A healthy, loving global Anglican Communion for the twenty first century

(Readers might like to refer to Archbishop Eliud Wabukala’s keynote address to the FCA Leaders Conference)

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Leaders Conference is meeting from 23 to 27 April at St Mark’s Battersea Rise, South London.

St Mark’s is the next parish to St Barnabas Clapham Common where the Revd David Page was the Vicar for 17 years. David was the first chair of Changing Attitude trustees and Changing Attitude’s first office was in St Barnabas vicarage.

The congregation of St Mark’s Battersea Rise know little about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans or the GAFCON movement. The Vicar, the Revd Paul Perkin, chooses not to inform the congregation of his key involvement with these groups. St Mark’s is a congregation which includes a number of lesbian and gay people, including couples in civil partnerships. Paul Perkin is fully aware of their presence. They worship there because at the grass roots, they experience St Mark’s congregation as being open and welcoming.

The Church is the people. The people are defining the nature of Christian ethos and witness in each parish, not the clergy (though this is a great fantasy for clergy). The people, not the hierarchy, are building in each place a church of the people and for the people, inspired by the Spirit of God working in the heart of each person.

The Archbishop of Kenya and Chairman of FCA, the Most Revd Eliud Wabukala, gave the keynote address at St Mark’s on 23 April.

The retired Kenyan Archbishop, the Most Revd David Gitari, is in conversation with LGBTI Anglican leaders in Kenya in preparation for a retreat at Philadelphia, his conference centre near Embu, when gay and straight Anglicans will meet in fulfilment of the commitment of Lambeth 1.10 to listen to the experience of homosexual people.

Other Kenyan bishops are in conversation with LGBTI people. At least one diocese is developing a strategy to enable the Church to minister appropriately and pastorally to LGBTI people. At the grassroots in Kenya, the Church is learning and changing in response to the needs of a marginalised group within the Church.

A healthy, loving global Anglican Communion for the twenty first century

Changing Attitude is working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in a Church which with our prayers and passionate conviction will become holier, healthier and more creative as it lives out the Good News of Jesus Christ at the local level. The Church is returning to the heart of Jesus’ Gospel proclamation, the infinite and intimate love of God for creation and for people created in God’s own image.

Our global Anglican Communion grows as it discovers the ability in Christ to be ever more radically inclusive of all God’s children. This is the global communion for the twenty-first Century to which God is calling us:

Praise the Lord!

A crisis has been affecting our Communion, a crisis in which schism is threatened by those whose hearts have yet to open in love to the diversity of human sexuality created by God, fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

In Micah 6:8 we read:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.

What does the Lord require of us?

God requires us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly and above all to love one another and love our neighbour as ourselves. He desires that we have a clear headed understanding of the situation we face and are willing to let go of comfortable illusions. Discovering the will of God, what God requires, is not dependent upon our ingenuity or imagination. He does not play games with us. He speaks through the scriptures. The question is whether or not we will allow the Holy Spirit to apply that word to our hearts and then obey it.

None of us looked for this crisis. Faith is not escapism, but facing things as they are in the confidence that God is acting now through the inspiring energy and presence of the Holy Spirit blowing where she wills in human lives, dreams and passions. The crisis we face is offered by God as an immense opportunity – the opportunity to open our hearts and lives to the Spirit of God and of the age to come.

Christians have been interpreting the scriptures from the very beginning of the Christian witness, being held to account when God has revealed through scripture that we have been unloving and prejudiced towards sections of humankind whom God draws within the fold with tender love and care. We are building on the witness of the sixteenth century Anglican Reformers as we rediscover the distinctive reformed catholicity of our Communion they shaped so profoundly.

We are confident, trusting God’s providence, that in God in God’s own time is putting right what has been going wrong, and for some of us, attitudes towards sexual minorities in the Church have been very wrong for centuries.

Some in our Anglican Communion believe the breakdown of the existing governance structures is a symptom of a deeper problem. The Instruments of Unity – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference – no longer command their confidence. Some Anglican Archbishops, bishops and campaign groups claim this to be self-evidently true. We do not agree.

The institutional remedy for the crisis, the Anglican Covenant, has failed to gain approval by the English Dioceses. The grass roots have rejected it. The problems we face are far too deep seated to be dealt with by merely managerial and organizational strategies. The heart of the crisis we face is not institutional, but spiritual.

Micah can ask ‘what does the Lord require?’

