Comments: Southwark takes action

A clear, concise and entirely appropriate response.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 8 November 2005 at 9:38pm GMT

By the sounds of it, I can't disagree with this +Tom Butler chap. I thought the "ordination" was highly suspect, being born our of rebellion without due process or respect anyway. Glad to see appropriate action taken to sort things out.

Posted by Tim at Tuesday, 8 November 2005 at 10:03pm GMT

I love that last comment. I hope it will gain popularity here in the ECUSA.

"We do not do Schism in the Diocese of Southwark."

I think it is a phrase that several ECUSA bishops would be wise to use in the near future.

Posted by Wade Bond at Tuesday, 8 November 2005 at 10:31pm GMT

"We do not do Schism in the Diocese of Southwark."

. . . and, I fear, a phrase the General Convention of ECUSA may have to use *with* certain dioceses/diocesans (*cough* Pittsburgh *cough*).

Loving God, bring us reconciliation!

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 8 November 2005 at 11:51pm GMT

The immediate circumstances seem clear enough, and +Southwark's response can't be faulted. This dodgy experiment in church planting seems to have got completely out of hand.

BUT... perhaps someone should gently explain to the right reverend prelate that we "did schism" long before Southwark diocese was dreamt of. (Perhaps Fr Harris of Carshalton could come and haunt him, reading from Yelton's marvellous new book on Anglican Papalism!)

I'm also a bit concerned by the statement on another thread (by a person entirely sympathetic to +Southwark if I remember correctly) that the diocese doesn't accept ordinands from Oak Hill. The religion isn't my bag, but it is a theological college recognised by the C of E. Does anyone know whether this is the case?

Posted by Alan Harrison at Tuesday, 8 November 2005 at 11:53pm GMT

At last a sane bishop who has the courage to stand up to the insane neo-Puritans who are hell-bent on destroying the Anglican Communion. Let them leave, as did the Puritans in the 1660s. No loss, really.

Posted by John Henry at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 12:08am GMT

Aaaaah. Nothing like pouring oil on water and then igniting the oil. Here we have demonstrated once again the same relentless failure of vision that seemingly bedevils every part of the Anglican Communion: Blow, counter-blow, counter-counter blow, and so on ad infinitum--or at least until the combatants have decimated each other.

I think there is a definite visceral satisfaction in the "WHACK" that has just been given to Coekin et al. that will resonate with almost all of the liberals posting here (JCF may be an exception). All human beings relish a feeling of schadenfreude--but, to what end? Will it be a liberal priest in a conservative diocese that gets whacked next? What good does this do in the long run?

Internecine warfare will accomplish nothing for the Church of God--both sides need to back up, take a deep breath, remember what the word "charity" means, and start to discuss how they can peacefully part and walk apart since it is obvious that they cannot peacefully live together and walk together.


Posted by steven at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 1:16am GMT

I suspect that the bishop decided to overlook "long standing Church tradition and law" when he refused to disassociate himself from the pastoral statement from the House of Bishops concerning Civil Partnerships.

Posted by Barry Lee at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 1:42am GMT

Finally, a bishop with real courage.

Posted by Jimmy at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 4:21am GMT

Given that the list of those "supporting" the ordinations contains so many people from Oak Hill College, I would suggest that there may be a case for removing the college from the "official" list of recognised Anglican training establishments in the UK.

It seems bizarre that a college training people for the Anglican ministry is so involved in moves to undermine the Church of England.

Posted by David Chillman at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 9:44am GMT

No courage at all! The diocesan bishop holds all the (apparent) cards. But it won't make the slightest difference in this case since the congregation, not the diocese, pays the stipends.

Now if this had been a slightly cleverer bishop, the situation would not have developed in the first place. As it is he has managed to contrive a cause celebre all of his own making, in his own diocese, by excluding people from ordination without good cause.

Even now it is not too late, but that requires Dr Butler to get round a table with people and find a solution rather than fire off press statements.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 11:07am GMT

One man's courage is another man's lack of wisdom.

