A Scottish friend's response

Prospects of a gay Anglican bishop. As the decision regarding the next Bishop of Soutwark looms near, the front-runner is reported as being Dr. Jeffrey John who describes himself as living a celibate life in a civil partnership. The issue touches on the debate which is currently exercising many denominations including, not least, the Church of Scotland.

LetterIn the context of a deepening crisis in both the Anglican communion and the current situation within the Church of Scotland, the following is copy of an e-mail response sent from a friend to a friend in Scotland regarding the news that Dr. Jeffrey John could well be elevated to the office of Bishop of Southwark.

[Ed note: The personal greetings have been removed from each end of the message, some formatting has been applied and the headings have been inserted into the original: otherwise the message us unchanged.]

The current situation in the Church of England proves to me several things:

Double Standards at work amongst leaders

Evangelical church leaders (in the Anglican communion certainly) are often prepared to live with homosexuals in the church and in positions of leadership – until they themselves are directly affected i.e. there have been openly gay church members and openly gay clergy for years. It’s only now with the prospect of gay bishops that the crisis has come to a head.

As an example of this dynamic, you remember there was more fuss about women elders than there was about women ministers, as in the latter case male ministers weren’t directly affected in their own congregations.

The Lord does not bless double standards.

Institutionalism wins

I fear that those within institutions who have a higher regard for their own agendas and personal security than they have for the Truth will most always – in institutional terms - win (to which Martin Luther and Thomas Chalmers will no doubt testify).
It has been argued (as we know, and to support the ‘press on to bring reform from within’ viewpoint) that there are more evangelicals [in the C of S - Ed.] now than there were some years ago. But all this has done is to create the crisis which we now see. (If the composition of the Kirk were all liberal gays, there would be no problem and no crisis: everyone would be happy – except the Lord of course).


Truth is the victim

There is (it would often seem) even amongst evangelical ranks in our own set up a greater desire to protect the cohesion of the institution than to preserve Truth. Of course the good old C of S is by no means unique in this regard and there have been compromises across the denominational spectrum down through the ages and to this day designed to keep institutions intact.

One third departs

In any institutional crisis there are most often 3 camps (and we see this in our own denominaton) viz.
(i) reformers who are prepared to break away;
(ii) reformers who (mis-guidedly in my opinion) think that they can restore the institution to biblical integrity and
(iii) those (liberals) who have no care for biblical fidelity but who will stay within the institution (in order to further their agenda) and corrupt it from within (and we know what the Bible says about a little leaven.)
In this scenario, the Reformers who break away can only (on a rough analysis) count on a minority (say a third) to leave with them. It is said that Chalmers regretted that the actions of that day split the church. (The great imponderable is whether he would have led the way from the Assembly Hall if he had known the consequences.)

Compromise and corruption

Supposing that Jeffrey John was a self-professed gay, yet claiming to live a celibate life on his own, but also teaching that homosexuality was a legitimate lifestyle, how would we handle that? There are ministers in pulpits who are preaching social gospels and question the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Yet we allow them to continue.

The Apostate Church

To me the whole thing is just pointing up hypocrisies, double standards and a failure to exercise a Godly discipline within the church as a whole. But the much bigger question (in my opinion) is whether the way we operate is biblical at all. And perhaps God is bringing judgement down on the whole shambles. Of course our Bibles tell us that there will be a great apostasy and, in this context there will always be institutionalised Christian-based churchianity, but it will be devoid of the Spirit. So where does that leave us?

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Ed footnote: There are groupings within both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland who are fighting the evangelical corner.

Reform which works to maintain a biblical witness in the Church of England has issued the following statement (06/07/10):

Comment from Reform on Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, being nominated for the post of bishop of Southwark:

“Dr John’s teaching regarding homosexual practice is contrary to both the Bible and to the current doctrine of the Church of England. To appoint him Bishop would send two very clear signals. First that the diocese of Southwark wants to walk in a different direction to the Church of England’s doctrine. Second that there is now little to stop the Church of England proceeding in the same divisive direction as the Episcopal Church in the USA . We would support churches in Southwark seeking alternative oversight should Dr John be appointed.”

The following Church of Scotland congregations in the Highlands and Islands that have signed up to the Fellowship of Confessing Churches:


East Church, Inverness
Kinmylies Church, Inverness
Alness Parish Church
Durness & Kinlochbervie Church
Glenelg & Kintail, Kyle of Lochalsh
Lochalsh Parish, Kyle of Lochalsh
Connel Church of Scotland, Argyll

Kilmuir & Stenscholl, Isle of Skye
Snizort Church of Scotland, Isle of Skye
Strath & Sleat Parish, Isle of Skye

Barvas, Isle of Lewis
Cross Ness, Isle of Lewis
Kinloch Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis
Knock, Isle of Lewis
Lochs-Crossbost, Isle of Lewis
High Church Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Uig Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis

Tarbert, Isle of Harris
Manish-Scarista, Isle of Harris

Kilmuir & Paible Church of Scotland, North Uist
Berneray and Lochmaddy Church of Scotland, North Uist

Firth Church, Orkney

One Kirk friend to another, 07/07/2010