What the Lord requires has already been revealed. But at the Lambeth Conference 1998, the majority of bishops chose to trample on the careful work of the sub-section addressing human sexuality, ignoring their careful, nuanced report and passing instead the ambivalent Resolution 1.10 which has been used by some to abuse and attack LGBTI people ever since.

The subsequent history of our communion unfolds from the Global South Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 when the strategy which resulted in Lambeth 1.10 was formulated by senior Anglicans obsessed by homosexuality.

Since 1998, others have worked patiently and courageously to pursue the Gospel mandate of radical inclusion. We have read from the plain sense of scripture found in the Gospels and in the life and teaching of Jesus the Christ. We have found that conservative Christians and those claiming scriptural authority for the persecution of homosexuals have  bent scripture into all sorts of convenient shapes and contradicted the plain meaning of scripture to deny the gospel truth of God’s infinite and transforming love in human life revealed in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ.

Despite this abuse of scripture, through the Holy Spirit the Lord had brought us together in unity and truth and we know that God is setting us free for a clear and confident witness to Jesus Christ in a way that was simply not imaginable through the traditional channels.

Some bishops and archbishops chose not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008, attending instead the GAFCON event in Jerusalem. We were sad at their decision to stay away but rejoice at the fellowship they enjoyed and inspiration they gained by working and praying and worshipping together.

At Lambeth Conference itself, in the Indaba groups there were many conversations and much deep listening. There was no forced attempt made to reach a shared mind as had happened in 1998 with disastrous results which have haunted the Communion ever since. No attempt was made to resolve the substance of the fundamental doctrinal and ethical differences which would have been so destructive to our unity and imposed a false resolution on wounds which take time to heal and differences which can only be resolved through the patient work of attending to the still, small voice of God. Lambeth held its nerve and the genuine Anglican identity of those present was affirmed. It was a rich time of fellowship in the Holy Spirit, of inspired teaching and prophetic insights.

But now, in the second decade of the twenty first century, we must act out of our God given identity, we must be true to ourselves as we are in Christ crucified, redeemed through the cross where God’s justice and mercy, love and compassion meet. This is what it means to act with authenticity. It is not a matter of following our subjective dreams and feelings, but being true to the one who has risen from the dead, so that we might live not for ourselves, but for him who died and rose again for us.

God sets all human beings a truly monumental task, to be the people God has created us to be, in our infinite variety. But we serve God for whom nothing, not even overcoming the failure to love is impossible. So we must act in obedience to what the Lord requires and, knowing our weakness, in continual dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Those of us working for a Church fully inclusive of LGBTI people know the spirit of God is renewing the church and bringing a thirst for God’s word, a simple lifestyle and an unquenchable desire for evangelism in love. We are a powerful movement of renewal and transformation.

We are applying ourselves to discerning the next stage in what it is the Lord requires. We need to be careful not to neglect the way we act towards each other so that there is a consistency and integrity to the identity we claim. To act justly and to love mercy includes behaving towards one another with honesty and fairness, not being infected by cynicism and pragmatism that can creep in when issues of power and influence are at stake. Ours is a prophetic movement and God has given us some challenging things to say to the Anglican Communion, but the challenge will be all the more striking because of the kindness and generosity for which we are known and the integrity of our love and faith.

And all this we do with humility and prayer, not setting ourselves up above the word, but recognizing that it is the Word of God which judges and searches us. We shall also be alert to the fact that the word, which is God’s truth for all cultures and all times is not the privilege possession of any one culture and global gathering. The word has the potential to open new perspectives on the unsearchable riches of Christ.

To do what the Lord requires will also take courage. These are things we need to attend to if the Anglican Communion is to recover its identity in Christ. There is urgency to our concerns because lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians are being abused, attacked and murdered because of anti-gay Christian teaching. We need to recover the vision of the Anglican Reformers, of ordinary believers knowing scriptures and being nourished by biblical teaching in the fellowship of infinite love. Equally we need leaders, lay and ordained, able to share their faith in God’s infinite, creative love in the global public square.

So what does the Lord require? He has called those of us inspired to campaign for a truly inclusive Church where black and white, men and women, gay and straight are welcomed as equally loved by God, to a great prophetic purpose at this critical point in the life of our communion. After some 450 years it is becoming clear that what some have called the ‘Anglican experiment’ is not ending in failure, but is on the verge of a new and truly global future in which the original vision of the reformers can be realized as never before. We do not need to repudiate or belittle our history, but learn from it and set ourselves now to walk humbly with our God into the future and that hope that he has planned for us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN!

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