Ecclesiastical order asserted at the expense of Christian charity and gospel imperative.

Those who saw the ordinations as a tragic escalation will presumably be in no doubt that this is a tragic counter-escalation.

Posted by Neil at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 11:42am GMT

Yes David it seems strange. Some kind of review, at least, is called for at Oak Hill.

Posted by Roddy at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 11:42am GMT

This is a really disturbing development because there is no right side here. If I'm honest, I think the action of the ordination was highly precipitative, and unnecessary. Why the men in question couldn't just carry on pastoring the congregations I don't know. And let's be honest, if they really wanted to stir, why didn't they bring in a bishop who *was* part of the Anglican Communion?

But Tom Butler can't come out of this smelling like roses either. There are questions as to whether he is really willing to support mission in the diocese. And then, to top it, there is that thing about him breaking collegiality himself over the Pastoral Statement.

This is very, very messy, and if the the relevant parties appeal to Canterbury, will get even messier. Can anybody say "Panel of Reference"?

Posted by Peter O at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 11:56am GMT

Only three members of staff (that is one quarter I think of the current staff) at Oak Hill College have signed the list. There is no evidence of any official approval from the council, staff or principal of the college. The others are presumably students who may have been friends with the two new (illegally ordained) CESA deacons. And even these could only be a small proportion of the whole number of students at Oak Hill College.
This hardly seems sufficient warrant to justify David's suggestion that "there may be a case for removing the college from the "official" list of recognised Anglican training establishments in the UK."

All evangelicals will be concerned with the current situation; but not all are ready to violate both their ordination vows of canonical obedience and the 39 articles they are supposed to be up-holding.

Posted by Peter at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 12:33pm GMT

Peter O:
"that thing about him breaking collegiality himself over the Pastoral Statement"

Sorry, what have I missed? Tom Butler said something to distance himself from the CPA Pastoral Statement? Where? When?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 1:21pm GMT

"At last a sane bishop who has the courage to stand up to the insane neo-Puritans who are hell-bent on destroying the Anglican Communion. Let them leave, as did the Puritans in the 1660s. No loss, really."--John Henry

Right on, John!

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 1:33pm GMT

Some really good stuff from Ruth Gledhill.

As for Tom Butler and the Bishop's Statement, yes, my mistake (for some reason I confused him and Worcester as I was typing away). Regardless, there are still the issues to face about the stance towards mission in the diocese.

Bottom line though (and you know where I stand overall) at the moment I wouldn't like to be asked which side I backed on this particular situation as I might upset some people I'm friends with...

Aahh, the joys of being free of ties. One can speak one's mind.

Posted by Peter O at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 2:20pm GMT

sad all round, me thinks

Posted by Lorna at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 2:30pm GMT

So far I count 23 Oak Hill names. Even discounting the possibility that there may be some signatories from Oak Hill who have registered under their home churches, 23 is still a very high number, especially as I can't see any signatories from other colleges.

If I were responsible for the training of ordinands, I would certainly want to investigate further at the very least.

Posted by David Chillman at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 2:34pm GMT

One thing puzzles me: the way that we are being asked to believe that the church leaders with growing churches, church plants etc are the least orthodox. Because, by definition, they are the most representative. Poor Mr Coekin!

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 2:45pm GMT

David said:
"If I were responsible for the training of ordinands, I would certainly want to investigate further at the very least."

I don't see what there would be to investigate. One sixth of the student body and one quarter of the staff have expressed their support for two former students of the college.
Good for them.

Posted by Peter at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 3:19pm GMT

steven does some of us a disservice:

> I think there is a definite visceral satisfaction in the "WHACK" that has just been given to Coekin et al.

Not really. If any satisfaction there is, it's not in the whacking but rather in the start of restoration, through the statement `we do not schism' (however historically inaccurate that may be).

