Should Evangelical Ministers Respond with Fight or Flight?

religion Theology / Biblical Studies

Dear Charlie Hughes, the (former?) vicar of St Michael’s Anglican in Henderson…

You don’t know me, but I saw your story in the newspaper. You’re disappointed by the direction the Anglican Church has taken in announcing that it will establish a process by which those ministers who wish to do so may bless same-sex unions, without actually performing same-sex weddings. I’m disappointed by this development as well. You’re so disappointed that you’re leaving the Anglican Church, and pursuing ministry elsewhere.

Charlie, I really appreciate the difficult spot you were put in, and I totally understand your call to move on. You’re right, the Synod got this wrong (Anglicans are allowed to say that, and very often do) and is catering to a vocal minority, setting aside what is, let’s face it, pretty clear biblical teaching. In case there is any possibility that I might give you some pause (if it isn’t too late already), I’d like to make my pitch.

I’m an evangelical, and I know that the biblical model of marriage, without a doubt, is a man and a woman. I know that Scripture teaches that sex properly belongs within marriage, and that it is sinful to deviate from this design. This decision on the part of the Synod is incredible, and a lamentable commentary on the influence had by those minority liberal voices within the Church who are working to conform her to their own image. I think we are of one mind here. But I wanted to share with you the fact that I am moving into the Anglican Church, and possibly to full-time ministry therein, partly (but only partly) for the same reason that you’re leaving it.

There is trouble afoot in the Anglican Church. Not in every corner, however, and in fact many congregations and ministers greet this outcome of the Synod with real sadness at what is being done to the Church. She is under siege. There are two ways that this can play out – maybe more, but at least two ways. One possible (eventual) outcome is that one by one, those ministers and members with a commitment to preserve the Church’s commitment to uphold the teaching and practice delivered to us in Scripture leave. They walk away from the Anglican Church, leaving it to the devices of those who all along had sought to change the Church, rather than to allow Christ and his Church to change them. This would be a tremendous shame. All the resources that were once used for the propagation of the Gospel would be handed over to those responsible for the Church’s downfall. The Anglican Church, for better or worse, is an important and even influential historical and public institution in New Zealand, both socially and in terms of the wider Christian community. The nature and type of influence she has will gradually but permanently change if this course of action is taken. With this outcome, the ship sinks, as the crew abandon her.

The second possible outcome is that instead of having its faithful ministers and members walk away, those within the Anglican Church who believe in her mission call for reinforcements. The call should not be “abandon ship!” but rather “all hands on deck!” Some of those who know me do not understand my decision to move to the Anglican Church. Part of it is here: Because there is work to do. The Anglican Church is a hugely important part of the Christian world and she has the potential for extraordinary good. Look across the ditch at Sydney. Look at Nelson. There is plenty of will in the Anglican world to preserve the biblical faith, even if it is not currently being expressed as the dominant voice in the Synod. Part of the question of what do to is bound up with another question, one that I am almost reluctant to ask for fear of causing offence to you: Do you love the Church?

The prophets in Israel called for change from within, even when things looked hopeless (and I do not at all believe that things are hopeless). I’m making the move to a Church in distress because she is in distress, and I want to call as many people as possible to do the same. The need for faithful workers in the vineyard has never been greater than it is now. Given that you’ve made your public announcement, perhaps there’s just no chance that you’ll stay. But don’t stay too far away.

Your fellow
Glenn Peoples

I posted an almost identical version of this letter to the Facebook page of St Michael’s in Henderson, where Charlie is able to read it. I indicated that I would also post it here in the hope of offering some sort of encouragement to others who find themselves in Charlie’s position.

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{ 82 comments… add one }
  • Chris May 30, 2014, 12:48 am

    Glenn-if the leadership of the Anglican church had any balls at all it would have kicked the so called minority liberals out a long time ago…scripture explicitly states to do this to those who stray from the truth…the fact that the hierarchy (which in itself isn’t a biblical model of church leadership) have failed to do so speaks volumes about them…hence why I’ve stated before-you are wasting your time! Good on Charlie Hughes I say-a man who has his head screwed on and who will be far more useful ministering in another denomination that will put into practice what the bible clearly teaches.

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 12:57 am

    Chris, I’m not certain about how the removal of ministers works in denominations in general other than the Catholic Church. But I am fairly sure that ministers can’t simply be removed by fiat.

    What’s your understanding of that? Yes, it might be nice if that were possible and that power could only be exercised when the decision is the right one. But that’s the trick. Human beings being what they are, I think there may be a reason that this isn’t possible. But I could be in the dark here, so please share.

    With respect, Chris, you really haven’t justified the claim that reformers are merely time wasters, or that I would be wasting my time in ministry. As I’ve said before – I don’t know that it’s healthy to develop the instinct to surrender, which is what you appear to be suggesting (and have suggested before, as I recall). Sorry to offer such a negative assessment, but I do think it’s a mindset that needs challenging.

  • Chris May 30, 2014, 1:10 am

    I have no idea how the Anglican church process works to remove someone-but I know for a fact that there are many Anglican “leaders” that openly deny key christian beliefs, many that are openly gay and in relationships-so obviously the Anglican hierarchy has no interest in removing them as per explicit biblical instruction…a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Reformers need to know when the sinking ship is doomed and to abandon it before they drown Glenn. Besides-why are you so interested in “saving” a church you have no background or history in? I honestly find that bizarre…

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 1:19 am

    Chris, OK, so you don’t know. Fair enough.

    I don’t think you’ve done anything to allay my concerns about your zeal for surrender (in this thread or the earlier one), so we’ll just disagree about whether it’s an attitude worth aspiring to in the situation I have described. I believe in working in the vineyard! Take care, Chris.

