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When your head is in the Tiger’s Mouth. A heartfelt plea to Orthodox Anglicans in the CofE


[1]

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in his book “The Power of Reconciliation” helped me to understand the situation Orthodox Anglicans are in:

“Judgement is a word that has all sorts of uncomfortable connotations. One of them is that it involves risk… Even the idea of judgement involves division… [Yet] Every journey of peacebuilding and reconciliation involves innumerable judgments and choices… whether at the family level or in war, there will be a moment where a choice lies ahead. It will include whether to continue or try for a settlement. In the film Darkest Hour, set in May 1940, Winston Churchill struggles to keep the British War Cabinet committed to continue the war even after the defeat of France and the triumph of German armies across Europe. One of the lines he is is given is: “You do not negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.’ The Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, was arguing that the possibilities of a negotiated peace on poor terms were better than the prospect of complete defeat… The road forked and neither potential route had many attractions; there was no risk-free option.”[2]

 

All students of history will know that ultimately Churchill’s view prevailed and that in the end the Nazi’s were defeated, but, it could have ended differently and if it had the consequences of that don’t bear thinking about. I am half German and I grew up listening to stories of faithful Christian’s who resisted the Nazi’s in every day ways, the teacher – who placed a student on look out and taught the faith rather than Nazi ideology knowing that there were children in her class whose parents were SS officers, the mayor – who refused to fly the Nazi flag over the town hall and payed for it with his life being disappeared never to be seen again. I thank God that Churchill won the argument and that eventually the Nazi’s were defeated for I know the price ordinary Christians paid were they to remain faithful under Nazi rule was great. In every conflict there is a need to take risks the question is always simply which risks and when, and this is what Welby underlines in his Chapter on ‘Risking’.

 

Later on in his Chapter on Reimagining Welby sets out how those who pushed for women to be ordained as Bishops took the approach that “‘If this does not work , but its failure has an impact, let’s try a new approach, building on the new mood’” and Welby then commends this approach saying “Reimagination has to happen again and again.”[3]You’d be forgiven for thinking that Welby was writing a book on the art of warfare because what is described here is the strategy of attrition. By now it should be clear to all those involved that it is this strategy of attrition that is being used in the LLF process.

 

Let me be clear Justin Welby and revisionists like him recognise that what is happening is nothing short of a spiritual battle, we are at war. What is at stake is the answer to this question: Do you love me? To love is to will and to work for the good of the other. People who identify themselves as LGB as they are attracted to members of the same sex are asking the Church do you love me?

 

Revisionists honestly believe that the Church’s apostolic teaching throughout two millennia is abusive towards and deeply harmful to LGB identifying people. They know that to overturn the teaching of the church is difficult and will not be achieved overnight. Welby when he spoke to Sandy Toksvig said that change would be slow; the idea is to move things incrementally so that the apostolic teaching is first eclipsed before finally being abolished. The revisionists have no desire to maintain a position of honour for those who continue in the line of the apostolic teaching but rather the idea is a long slow squeeze; in the words of Justin Welby “Reimagination has to happen again and again”. Revisionists understand this as an act of love for they believe the Church’s apostolic teaching is harmful to others and so to maintain its existence, even if sidelined, is to perpetuate a continuation of harm. The whole reason that the revisionists are opposed to structural differentiation is that they know this will carve out a protected space for those who they believe to be abusers to carry on their abuse. For the revisionists to do so is hatred not love for rather than working for the good of others they view it as perpetuating the harm of others.

 

Orthodox Anglicans honestly believe that issues of human sexuality are a salvation issue, and so that without repentance those who engage in same-sex sexual relationships will be damned rather than saved. They believe this because as the Bishop of Oxford himself admits the bible teaches “unambiguously” that “same-sex relationships between both men and women… [are] an outworking of sin and judgement in the universal human condition”[4]. For Orthodox Anglicans to fail to continue with the apostolic teaching of the Church is an act of hatred which allows those who identify as LGB to be condemned to damnation. Orthodox Anglicans believe that they are loving there LGB identifying brothers and sisters by calling them to repentance as they desire there greatest good which is salvation. Therefore, to negotiate terms of settlement whereby the patently false teaching that same-sex sexual relationships are not sinful but holy is given an honoured position in the Church of England is from an Orthodox Anglican position an act of hatred and not of love.

 

The question that Orthodox Anglicans are faced with right now comes from those who are attracted to people of the same-sex and it is do you love me? It breaks my heart to say that many Christian leaders within the Church of England who maintain Orthodox teaching by willingly entering into negotiating a settlement have shown themselves not to love there LGB identifying brothers and sisters. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who identify as LGB, I love those who are same-sex attracted. The question every Orthodox Church of England leader needs to ask themselves right now is do you love your same-sex attracted brothers and sisters. Do you love me?

 

If you love your same-sex attracted brothers and sisters then now is the time to raise your voices, to contact the CEEC or The Society, to contact Bishops who hold to Orthodox Christian teaching, to contact orthodox believing members of the synod and to send them a clear message: We love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are attracted to people of the same-sex so do not surrender one inch but at each and every point uphold the apostolic teaching of the Church so that they may be saved.

 

From the bottom of my heart I call on John Dunnett the national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) alongside many other orthodox leaders like him to repent for having failed to love their same-sex attracted brothers and sisters in Christ by choosing to enter into negotiations for settlement. Jesus Christs teaching is not easy for he said “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”[5] I plead with all those who have entered into negotiations for settlement to repent; do not be ashamed of the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ but rather stand up and speak clearly, call out those who undermine the apostolic teaching of the Church as false teachers and give no ground.

 

To each and every Orthodox Anglican in the Church of England I have no words of comfort but rather a warning that the cost may be high. If you stand up for your brothers and sisters in Christ, there will be those who want to devour you, some may be ostracised in their churches, many will lose friends, some may lose their jobs as a Councillor King Lawal recently did, clergy may face disciplinary action or be forced out by their churches and so lose both their livelihood and their home, and ministries may have their funding withdrawn. We are to expect opposition as followers of the Saviour of the world. It is Jesus’ example that we are called to emulate, it is his teaching we are to follow, and so each step of the way let these words of Christ be held before you “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[6]

 

In this hour when we are called to answer the question “Do you love me?” let no Orthodox Anglican be found wanting; go forth in love to serve the Lord!


[1] Photo designed by Freepik. www.freepik.com

[2] Justin Welby, The Power of Reconciliation, 2022, pp137-8.

[3] Justin Welby, The Power of Reconciliation, 2022, p230.

[4] Stephen Croft, Together in Love and Faith, 2023, p33.

[5] Luke 9:26 ESV

[6] John 15:13 NIV

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