I'm so tempted to suggest that those who would rebel without trying to iron things out with their bishop could indeed get lost, but that's not really the right attitude either. Sure it would be nice to see everyone perfectly happy in their own dogmatic cubby-hole, but that way you get 6 billion shoeboxes all 1 person cubed.

(See the Brethren in the UK for some historical allegory: once there was an assembly with 1700-odd members; now there are a scattering of tiny assemblies, but you let schism get in - oh, how innocent it looks, at any point in time people are standing up for what the think is right! - and the strength and value of the movement is lost through dogmatic insistence taking the place of fellowship.)

The anglican communion needs those nut-cases as much as it needs us nut-cases as well.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 3:30pm GMT

Before passing judgement on things, look at the history. The three men concerned were all fully-trained, qualified and experienced to be ordained, yet the Bishop of Southwark had refused to do so, for no apparent good reason. As ever there is a lot more background here than you will read in the newspapers which inevitably aren't really interested in the truth of a matter over sales. There's a bigger picture than just reacting to the first side to get a press statement out.

As for tradition in the church - if you care to actually look at the 39 Articles that are the foundations of the CofE, it's the Bishop of Southwark who is breaking them in the doctrines he teaches. OK, you may not agree with the Articles, but in terms of who is supporting the orthodox historical church, it isn't Tom Butler.

Posted by Vicky at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 4:56pm GMT

I don't understand this argument that "they're fully qualified; why not ordain them?"

I have an excellent degree from an excellent school, I'm an active participant and leader in my church, and I'm interested in the priesthood. Some of the commenters seem to be arguing that my bishop has no right not to accept my candidacy and must eventually ordain me.

But that's not how a vocation works. I don't get to decide that I have a vocation. God calls me and the Church affirms that call; or the Church in its wisdom decides that in fact, what I'm hearing is a call from God to another kind of life, one without ordination. And "the Church" is the whole church, at least through its representative structures. Yes, the priest at my parish is my first contact, but if I pursue this, I'll have committee after committee after committee at parish and diocesan levels, until all parties agree. And my Bishop is a huge part of that decision making process. He is not to be constrained by decisions at the parish level, because my vocation needs to be confirmed by the church beyond a parish, by people with a bigger-picture view.

Ordination is not a question of "why not"; it's a question of "why"-- a question that is far from settled with regard to these men in Southwark.

Posted by Anna at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 6:16pm GMT

Exactly, Anna. I believe that two of these men had actually been turned down for ordination?

Either we are an episcopal church or we are not, and if it is the former, then congregationalism is not on.

This church is not Anglican.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 6:48pm GMT

Vicky: ordination in the CofE doesn't only take place because of qualification but also because the candidate in consultation with the bishop agrees to serve a particular parish. In the CofE as it currently operates this is not up to the minister alone nor to the congregation. They have some say in it but it is the bishop's decision. If you don't like that, fine - but one cannot reasonably be surprised and cry foul since it's hardly an innovation. AFAIK Tom Butler hadn't agreed that these people should serve these churches so why should he ordain them? Indeed, it sounds likely that the main issue at stake is not Butler's refusal to ordain these men but his refusal to distance himself from the HoB's pastoral statement.

Posted by Sean Doherty at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 7:40pm GMT

"We don't do schism." Not just historically inaccurate; also unwise! Remember Richard Hooker's words: "That which they call schism we call our reasonable service unto God."

The bishop of Southwark is not nearly as Anglican as the people from Dundonald, who seem much more thoroughly committed to the Prayer Book and the 39 Articles. Scripture and tradition are against the Bishop, because Scripture and the tradition of the Church of England is against the liberal catholicism he espouses. Perhaps, given the success of the church planting initiative, reason could be marshalled against his position, too.

It might even be argued that schism in the Diocese of Southwark was started by those who departed from the historic Reformed position of the Prayer Book. Even if you disagree with the action at Dundonald, you must observe that history is on the side of the Evangelicals.

