleagues have to cover for you.” After an extended period of silence, Copsey answered, “The Ten Commandments, number four.”

The court and attendant media all broke into laughter. The judge maintained a very cold attitude toward Copsey, and the court eventually found against him, holding that he was not dismissed for wishing to treat the Sabbath day as a day of rest, but because he failed to attend work.

Prior to the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998, I had won every Sunday working case in which I had represented a Christian who wished to uphold the Sabbath, but the introduction of the Act, with its political agenda, has warranted discriminating against Christians who wish to act and speak out on the basis of their convictions.

Nadia Eweida, an employee of British Airways, was suspended for refusing to remove a cross the size of a penny, which she wore on a chain around her neck. In representing her in court, I presented evidence that British Airways permitted some of her colleagues to wear religious items such as the hijab, the turban, and the Sikh ponytail.

Nevertheless, the court held there was no discrimination against her (and therefore against Christians) because a person from any other faith, or none, would also have been suspended for wearing a cross. On this tenuous basis, the court held that the airline was treating all employees the same and was not treating Eweida differently. When the case came before the Court of Appeal, the judges asked for evidence that Christians wear crosses, apparently unaware of the practice.

This case, Eweida v. British Airways, received considerable media attention. Prime Minister Tony Blair commented at the time that the airline should “just do the sensible thing” and allow Eweida to wear her cross. The case has forced British Airways to amend its employee policy and is currently before the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2011, I acted for a couple who had been barred from foster parenting because of their Christian convictions. In Johns v. Derby City Council, one of the presiding judges, Mr. Justice Munby, held that Judeo-Christian values could be classed as “inimical” to the interests of a child; such values might not be in the “best interests” of the child. The court held that Eunice and Owen Johns could be barred from fostering children because they would refuse to tell a child that a homosexual life was acceptable.

The state-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission asserted that it was the duty of the state to protect vulnerable children from becoming “infected” (their word) with Judeo-Christian values. The commission has since said that this word was used by mistake, but their representative did not take it back in court when challenged.

Despite the increasing hostility against Christians expressing their faith in public, there have also been some victories in court. Earlier this year, I was able to represent Michael Overd, a preacher who was arrested under the same Public Order Act that condemned Harry Hammond and who like him was accused of “inciting his own arrest”—a phrase I regularly hear from those who don’t like the consequences of the right to free speech.

He was cleared of “verbally abusing” two homosexual men who heard him quoting from a passage in 1 Corinthians that speaks of the sinful not inheriting the kingdom of God. In his defense, I presented the fact that he was merely quoting from the Bible and that his intention was to make converts and not to insult anyone; he was not therefore directly condemning homosexuality. The right to evangelize is seen as a component of free speech (which is protected), rather than a religious issue, and the court found for my client.

My experiences have left me in no doubt that it is becoming ever more difficult for Christians in Britain to speak and act in accordance with their convictions. However, there are specific responses that we can make to this challenge.

First, the Human Rights Act can be revised. One sensible reform that ought to be acceptable to everyone would be to introduce a “duty of mutual respect” as a statutory principle. This would establish that, while there should be no discrimination in the providing of services, service will not be considered denied if someone else can provide it. In a recent case in which motel owners did not wish to provide a room to a same-sex couple because it offended their religious conscience, for example, the owners would not have been charged with discrimination if the couple could find alternative accommodation nearby, as they could have done.

Second, Britain could borrow the principle of the free exercise of religion from the United States. Currently, matters of faith are tested in the British courts under discrimination law. We should, rather, have a simple test of what is religious belief and whether we should permit its manifestation.

The third response is linked to the fact that Christian religious belief is now so undermined in the U.K. that a new act would be necessary to restore its place in our society and in our law. This could be akin to America’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which is aimed at preventing laws that might inhibit a person’s free exercise of his faith.

More generally, Christians everywhere can and should speak out at all levels, working with organizations that support Christian rights, through elected representatives, through participation in consultations, and, where appropriate, through public protest. We owe that to witnesses like Harry Hammond.

Paul Diamond is a practicing barrister in Cambridge, England.

