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Anglican Mainstream Adrift

Anglican Mainstream Adrift

Anglican Mainstream's leadership have given a fulsome welcome to the
announcement that Canon Stephen Cottrell is to be the next Bishop of
Reading, but is it not odd that they are welcoming the appointment of a
man who is reported as holding a completely contrary view to theirs on
the very issue which led to the formation of Anglican Mainstream, namely
his support for the attempt to appoint Jeffrey John?

It is true that the new bishop designate has a high profile commitment
to evangelism and accepts the practical boundaries laid down by the
House of Bishop's Report 'Issues in Human Sexuality', but he has not
committed himself to maintaining orthodox and biblical teaching on
homosexuality. Indeed, his reported comments make it clear that he
regards this as provisional: "We need to listen to what God is saying,
what the scriptures are saying. We need to listen to gay and lesbian
people in our church - we need to listen to what the world says."

The substantive theological differences between Stephen Cottrell and
Jeffrey John ? both of whom are members of the liberal 'Affirming
Catholicism' group, do not seem to be of any great significance, yet the
one is warmly welcomed while the other triggers the formation of an
unprecedented international coalition.

Why should this be? Perhaps the reason why evangelicals managed to came
together over the Jeffrey John episode was that it was a remarkably
unsubtle appointment ? the attempt to prefer a man with a track record
as proponent of the gay/lesbian cause in a diocese with a strong
evangelical presence. Stephen Cottrell represents a much more
institutionally savvy way of doing things because he is theologically of
a similar mould to Jeffrey John, but sails under an orthodox flag of
convenience which has misled some into thinking he is actually an

Anglican Mainstream has therefore got itself into an incoherent
position. It claims to be upholding biblical truth, but in practice has
shown that what really matters is the appearance of orthodoxy rather
than the substance. It does not seem to matter what a bishop teaches, or
fails to teach, so long as he observes the current institutional rules.
This is a view of Christian leadership which is clearly at variance with
the New Testament requirement that those who exercise oversight should
have the personal integrity of 'holding on to faith and a good
conscience' (1 Tim 1:19). In fact, this failure to follow through the
biblical logic of their opposition to Jeffrey John's appointment has
left Anglican Mainstream vulnerable to the revisionist accusation of
homophobia. Much has been made of the fact that Stephen Cottrell is a
'family man' so it would seem that what you teach does not matter very
much, but who you chose to share your bed with does.

That Anglican Mainstream has come ? intentionally or not - to split off
biblical teaching from biblical practice should not be a total surprise.
There seems never to have been a recognition on their part that the
Archbishop of Canterbury is himself a significant part of the problem
because this is exactly what he has done ? sought to separate his
ecclesiological practice from his personal (yet well publicised) views.
The bitter consequence for him was that he had to publicly abandon
Jeffery John, a longstanding friend, for the sake of institutional
unity; the bitter consequence for Anglican Mainstream will be that it
loses its way in a marshland of ecclesiastical compromise unless it can
quickly put its house in order.

The church I now lead, Christ Church Kidderminster, came into being as
the outcome of a principled decision to disassociate from the spiritual
authority of the current Bishop of Worcester, albeit a 'family man', who
actively and openly supported the gay lesbian agenda and therefore
rejected the authority of God's Word which is the basis of his office.
Despite pressure to compromise from certain senior evangelicals, I have
never regretted taking that stand and I am convinced that it is only
when we take action on issues of belief and are willing to put issues of
faith before order that the Church of England will see the deep change
it so urgently needs.

The Rev Charles Raven is the former vicar of St John the Baptist,
Kidderminster, Worcestershire. He is now the vicar of Christ Church,

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