Posted by Liam at Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 11:24pm GMT

Good grief Merseymike: The question mark doesn't do a thing to cover for the throwing of more mud. :(

And your repeated assertion of what is and what is not Anglican in your opinion is nearly as boring as it is wrong. These men's claim to be Anglican is infinitely stronger than yours.

Seeking to demonise and polarise debate may be in your interests but it is transparent and unpersuasive as well as being in opposition to the gospel.

Posted by Neil at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 12:06am GMT

Anna, don't confuse the issue... the reason the Bishop refused the ordination of the three does not appear to have had anything to do with training or ability or calling but everything to do with conviction... in other words, they wetre Evangelicals and the Bishop is a Liberal. It's that simple!


Posted by Ian at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 1:03am GMT

Vicky, specifically which of the 39 Articles is Rt Revd Tom Butler 'breaking' by what 'teaching' of which 'doctrine' exactly? Exactly please, mind you - I want to confirm that this is not another instance of 'reasserters' resorting to vague defamation.

I'm sure that can't be the case.

Posted by Augustus Meriwether at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 2:35am GMT

Goodness, watch all the consevos crawl out from under their stone!

Tom Butler is absolutely right and should be fully supported - its about time someone stood up to these bullies who want to recreate the CofE as a protestant fundamentalist sect.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 9:48am GMT

Vicky has an odd idea about the legal position of the 39 Articles in today's Church of England (e.g. Declaration of Assent) -- isn't she aware of the debates and changes re subscription that took place in the 1960's and 70's?

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 11:49am GMT

I am a member of Dundonald Church where Richard Coekin is the senior pastor.

It really disheartens me to read comments from fellow Christians in which Richard is pictured as the villain. I wish all those judging him first took the trouble to actually work out what is going on. Only very few of those commenting seem to be aware of the full picture.

For example, I would certainly be much interested in the reasons of Merseymike (strange name!) in calling our congregation, or leaders, "bullies" or claiming that we are not Anglican.

I regularly listen to Richard's preaching and I can ensure you: his teaching is probably more evangelical than any other preaching I have ever heard!

Posted by Peter Török at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 1:10pm GMT

"Goodness, watch all the consevos crawl out from under their stone!"

C'mon Merseymike, why insult. The rest of your comment is clear enough and makes your point without comparing conservatives to snakes.


Posted by steven at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 2:32pm GMT

"…its about time someone stood up to these bullies who want to recreate the CofE as a protestant fundamentalist sect.”--Merseymike

Right on, Mike! Most American Episcopalians and Canadian Churchmen/women support you in your resistance to these fundamentalists! Every century or so they try to take over the Church. This time around, it’s up to us to stop them!

Posted by Kurt at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 3:18pm GMT

hmm, well, i read the comments here with interest. I've been to Oakhill, i've been to Wycliffe and i've been to Ripon Cuddesdon. Across the board of tradition really. I'm an evangelical, but i appreciate the diversity we're blessed with. Things are not clear cut. One thing that disturbs me is the use of this board as a place to slander and attack fellow brothers and sisters. As regards the evangelicals being a fundamentalist sect trying to take over the church - come on, be nice please. Un-neccesary, and unwise. You don't agree with me, i don't agree with you - even when we really don't feel like it and would happily give each other a good kicking - let's for the sake of Christ continue in dialogue and not resort to this.

I am uneasy about these ordinations - but i feel for the struggles that the four must be going through in this too. Their conviction compels them, just as my conviction would compel me not to. Somewhere in this the Lord is at work.

Posted by SiB at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 4:58pm GMT

Your point is well taken, SiB, I have allowed some comments to slip through that are not as civil as they should be.

Please, everyone, keep trying to avoid all personal attacks on individuals.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 5:19pm GMT

"As regards the evangelicals being a fundamentalist sect trying to take over the church - come on, be nice please."

Okay, maybe it's over the top in the UK. Sorry. But from our perspective in the USA, that's exactly what Duncan et al appear to be trying to do.