Latvian Lutherans end ordination of women priests

Author:

George Conger

The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas Evaņģēliski luteriskās baznīcas) has voted to end the ordination of women to the priesthood. Meeting in Riga on 3 June 2015 the synod of the Latvian Church — an observer member of the Porvoo Communion — amended the canon on ordination that read: “anyone who according to the regulations set by the [church] is called by God and trained for ministry can seek ordination” to “any male candidate who according to the regulations set by the [church] is called by God and trained for the ministry can seek ordination.” The amendment passed on a vote of 201 “for”, 59 “against” and 22 abstentions, receiving 77 per cent support. In order for the amendment to have been adopted it required a three-quarters vote. In 1975 the synod authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood.. However since his election in 1993 the Archbishop of Riga Jānis Vanags (pictured) has declined to ordain women to the priesthood, arguing the experiment had not worked in Latvia. Archbishop Vanags, who did not speak during the debate, has argued that there is no warrant for women priests found in Scripture and is contrary to the tradition of the church. During his tenure as archbishop the church has come to a consensus that leadership in the church should be driven by complementarian not egalitarian considerations. The amendment does not touch upon the ministry of currently ordained women priests, and allows them to continue to serve in the church. However since 1993 the church has ordained women to be evangelists — comparable to deaconesses in the Anglican tradition. The Latvian church consists of three dioceses with 287 congregations in the Baltic state and has 130 priests and 10 evangelists. Statistics compiled by the Latvian Ministry of Justice report the church had 712,530 members in 2014, of whom 43,000 were active communicants.

Categories: 

Mississippi Bishop Okays Homosexual Marriage

Mississippi Bishop Okays Homosexual Marriage

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org

The Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi, the Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage, has given official permission to the congregations and clergy of his diocese who are canonically resident or licensed to serve, to conduct homosexual marriages without his permission. He is the first Episcopal bishop to do so.

In a letter to the diocese, Seage says liturgies included are, I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015, with The Book of Common Prayer (1979), for homosexual couples, legally entitled to marry.

Seage did say that any priest was free to decline to marry a same-sex couple and would not face disciplinary hearings. “My only request is that you refer, to me, any same sex couple seeking marriage, so arrangements can be made to offer these services of the church.”

The bishop justified his actions saying, “that since the sacrament of marriage occurs within a community of faith, and is an outward and visible sign of the care and support extended to a couple, I strongly encourage parishes and missions to engage in such discernment and study if that has not already been completed. The resource page is intended to assist parishes and missions that may want to have conversations on this very important matter.”

While General Convention 2015 made multiple changes to the Marriage Canon, one part of the Canon did not change: “It shall be within the discretion of any member of the clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage (Canon I.18.7).” Clergy have always had the discretion to marry, or not marry, any specific couple for any reason — this continues to be the case.

“All clergy have my support, and will not face any disciplinary measures simply because of their personal theological position. My only request is that you refer, to me, any same sex couple seeking marriage, so arrangements can be made to offer these services of the church.

“While these changes are beyond what we spoke of at Council in Biloxi, I believe that the changes are warranted in order to provide pastoral and spiritual support for everyone in our Diocese. I am aware that any change brings anxiety, but I’m also aware of the grace-filled way our church has walked together and supported the differing viewpoints that exist. I’m calling on all of us to be pastors to each other.

“I believe in the “via media” we represent and further believe that it is possible for scripture, tradition, and reason to support differing theological viewpoints. I know that differing viewpoints can create great discomfort. I’m certain there are many who agree with me. I’m also certain there are many who disagree with me. Further, I’m certain there are faithful individuals on both sides of the issue who have already left the church.”

The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly to allow homosexual marriage last year, causing the fabric of the Anglican Communion to be torn. Earlier this year, primates of the Communion met in Canterbury and moved to censure the Episcopal Church for its actions, but these sanctions were ignored
when Anglican leaders met later in Lusaka.

More recently, Nigerian Archbishop, Nicholas Okoh, chairman of GAFCON said a “line has been crossed” and accused the Church of England of “normalizing” the “false teaching” of the US Episcopal Church over gay marriage because of its appointment of an American woman bishop who supports the blessing of homosexual unions, to a post in the Liverpool diocese.

The Diocese of Akure, Nigeria, which was twinned with the Liverpool diocese, has also formally severed its links following the appointment of Susan Goff, a suffragan in the Virginia diocese in the US Episcopal Church, as an honorary bishop in Liverpool.

