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'Here we grovel for we can do no other'

'Here we grovel for we can do no other'
Conservative Anglican Evangelicals and 'Living in Love and Faith'

By Melvin Tinker
Special to Virtueonline
November 11, 2020

At a meeting of the Church of England contingent at the 2018 GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem, myself, and one or two others like Dr Gavin Ashenden and Dr Martin Davie, argued the case that Anglican evangelicals were out of touch with the reality of the situation in the Church of England specifically and the wider culture more generally. I likened the call to get more people on to General Synod and the need to 'hold the line' to those English Generals who were trying to fight the First World War using tactics tried and found wanting in the Crimean War. Or, to continue the war metaphor, talk of 'keeping the articles', and securing 'votes at Synod' was akin to the same misplaced trust the allies had in the Maginot line which looked impressive and were fixed. All Hitler had to do was to go around them and outflank the armies leading to the rout at Dunkirk. I also raised the question for the advocates of 'in it to win it' what was the end game they had in mind (the progressives have a zero sum game which has no room for the orthodox)? What if by some astonishing miracle evangelicals managed to gain a massive majority, what would they do with such power? The silence was deafening.

Now we have the initial response of the Anglican evangelical 'leadership' to the long awaited 'Living in Love and Faith' in terms of the press release from the Church of England Evangelical Council and a letter by poacher turned game keeper Bishop Rod Thomas - which confirm all the above.

The President of CEEC, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn said, 'We will look closely at the materials now published and respond fully in due course. For us, this is about following Christ by submitting to what Scripture says, just as He did. So, we will need to discern which of the materials in LLF do that by evaluating all of the various resources in the light of Scripture.' And guess what, they are bound to find their position there, Rod Thomas says so, 'A diversity of views is represented, including those of 'conservative' evangelicals. Coupled with the very good material being produced by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).' Of course! But while evangelicals look for signs of hope amongst the material like 'Where's Wally', there will be plenty of material, probably the vast majority which will stand in contradiction to it and thus relativising and neutralising it.

Henderson goes on, 'We will uphold what Christians have always believed through history and what the overwhelming majority of Christians globally still believe. These are not matters on which we can simply agree to differ, for reasons the New Testament makes clear." If their position is the truly Catholic one (literally, 'according to the whole') what is hoped to be gained by the 'engagement' being called for? Is it to show willing so that evangelicals are seen as good boys and girls after all who will play the game, and please, please, will they continue to be allowed a place at the table (although not having any say in the menu)? It also follows that by definition the other positions which the document contains are, in varying degrees, heterodox, and should have no place within the Church. Will this be said?

The Chairman of CEEC, the Revd Hugh Palmer, comments, "To those in the Church of England who are calling for change, we must genuinely hear you and take the opportunity that LLF provides to be sure that we do. Yes, the way Christians have treated LGBT people is shameful, and we all want to recognise that.' For decades now we have genuinely heard those who are calling for change, what Palmer is doing is opening the Church up to more of the same drip, drip, attrition, what the writers of 'After the Ball', call 'desensitization' and 'jamming', until their final stage is reached, 'conversion.' To speak of the way 'Christians' have treated LGBT people as 'shameful' is conceding too much and buying into the oppression/victim narrative beloved of the progressives. Certainly some Christians have treated LGBT people (and plenty of others for example people of colour, the working classes) shamefully, but it is fatal to go down the road of collective guilt. Doesn't Palmer realise that if, (God forbid), evangelicals do resist calls to accommodate same sex practice within the church, this will only be taken as further evidence of LGBT people being treated shamefully?

Rod Thomas has certainly changed his tune for in 2014 he told Reform churches to not participate in shared conversations --'The shared conversations must acknowledge that Scripture remains authoritative for the Church of England and that the outcome of the conversations is genuinely open-ended. Unless that is clarified and the recently announced new objective is withdrawn, we cannot see a way forward.' What has changed? Of course, Rod became a Bishop in 2015! It is disingenuous, to say the least, to give as the reason for his call to engage with LFF being that 'the issue is not primarily about the teaching we have received, so much as about how to apply it.' That is precisely the issue! There are those that question the validity of such teaching and will do so on a variety of grounds, for example, according to the reviewer in the Church Times, 'that the traditional councils and leadership structures have drawn their membership from a narrow male elite.' And, 'the need to attend to wider factors in what is often depicted as a narrow, binary set of decisions: to allow, to disallow; to approve, to disapprove.' The fingerprints of Critical theory would appear to be all over the document, but will these evangelicals have the nous to spot them and know how to respond?

Rod Thomas hints at something which is without doubt a fatal Achilles heel amongst Anglican evangelicals and which will be exploited to the full by their progressive opponents: 'There is also a need for us to show humility. We are all fallen creatures, not least in the way we all express our sexuality. Added to this, some of what has come to light over the last year has been particularly humbling for conservative evangelicals. We need to show our own openness to others.'

Thomas is referring to the abuses carried out of John Smyth, former chairman of the Iwerne Trust and Jonathan Fletcher, for which Thomas acted as 'press secretary' as Fletcher tried to defend his behaviour. Given that some of the evangelical leadership were complicit in covering up the abuse of Smyth (with some themselves having been subject to his beatings in his shed), as well as trying to 'manage' the Fletcher situation means that they are so fundamentally morally compromised that they will be forced to be mute in their response to any move to allow more open gay relationships to find their full expression within the Church. After all, who are they to condemn 'loving relationships' when their own house is in such disorder with sexual abuse, bullying and manipulation?

Julian Henderson tries to offer some reassuring words, "To all those in the Church of England who are unsettled by suggestions that the Church might decide, in the future, to depart from historic orthodoxy, we say: 'We are here for you. You are not alone'. We will resource you, support you and lead you.' By speaking of those who fear that at some point in the future the Church of England might decide to depart from historic orthodoxy reveals a failure to appreciate the strategies being employed in changing the culture of the Church to establish a new progressive hegemony. A crucial distinction was introduced by the neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci between a 'war of position' and a 'war of manoeuvre'. The war of manoeuvre was the conventional idea of a final revolutionary offensive that would impose a socialist system. But for Gramsci, it had to be preceded by the war of position, which sought to shape the cultural environment of a society to make it receptive to the possibility of revolution. What has been happening, and is presently happening through LLF is war of position. This involves getting those in positions of influence those who will promote the progressive agenda (some unwittingly so, Lenin's 'useful idiots'), changing the discourse used and the narrative, to subvert orthodoxy by reinventing it. Thus historic orthodoxy will not simply be abandoned (war of manoeuvre) but re-presented (war of position) and those who appear to oppose this will become the new heretics. With the new Archbishop of York in place the progressives have a brilliant man to make this a reality.

It seems rather hollow that all that Bishop Henderson can offer is the consolation of 'Friends' of the 'we are here for you'-how? 'We will lead you'- where to?

Anglican evangelicals are attempting to play a game they do not really understand and which they will invariably lose. The only real but costly option is to disrupt this ungodly game by refusing to play all. But as they say, 'Don't hold your breath.'

The Rev. Melvin Tinker was vicar of St John Newland, Hull for 26 years. He is currently Director of Theology of the Christ Church Network. He is the author of 'That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost: The Cancer of Cultural Marxism' and is a founding member of REFORM, and a former member of CEEC council.

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