Posted by Kurt at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 5:54pm GMT

"As regards the evangelicals being a fundamentalist sect trying to take over the church - come on, be nice please."

The problem is not with evangelicals as such, but with a small subsection of evangelicalism, who are indeed very close to being a fundamentalist sect and who do show every sign of wanting to take over the Church of England.

One of the things I like about the Church of England is that it can (in theory at least) hold together evangelicals, liberals and anglo-catholics. If an evangelical (or anyone else) wants to say "this is what I believe" - then that is fine. The difficulty is when someone says "this is what I believe - and you have to believe exactly the same things as me if we are to be in the same church".

There are plenty of evangelicals who are generous and open-spirited. Unfortunately, it seems that the hardcore Reformed Evangelicals have painted themselves into such a small corner that there appears to be very little space to build bridges.

If all we have is "take it or leave it", I know what my answer would be, sadly.

Posted by David Chillman at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 7:06pm GMT

I keep hoping that we might get a bit of light rather than heat on this thread. I'm still flummoxed.

There's no doubt that the ordinations in Surbiton are irregular, but the situation leaves me asking several questions.

Two of the ordinands, it appears, had been. accepted for, and had completed or nearly completed, their training at Oak Hill. At this stage they would be looking for a title (first job to anyone who might be unfamiliar with the term!). It seems that they had potentially found such a post at Surbiton. The diocesan bishop was unwilling to ordain them. This is, fortunately, not a common situation, and I think we need to know why the diocesan bishop found them unsuitable.

Then the behaviour of the priest raises some questions. What efforts did he make to persuade +Southwark that the men should be ordained? If +Southwark was still adamantly opposed to ordaining them, did he attempt to seek some form of redress (e.g. informally approaching +Cantuar:, clapping a writ on +Southwark....)?

Given that CESA is allegedly in discussions with the Anglican Communion about rejoining, why did the CESA prelate behave in so ecumenically suicidal a fashion?

Posted by Alan Harrison at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 7:10pm GMT

I don't think Richard Coekin sounds "hardcore", mighty frustrated and well principled perhaps:

Posted by Neil at Thursday, 10 November 2005 at 9:04pm GMT

Is there only one Oak Hill College? We should pray for 100 more, as it seems to be one of the few places still producing ordinands who believe the Bible.

Posted by Barry George at Friday, 11 November 2005 at 2:54am GMT

Surbiton is merely the place where the service ocurred. As far as I know, no action is planned against the incumbent there for allowing this.
Dundonald, and its further church plants, is where these men are going to work.
I think Bp Tom's letter explains why he refused:

"Parish clergy, Archdeacons and Bishops alike have been involved in an ongoing exchange with Richard concerning the necessity for such church plants to occur only with the agreement of the vicar of the parish in which the plant is set. This has not always been the case, and evangelical parish clergy in the diocese have been particularly concerned when such plants have seemed to oppose their own witness and mission. For this reason, we were not prepared to support the selection and training of further ordination candidates from or for Dundonald unless future church plants followed our Diocesan Guidelines."

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 11 November 2005 at 9:02am GMT

I've been trying to get my head round this conundrum.

Tom Butler quotes canon law preventing bishops from overseas carrying out episcopal functions without diocesan permission. He also states that CESA is not part of the Anglican Communion.

I assume that canon law only bites on the Anglican church. For example, Tom Bulter is hardly going to inhibit the parish priest of Chumley because a bishop of the Ruritanian Orthodox Church carries out confirmations in Chumley parish.

Thus to revoke Richard Coekin's licence implies the CESA bishop is an Anglican bishop under canon law and that the ordinations are thus valid. On the other hand, if the CESA bishop is not an Anglican bishop, his actions don't fall under the canon and nothing has happened to justify revoking Richard Coekin's licence!

Answers anyone?

Posted by John Foxe at Friday, 11 November 2005 at 9:27am GMT

Just published on the Church Society website.
Happy thinking!