END

Lesbian Episcopal Priest Condemned for Saying LGBT Movement Is Central to Christianity

By Stoyan Zaimov
Christian Post
http://www.christianpost.com/n
A lesbian Episcopal priest who believes queerness is central to the Christian tradition and has published a book that claims “queer and trans experience has vast potential to help the church be the church,” is being condemned by a theologian for turning “the sin of Satan into a virtue.”

“We queers exist, and many of us have lives and sensibilities that don’t fit neatly into heteronormative constructs. And honestly, that’s a good thing. Our perceptions of our relationships and ethical obligations are at times of a different hue from the perceptions informed by heteronormative Christian ethics. Far from an ethical deficit, that difference is often shot through with valuable insight,” argues Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman’s in an excerpt fom her book, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity that was published in part as an essay by the website Salon on Saturday.

Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. a Christian theologian and speaker who serves as a permanent research fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame University, wrote in a response piece for Breitbart News that Edman misrepresents and omits important pieces of Scripture when making her arguments.

“It does seem oddly consistent, however, that an attempt to turn homosexual relations into a good and Godly act would be paired with an effort to rehabilitate pride and turn the sin of Satan into a virtue,” Williams wrote.

The theologian describes Edman’s proposals as “onerous,” adding that it “involves stripping the Bible of its ‘heteronormativity’ and remaking Christianity in the image of a society that glorifies gender fluidity and pansexualism.”

The Episcopal Church has faced heavy push back for its acceptance of gay marriage and ordaining clergy who are in same-sex relationships, decisison which have led to the Anglican Communion deciding to suspend the Church.

“The traditional doctrine of the Church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching,” a major meeting of Anglican primates decided in January.

“Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.”

A number of Mainline Protestant churches have been debating LGBT issues in recent years, with a regional body within the United Methodist Church deciding last week to reject the commissioning of a married lesbian as a deacon.

The Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry explained, however, that it “did not consider sexual practice for any candidate” and did not in the case of Tara “T.C.” Morrow.

“Bishop Marcus Matthews called for United Methodists to be in a time of prayer following the clergy meeting. He called for prayers for Morrow, her family, for leaders of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and for the unity of the Church as it continues to seek God’s will,” a statement read.

END

Lesbian Episcopal Priest Condemned for Saying LGBT Movement Is Central to Christianity

Lesbian Episcopal Priest Condemned for Saying LGBT Movement Is Central to Christianity

By Stoyan Zaimov
Christian Post
http://www.christianpost.com/n
June 6, 2016

A lesbian Episcopal priest who believes queerness is central to the Christian tradition and has published a book that claims “queer and trans experience has vast potential to help the church be the church,” is being condemned by a theologian for turning “the sin of Satan into a virtue.”

“We queers exist, and many of us have lives and sensibilities that don’t fit neatly into heteronormative constructs. And honestly, that’s a good thing. Our perceptions of our relationships and ethical obligations are at times of a different hue from the perceptions informed by heteronormative Christian ethics. Far from an ethical deficit, that difference is often shot through with valuable insight,” argues Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman’s in an excerpt fom her book, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity that was published in part as an essay by the website Salon on Saturday.

Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. a Christian theologian and speaker who serves as a permanent research fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame University, wrote in a response piece for Breitbart News that Edman misrepresents and omits important pieces of Scripture when making her arguments.

“It does seem oddly consistent, however, that an attempt to turn homosexual relations into a good and Godly act would be paired with an effort to rehabilitate pride and turn the sin of Satan into a virtue,” Williams wrote.

The theologian describes Edman’s proposals as “onerous,” adding that it “involves stripping the Bible of its ‘heteronormativity’ and remaking Christianity in the image of a society that glorifies gender fluidity and pansexualism.”

The Episcopal Church has faced heavy push back for its acceptance of gay marriage and ordaining clergy who are in same-sex relationships, decisison which have led to the Anglican Communion deciding to suspend the Church.

“The traditional doctrine of the Church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching,” a major meeting of Anglican primates decided in January.

“Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.”

A number of Mainline Protestant churches have been debating LGBT issues in recent years, with a regional body within the United Methodist Church deciding last week to reject the commissioning of a married lesbian as a deacon.

The Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry explained, however, that it “did not consider sexual practice for any candidate” and did not in the case of Tara “T.C.” Morrow.

“Bishop Marcus Matthews called for United Methodists to be in a time of prayer following the clergy meeting. He called for prayers for Morrow, her family, for leaders of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and for the unity of the Church as it continues to seek God’s will,” a statement read.

END