Updated: Jan 25
Dear fellow member of the Anglican Communion,
I write to you because I am embarrassed to be English. I am particularly embarrassed to be an English Anglican and long-time member of the Church of England.
As you probably will know, it is just 171 days since, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the bishops of the Anglican Communion saying,
“I write therefore to affirm that the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, I:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence. Indeed the Call on Human Dignity made clear this is the case, as the resolution is quoted from three times in the paragraph 2.3 of the Call on Human Dignity.”
The letter was, of course, sent just before the session at the 2022 Lambeth Conference at which the bishops discussed the “Call” mentioned.
I am fully aware that opening that discussion Justin Welby said,
“Therefore, it is the case that the whole of Lambeth I.10 1998 still exists. This Call does not in any way question the validity of that resolution.”
I am also fully aware that one of the seven tenets of Resolution I.10 is,
“This Conference cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”
It is shameful to me, therefore, that on Wednesday this week, with the full and explicit endorsement of the very same Archbishop Welby, the Church of England announced that now,
“… same sex-couples… could have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership.”
Remarkably, the statement went on to say that,
“The proposals for the Church of England follow a discussion at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world last year on topics including same-sex marriage and blessings”.
I fear you might read that to suggest that the 2022 Lambeth Conference somehow initiated, or endorsed, the Church of England’s new approach to same-sex blessings. But that is not the case - the “discussion” referred to is the very same one that took place immediately after and in the context of the Archbishop setting out in black and white the “validity” of Resolution I.10.
It is a privilege for England that the Archbishop of Canterbury is automatically the leader of the Anglican Communion, which means I find it very hard that despite the apparent total clarity of his position on Resolution I.10, the present incumbent appears to have totally changed his position in just 171 days.
On Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was given an opportunity to explain his position. Asked in a Press Conference whether this decision might threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion, he was keen to point out,
“When you see the prayers, in the way that they are written and thought about they fall very clearly within [Lambeth 1998 – Resolution I.10] which has 6 paragraphs or 5 – including the one which you mentioned, which says we can’t bless same-sex marriages, and this [the prayers] seeks to bless the people and that’s really important.”
And yet, reading the response of the Bishops (GS 2289), we are told the purpose of these prayers is,
“They may be used by a couple who have marked a significant stage in the development of their relationship, sealed a covenanted friendship, registered a civil partnership, or entered a civil marriage.”
So, to suggest we bless only the couple and not the ‘significant stage’ of their relationship is a sophistry few can accept.
Which is why I am embarrassed to be an English Anglican.
I am sure that many of you will be wondering how it is possible for the Chair of St Augustine to put forward such contorted arguments? I fear you may be thinking that his welcome and celebration of these prayers say more than his "self-denying ordinance" not to use them himself. I want you to know that although he is my countryman and the Primate of All England, with shame, I cannot but agree with such doubts.
It is profoundly humiliating to me that it is the English who have caused the Chair of the Global Anglican Futures Primates’ Council, The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach to say,
“We in Gafcon, call on the leaders in the Church of England to repent and return to the teaching and practice of Holy Scripture and the historical one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
“Brothers and Sisters, let us pray earnestly for the faithful followers of Jesus in the Church of England as they struggle to fight and repel this false teaching which has been thrust upon them. Let us also pray for their bishops and leaders that God would turn their hearts to return to His ways.”
And so, as an ashamed English Anglican, I simply want to say to you, my fellow member of the Anglican Communion, that I, for one, am so, so sorry, for this wretched state of affairs.