Mission ordinations - were they illegal?
Since the ordinations last week in south London questions have been raised about the status and validity of the action, not least by the Bishop of Southwark in a letter addressed to clergy in the Diocese. The Bishop makes reference to the Overseas Clergy Measure and appears to argue from this that the ordinations were illegal.

Section 4 of the Measure does two things:

First, it permits certain bishops to perform episcopal acts on behalf of an English diocesan bishop. If Martin Morrision had received such permission the three men concerned would have been considered to be ordained by the Bishop of Southwark. The bishops permitted to do this fall into two groups ‘overseas bishops’ who are part of the Anglican Communion (which does not include Martin Morrison) and other bishops whose orders are recognised (which does include Martin).

Secondly, it forbids overseas clergy from performing such acts without permission and threatens the use of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure against them if they do. This last section only applies to clergy in the Anglican Communion since otherwise it could be used against bishops of any and every other denomination including Roman Catholics and Orthodox bishops.

Therefore, there was nothing illegal about the ordinations, it is just that the three men concerned cannot claim to be ordained clergy of the Church of England. They are, presumably, ordained in the Church of England in South Africa and thus they are recognised in England and could be appointed to CofE parishes without re-ordination but they would need the consent of the relevant Archbishop. The presence of so many CofE clergy at the ordination means that they are clealry recognised as genuine deacons in the Church of God.

The relevant sections of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 are:

4(1) An overseas bishop or a bishop consecrated in a Church not in Communion with the Church of England whose Orders are recognised and accepted by the Church of England my, on the request and by the commission in writing of the bishop of a diocese in the province of Canterbury or York, and with the consent and licence in writing of the Archbishop of the province, ordain persons and perform other episcopal functions in that diocese.

This is permissive and the effect of it is spelt out in the next section

4(2) For the purpose of this Measure any person ordained priest or deacon by a bishop acting on such request and by such commission as aforesaid shall be deemed to have been ordained by the bishop making the request and issuing the commission and not by the bishop acting as aforesaid.

The third section sets out the restriction and offence:

4(3) If any overseas bishop performs any episcopal functions in a diocese in the province of Canterbury or York, otherwise than in accordance with this section, he shall be guilty of an offence against the laws ecclesiastical for which proceedings may be taken under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

‘overseas bishop’ is defined in Section 6 as meaning “a bishop of the Church of England or a Church in Communion with the Church of England…”.
Canterbury has consistently refused to recognise the Church of England in South Africa as part of the Communion, and therefore section 4(3) does not apply to Bishop Martin Morrison

Posted by Bob Marsden at Friday, 11 November 2005 at 5:04pm GMT

I've posted a couple of follow-up comments on another thread, here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 11 November 2005 at 6:14pm GMT

I'm an Anglican from the Sydney Diocese in Australia and I heard Richard Coekin speak here a couple of years ago - I was mightily impressed by his clear and faithful explanation of the Scriptures.
There seem to be many claims and counter-claims here about what actually constitutes "anglicanism". Bishop Butler has appealed to Anglican traditions in claiming the ordinations are illegal, and Rev. Coekin has claimed he has a higher authority to appeal to: the 39 articles, centuries of church tradition and, ultimately, the Bible. The question is: what defines us as Anglicans? Is it a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a submission to God's authority and a desire to live by His Word? Or is it man-made church law? I fear that Rev. Coekin has it right when he suggests that God as revealed in his Holy Word is a higher authority than the Bishop of Southwark.
I have read many appeals to unity and Christian charity here. One individual who identified themselves as an evangelical also wanted to "celebrate the diversity we're blessed with". But what are we unified in? And is diversity always positive?
I have recently been preaching on 1 Timothy and a quick scan over that epistle suggests that false teaching (read "diversity") is never considered a blessing. Paul tells Timothy to command such false teachers to stop (1:3); to have nothing to do with false teaching (4:7); and, ultimately, to kick out of the church (hand over to Satan) those who do not desist (1:20).
Furthermore, other parts of the NT describe those who teach in opposition to Christ and his apostles as dogs, pigs, people of corrupt mind, liars, evildoers and the antichrist. Never are we told to celebrate diversity when it comes to the teaching of the Lord Jesus. His truth is far too important for that.
We are to be united in our common love for, and submission to, the Father and the Son - not in some feeble, disjointed institution. If the Anglican Church ceased to be today, would God's kingdom fall? No - because first and foremost we need to be Christians, not Anglicans.
The Gospel will be offensive and incomprehensible to the world - that is what Jesus predicted and that has always been the experience of the church. Our test is whether we can stand up under that persecution while remaining faithful to the truth. Will we just tell them what their itching ears want to hear, whether it be on sin and judgment, sexuality, or the work of the Cross? Or will we, with Jesus, overcome the world by preaching and teaching the great, transforming, saving Gospel which has been handed down to us?

