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GAFCON Chairman Sees no Reason for Confidence in recent Church of England Decision on Marriage

GAFCON Chairman Sees no Reason for Confidence in recent Church of England Decision on Marriage
Complete confidence lost in Canterbury based institutions of the Communion
He pays tribute to UK Theologian Mike Ovey

Submitted by David W. Virtue DD

By Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
February 7, 2017

My dear people of God,

The Apostle Paul writes, 'Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task' (1 Timothy 3:1). For Anglicans, bishops have a particular responsibility for godly oversight to ensure the spiritual health of those for whom, with their clergy, they share 'the cure of souls'. So what are we to make of the recent report by the Church of England's House of Bishops on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships? To what extent does it reflect the 'noble task' of godly oversight?

The report recommends no change in the Church of England's official teaching on marriage and sexual relationships, so we should be thankful that the bishops have resisted pressure to follow the path of The Episcopal Church of the United States, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Scottish Episcopal Church by changing the definition of marriage.

There are however serious concerns. It is urged that we must look for contradictory positions to be resolved in ways which are 'in some way hidden from us' (paragraph 8). No reason for this optimism is given, yet it is on this basis that the report says that it is still possible for Anglicans to 'walk together' (paragraph 59) and claims this was what the Anglican Primates agreed when they met in Canterbury in January 2016.

What our resolution agreed in Canterbury actually said was that while 'It is our unanimous desire to walk together', the actions of The Episcopal Church 'further impair our communion'. This is in line with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which identified rejection of apostolic teaching on sexuality and marriage as a manifestation of a 'false gospel' which required godly discipline.

It seems therefore that the Church of England bishops have recommended the right thing for the wrong reason. They have retained the Church's traditional teaching, but because they think that holding opposite views together will eventually produce a consensus, not because it represents an apostolic boundary.

This understanding is confirmed by the fact that the report encourages a relaxation of church discipline and confuses pastoral sensitivity with a permissive church culture which already tolerates, in practice, clergy who have contracted same-sex 'marriages'. The inclusion of the Islamic call to prayer in Gloucester Cathedral as part of its current multi-faith exhibition indicates that practical challenges to Anglican doctrine in the Church of England will not be limited to questions of marriage and sexuality.

This happened shortly after the reading of a passage of the Koran which denies the divinity of Jesus during an Epiphany service of Holy Communion in the Scottish Episcopal Church's Cathedral of St Mary's, Glasgow. This action has been strongly challenged by GAFCON UK.

What happens in the Church of England must affect the ability of the Archbishop of Canterbury to gather the worldwide Communion. There has been speculation about whether or not the GAFCON Primates will attend the next Canterbury Primates Meeting called for October this year. We have yet to meet for formal discussion, but together with our brother Primates in Cairo at the Global South Conference last October, we issued a communique which made it clear that we had lost confidence in the Canterbury based institutions of the Communion.

We said 'The instruments have also sent conflicting signals on issues of discipline which confuse the whole Body and weaken our confidence in them'. Sadly, despite its merits, the English House of Bishops' report has a similar effect.

Finally, let me pay tribute to the Revd. Dr Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, London, whose sudden death shocked and saddened so many of us in the GAFCON family and beyond. His life was an outstanding example of one who embraced the noble task of teaching the Word of God with passion, courage and great clarity. (See second story following this story.)

None of us who were at GAFCON 2013 in Nairobi will forget his powerful address 'The Grace of God OR the World of the West?'. He showed us how deeply the Western churches have been shaped by 'cheap grace' focused on individuals' sense of entitlement and self-regard, in contrast to the wonderful grace of God which is received through repentance and faith and bears fruit in lives of faithful discipleship. Let his concluding words be mine also:

'The world's needs are many, we all know that, but this is its greatest need, that its sins be forgiven. And that is why it is absolutely imperative that we at GAFCON preach not cheap grace, but costly grace to the world, not because we hate the world but because we love it, as our saviour did."

The Most Revd. Nicholas D. Okoh is Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council


MIKE OVEY: "He made doctrine sexy"

By Chris Sugden
Church of England Newspaper
January 26, 2017

The Rev Dr. Mike Ovey, principal of Oak Hill theological college, who died suddenly on 7 January, was remembered at a thanksgiving service on Monday 23 January in their family church, Enfield Free Evangelical Church.

Five hundred people, most under 40, heard heartfelt and affectionate tributes spiced with humour.

Nick Tucker, Vicar of St Bartholomew's Edgbaston, formerly on Oak Hill staff, said Mike would be remembered even more for his kindnesses than his brilliance: "He was like the A team. If you were in trouble, if no one else could help, and if you could find him."

At the first meeting of his tutorial group the principal was offered tea or coffee. "Port please," replied Mike who was then brought a tumbler of undiluted Ribena, which he drank smiling. He once addressed them on "How not to become a cult leader."

To compel attention in his lectures, where he never got to the end of the notes, he used Sooty and Sweep puppets to illustrate the Trinity. But staff feared that the meat cleaver sitting on his study chair might make visiting DDOs nervous.

His love of PG Wodehouse found expression in exam questions in which a couple of pages of Woodhousian narrative were populated by various ecclesiastical figures espousing different theological nostrums to which the candidate was invited to respond.

The Rev Andrew Cornes from Crowborough, his training vicar, recalled him as a fierce fighter for justice. Dr Dan Strange, now acting principal, said: "He had so little ego and no interest in self-aggrandisement." His local pastor, Jonathan Prime said he was the best of listeners.

Present were his wife of 29 years, Heather and their children, Charles, Harry and Ana. Before they were a 'couple', they had led a Bible study group at St Helen's, Bishopsgate, while Mike was a Parliamentary draftsman and living in Clapham. Heather told Mike he should devote his life to teaching the Bible.

Mike's parents, John and Ruth and sisters Elizabeth and Margaret were present. Dr Mark Thompson, principal of Moore College, Sydney, where Mike had done post-graduate study and lectured, led prayers.

Speakers noted that it was hard to understand a strange providence that the Lord had taken the best player, "a towering brilliance", off the field just as the second half was starting. But the devastation of his sudden death and an extraordinary outpouring of grief had led to a determination in the college.

The service was filled with hope: "I know where he is now," rejoiced Dr Dan Strange, "which is more than I ever did here. 'Just Mike' never got the point that the point of an action point was to do something."

Other speakers rejoiced that "Mike now sees clearly the God he loved and always saw rather more clearly than us", and is where "his sense of humour will be miraculously sanctified." They look forward to catching him up one day.

A Thanksgiving service will take place in central London on Monday 13 March at 2pm.


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