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Wales: A Microcosm of the Anglican Communion

With only about 25,000 weekly attendees, it might be an exaggeration to describe the Province of the Church in Wales as a microcosm of the Anglican Communion, but a micro-microcosm doesn’t seem to be a thing. There are single dioceses in the GSFA that are at least five times the size.


Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that the issues of same-sex unions, blessing such relationships and “same-gender marriage” to be “adiaphora”- “things indifferent”. In truth, the reaction across the spectrum of opinion, shows that such matters are anything but.


Justin Welby stated as a given that there was now a “plurality of views” and that such a situation was simply “reality”. His words came after an earlier session on “reconciliation” where it was said that “differences” in the Communion, “challenge and deepen our experience of God and each other” and so should be, “celebrated and redeemed”.


Plural truth on Human Sexuality is apparently the new reality and it is to be acclaimed for how it enhances spirituality. That was the message. It has been received with glee by liberal revisionists .


But the Church in Wales is a case study for how this works.


After the Church introduced same-sex blessings in September 2021, the bishop who took the lead in calling for change, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, issued a pastoral letter to his diocese.


It sets out the same sort of message that the Lambeth Conference did,

"Ultimately, I personally hope that Christians will learn to live with difference on this matter as we have learned to live with difference on so many other matters.

I believe that we should seek to handle each other kindly, and seek to understand the views of others and where they are coming from… and ascribing the best, not the worst, motives to one another. It doesn’t help to accuse one side of bigotry and the other side of merely giving in to the spirit of the age."


Entitled, ‘Bearing With One Another in Love” the letter was described, albeit by the Church in Wales, as, a model of pastoral sensitivity and generosity, calling for a gracious spirit of goodwill and reconciliation. It contained passages such as these,

"This matter has been under debate for a very long time, and there are those who will both applaud, and those who will be deeply troubled by this decision. For those who welcome this decision… it is a sign of liberation and joy, as the Church recognises the faithfulness of loving commitment represented by these unions, and allows those living in committed loving relationships to bring their faith and their personal lives together to be publicly acknowledged in the life of the Church. For others within our family, there will be a real struggle to be at peace with this decision. For them, marriage is between one man and one woman, and the Bible is quite clear in teaching that this is the only context that God permits for sexual relationships."


That was just under a year ago.


Ten days ago, before the Lambeth Conference began, all the bishops in the Church in Wales wrote to the Province, describing the original Call on Human Dignity as one which "undermines and subverts the dignity of an integral part of our community."


Now, the Archbishop of the Church in Wales has signed this statement, replicated in full, lest it be thought edited.


"God is Love! This love revealed by Jesus, described in the Scriptures and proclaimed by the Church, is Good News for all, without exception. The Bible teaches us that LGBT+ people are a precious part of God’s creation, for each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139.14) and each of us is loved equally. I welcome the Lambeth's Call affirming of the dignity of all people.


I recognise that many LGBT+ people have been wounded by the Church throughout history, and also by the events of the last few weeks. I wish to affirm the holiness of their mutual love in committed relationships.

I commit to working with our friends in Christ across the Communion to listen to their stories and understand their contexts, which vary greatly. I will never shy away from opposing discrimination and prejudice against children of God on the basis of their sexualities and gender identities.


Together, we will proclaim Christ's healing and hope to our broken world and pray for the day when the Church will truly welcome, value and affirm all the people of God. With all bishops of the Communion I remain committed to listening and walking together despite our disagreement on this issue."


That is it, no expression of concern for the orthodox, no pastoral advice that revisionists should honour those who hold the traditional position, no respect for those who have set out how service the Church in Wales is a “real struggle” for the “deeply troubled”. Not a hint of humility. Not even an acknowledgement that those like the bishops of the Church in Wales reflect the views of a tiny part of the Communion. Not even a commitment to honour the views of the vast majority save for, “listening (x2)”, when manifestly they aren’t and “walking”, which costs them nothing and is nothing more than a euphemism for persuading and expecting others to come along with them.


In less than a year, truth has gone from being supposedly robustly plural to totally singular in the mind of the Archbishop of Wales. It may not yet have reached the final stage predicted by Richard Neuhaus’ famous law, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed,” but it would appear that the Church in Wales is well on its way.


But it is not just Wales. To no-one’s surprise, the Primates of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and Anglican Churches of Brazil and Canada also signed the same letter.


The question remains as to whether the decisions taken yesterday will drive more faithful Anglicans to find hope and a home in new Anglican structures[1], further precipitating the decline of the Canterbury-aligned churches until they are but the Anglican Communion in nano-scale.

 

[1] Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Network in Europe, The Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa, New Zealand, Anglican Church in Brazil


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