Posted by James Jack at Saturday, 12 November 2005 at 10:14am GMT

Augustus Meriwether asked which of the 39 articles Bishop Butler had controvened. Since I can't see a response yet, I thought I'd respond:

Article VI states that the Holy Scriptures contain everything necessary for salvation and are upheld as the Word of God. Butler seems to be teaching things unscriptural when he claims that homosexual sex is not sinful (do I really need to quote the passages?)

Article XX states that the church does not have authority to "ordain any thing that is contrary to God's written word, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another".

Arcticle XXI states that General Councils of the church (like the one which came up with the statement on civil partnerships) can err when it comes to things pertaining to God, and they cannot ordain things unless "they be taken out of holy Scripture".

Now I'm not saying that all the 39 articles are absolute gems that must be followed today. Some are just irrelevant to our current historical context. But Bishop Butler vowed allegiance to those articles. Therefore, it is slightly disingenuous to accuse Rev. Coekin of breaking his vows to the Bishop when the bishop has first broken his vows to uphold Scripture and the Anglican tradition. As Rev. Coekin said in his statement, he must obey God not men.

Posted by James Jack at Saturday, 12 November 2005 at 10:34am GMT

The Puritans believed that you can be a Christian in England without being a member of the Church of England. I think by now few of us within the Church of England would disagree with them on this particular point.

The "neo-Puritans" (not their self-designation as far as I know) believe that you can be an Anglican in England without being Church of England. Depends on one's definition of Anglican - obviously. (By the way, if Anglican is defined as "in communion with the Sea of Canterbury", there are three ways of being Anglican in Germany: Diocese of Europe, ECUSA, Old Catholic).

I suspect that if these former Church of England ordinands had become Roman Catholic, Orthodox Presbyterian or Independent Baptist, there would not have been such a fuss about their ordination. It is, ironically, their desire to remain Anglican (not defined as "being in communion with the Sea of Canterbury" but in terms of Anglican tradition as a way of being Reformed and Catholic), even if they cannot be Church of England, which is causing such offence.

Why could they not remain Church of England? Because they found their vocation in serving these congregations in Wimbledon and Bishop Tom now for some time has refused to ordain them. I am confident that there are bishops in the Church of England who would have happily ordained Richard Perkins and Andy Fenton, if these two men had moved to another diocese. But this would not have helped the churches they are serving because Bishop Tom would not ordain anyone else to these church plants either. If another bishop of the Church of England or of a church in communion with the Sea of Canterbury would have ordained them for ministry in Southwark (without the permission of Bishop Tom), the ordination would have been illegal. Hence the need for the services of a bishop from a church which (in their understanding) is "Anglican" and whose orders are recognized by us but which is not in communion with the Sea of Canterbury.

This is the conundrum to which John Foxe has rightly alerted us and which is illuminated by the discussion Bob Marsden referenced. If CESA is not "Anglican" by your definition, why get so excited about two former Church of England ordinands leaving "Anglicanism". It is not like this has not happened before. Is it because these church plants are "ours" and should not be served by non CofE ministers?

