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REFORM CALLS FOR ‘DECISIVE INTERVENTION' TO SAVE SHARED CONVERSATIONS ON SEXUALITY FROM COLLAPSE

At its most recent meeting on Wednesday, 1st October 2014, the Reform Council expressed its dismay that the objectives of the ‘shared conversations' on Scripture, Sexuality and Mission had been changed and that as a result orthodox Anglicans had been in effect excluded. It called on its members not to participate in the conversations under these conditions.

Speaking after the Council meeting, the chairman, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said ‘It is difficult to see how the process of shared conversations can command credibility if those who are most committed to the Church of England's official teaching are in effect excluded. If this project is not to collapse, then decisive intervention from the House of Bishops is needed now. The shared conversations must acknowledge that Scripture remains authoritative for the Church of England and that the outcome of the conversations is genuinely open-ended. Unless that is clarified and the recently announced new objective is withdrawn, we cannot see a way forward.'

The Council's assessment was made after members heard that the original objectives of the conversations, as reported last July to the General Synod, had been severely narrowed. This emerged after the meeting of the College of Bishops in mid September, which described the second objective as creating ‘space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another...[to] ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith". 

This new objective requires participants: 

  • To reject the current Church of England understanding that all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage "should be met with a call for repentance and the exercise of compassion"
  • To accept the premise of the Pilling Report that the Bible isn't clear on matters of sexuality - when, as the Bishop of Birkenhead's Dissenting Statement argued, there is no sound reason for thinking it is unclear
  • To accept an outcome in which the Church moves from its present, biblical, understanding of marriage to one where we accommodate two separate beliefs, with one part of the Church calling for repentance over sexual sin and another declaring God's blessing. This is tantamount to asking us to accept a redefinition of what will and will not lead to salvation - as though there could be two gospels, equally valid.

 In advising its members not to get drawn into what was now a ‘deeply flawed' process, The Council also warned about the steady erosion of the Church's commitment to biblical authority - particularly in the field of sexuality. It noted: 

  • The lack of a consistent and clear response to those clergy who have entered into same-sex marriages, thereby pre-empting the results of the shared conversations as pressure grows to accommodate ‘facts on the ground';
  • The continued failure to admonish the Bishop of Buckingham, despite his refusal to uphold the teaching of the church and guidance of the House on matters of sexuality, whilst also allowing him, without criticism, repeatedly to describe Conservative Evangelicals as homophobic, including those who themselves experience same-sex attraction but seek to live celibate, God-honouring lives. 

Ends

Note to editors: 

Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England - www.reform.org.uk.  It is one of the three bodies that sponsor ReNew. 

College of Bishops Statement can be found here: 

https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2014/09/college-of-bishops-meeting.aspx

For further information please contact the Director, Susie Leafe on 07753690120 or by email director@reform.org.uk

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