As far as Oak Hill College is concerned. Our primary call is to train ministers for the Church of England but for some time now we have been training ministers for other churches as well, Anglican and non-Anglican. Maybe there are those who think that colleges recognised to provide training for Church of England ordinands should be forbidden from training ministry candidates of other churches but this has not been said here in so many words and Oak Hill Colege is not the only one to train for more than one branch of Christ's church.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Saturday, 12 November 2005 at 3:14pm GMT

James Jack

You cite the articles, but you do NOT cite any of Bishop Tom's exact words or actions that may be reasonably said directly 'contravened' one or more of the 39 articles.

As far as I know, he has simply refused to obey one of his priests's demands that he refute other bishops' statements. That is not 'contravening' any articles, including the ones you quote.

You need to provide evidence that this bishop is DIRECTLY 'contravening' the articles before publically claiming he does. Otherwise, you are open to being accused of defamation.

BTW, embracing, accepting, supporting and loving practicing 'homosexuals' is and has been offensive and incomprehensible to the world for centuries, millenia even. Does that mean embracing, accepting, supporting and loving practicing 'homosexuals' is Gospel teaching? I thought so - thank you for the formula.

Posted by Augustus Meriwether at Sunday, 13 November 2005 at 1:09am GMT

Bishop Tom's actions are precisely why I left the CofE a few years back. Many others left to join independent churches & never came back. The Bishop who presided over this exodus from Willesden diocese...Bishop Tom Butler.

God bless Richard Coekin.

Posted by Gordon at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 12:04am GMT


Let's be honest, without getting bogged down in "directly" or "indirectly". Does the bishop agree or disagree with the plain teaching of Scripture that homosexual sex is outside of God's plan and sinful? You claim that all he has done is "refuse to obey one of his priest's demands that he refute other bishops' statements" but I think you realise that this is a ridiculous simplification of the situation. The statement, implicitly or explicitly, claims that homosexual sex can be something blessed by God. But not refuting this, the bishop stands by it. Therefore, he is standing by teaching which is unscriptural. Let's not argue about church law - in the end, that's not the issue. The real question concerns the teaching of the Word of God.

Quite frankly, I'm comfortable with being accused of defamation. In many senses, the Bible defames sin and those who live in sin. The clear teaching of Scripture is that those who preach a false gospel or things that are not in accord with sound doctrine are corrupt, evil and satanic. From everything I have heard and read, Bishop Butler does these things. Therefore, according to 1 John he is antichrist. He does the work of the devil, not the work of God. If he wants to sue me, he can go ahead. I'm not saying he is an unpleasant, monstrous sort of man. But I am saying he is a perverter of the gospel.

As for your last argument, I think we both know it is tongue-in-cheek. Jesus embraces, loves, accepts and supports sinners - by calling them to repentance and offering them forgiveness, just as he has forgiven a sinner like me. What the world thinks is neither here nor there. Many people over the ages have misused Scripture, twisting it to become a vehicle for hate. This is a constant danger, and one Christians need to guard and fight against. But another danger of our time is to go too far in the other direction and seemingly assume that to even identify a behaviour as sin is to reject out of hand all those who practice it and invite violence upon them.

We can love people struggling with homosexual desires by offering them the transformation and forgiveness of Jesus - the same transformation and forgiveness offered freely to all. When Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultery in John 8 his message was simple: "I do not condemn you - but go and leave your life of sin." It is possible to call people to change without condemning them - that's what Jesus did. The challenge is to speak the truth in love, something which can sometimes mean an appropriate harsh word or a clear explanation of how God wants us to live. But it cannot mean telling lies for the sake of comfort and political correctness, or giving in to our own innate sinfulness because obeying God interferes with our supposed freedoms.

Accepting sin is not loving. Offering forgiveness and a new life is.

Posted by James Jack at Sunday, 20 November 2005 at 10:52am GMT

Is Dr Butler a rebel preaching obedience?

Posted by Frederick Jones at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 7:50pm BST
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