  • Chris May 30, 2014, 1:24 am

    All I know is this Glenn-the bible explicitly states in at least 4 or 5 passages to mark and avoid and have nothing to do with those who promote or act out unbiblical things…so therefore the Anglicans should act in accordance with scripture-but they plainly haven’t! Therefore I would have to ask why you would want to join a bunch of heretics? And I won’t even go into the dubious formation of Anglicanism, infant baptism, women leaders etc etc…

  • Brown May 30, 2014, 7:44 am

    My elderly Anglican mate was a vicar(?) and couldn’t accept the new liturgy book that replaced the great declarations of faith with the Treaty of Waitangi in the 1980’s. That lead to a stoush where he had to resign although he did sue the archbishop (I think). The legal process was very unpleasant indeed and the church did some very unethical stuff in the course of that. He lost because of some legal technicalities (although the judge was sympathetic to him) and had to walk away which was pretty tough. The Anglicans are doomed in their present form and the fighting over parish assets if you don’t toe the line will be epic. Its just as well God dwells within hearts and not buildings.

  • Andrew May 30, 2014, 9:28 am

    Chris,

    You seem to take it for granted that the Ship is sinking. But that is still up for debate. Indeed in assuming that the ship is sinking, you seem simply to be assuming the contrary of what Glenn is arguing for. Hence you are engaging in little more than circular reasoning.

    There is a strong Evangelical contingent within the Church known as ‘Affirm’. If we are willing, we can save her. But if we give up now it certainly will sink.

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 9:59 am

    Well Chris, it’s a shame that’s all you know. Hopefully your situation improves, but I think I have explained myself.

  • Chris May 30, 2014, 10:06 am

    Andrew-anyone with half a brain can see quite clearly the Anglican church is sinking-even former Archbishop Peter Carey has stated the church is in major trouble! Talk about sticking your head in the sand…

    Glenn-your somewhat derisive reply is bordering on the pathetic…if a plain scriptural reason for why leaders or anyone involved in churches isn’t good enough for you then I would ask the question-to what authority should we be looking to for answers? Obviously scripture isn’t quite good enough for you…

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Chris, my comment really wasn’t meant to be derisive, but just to point out just what I am hearing from you. As you said, “all I know is…”, and unfortunately that appears to be correct. The only thing you want to know is the one claim that you seem to keep repeating: All is lost, all is lost. May I also – respectfully – suggest that if a derisive attitude concerns you, then it may be best not to imply that I and others here lack “half a brain.” That is never going to promote helpful discussion.

    I don’t know why you would think I don’t hold to the authority of Scripture, based on anything I have said. I certainly do! However I do not think it’s true – and I would encourage you to rethink this – that the call to love the Church and want what is best for her – and to be willing to work hard at it in spite of resistance – is unbiblical. In fact I don’t think that anything I have said here in this letter is unbiblical. I’m afraid this just doesn’t make sense to me: “if a plain scriptural reason for why leaders or anyone involved in churches isn’t good enough for you” – I assume you left some words out.

    As for the biblical instructions you allude to (but never quote), can you explain one of them I light of how I am violating it? You’re welcome to visit the church where we attend and point to all the horrendous sins that you think I’m condoning. You might be surprised at what you find. With respect, while I think a great deal of biblical authority, I’m not going to do something simply in deference to your personal authority.

    The Church is not dead. You don’t seem to love her or want to work for her good (I’m sorry if that’s not how you see it, but this certainly seems to be the case). I do.

  • Matthew Flannagan May 30, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Chris and Brown, with respect I think there is a navitee here. The suggestion seems to be that because of the troubles in the church of england evangelicals should leave and form their own evangelical congregation. Here is the problem, do you think once you have done this the issue will simply go away and people wont then start demanding that new congregation go the same way, and if you leave when that happens and form a new movement the same thing will happen again.

    There is an ideological battle/war going on, the enemy is on the attack and I dont think they will stop nor do I think any live and let live policy will be allowed for long as soon as they have strength they will attack again. If you don’t fight him in poland and retreat you’ll fight him in dunkirk, if you don’t fight him in dunkirk but retreat you’ll fight him in london. That is the reality.

  • Max May 30, 2014, 2:23 pm

    It is a rather persistent myth that it is a “vocal minority” in the Anglican Chuch who support a move towards the blessing of dame sex relationships. Polls from throughout the country have shown this is not true. The votes in synods (both local and general) have shown this is not true. Huis and consultation with parishes has shown this is not true. If you are going to keep making this claim then you had better back it up with some evidence… more than anecdotal evidence gained from hanging around one of the (rare) very evangelical anglican churches!

  • Max May 30, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Matthew: Small point: We are talking about the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia… not the “Church of England”.. which is (not surprisingly) in England. May seem a minor point, but it highlights the fact that the Anglican church differs from the Roman Catholic church by not having a worldwide heirachy. Which is why it is possible for the Anglicans in different areas to have quite different rules and attitudes to things… it also means that the Queen is not the head of the church here as she is in England.

  • Andrew May 30, 2014, 2:57 pm

    Chris,

    Generally speaking, it’s those who don’t have half a brain that are the first to sink to the level of insult…

  • Brett Heald May 30, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Left the Anglican church in 2004 and have been running a pentecostal church since 2005. Best decision ever. Go Charlie! You’re a champion mate.

  • Mick May 30, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Take your cue from a centurion. “I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes, another ‘Come’ and he comes, to another ‘Do this’ and he does it..”
    The Holy Spirit is the authority, and submission to that authority trumps our own ideas. If Abraham had resisted heading up the hill with his son and a knife, based on principles, then who knows what would have been. A crusade to save the anglican church from heretical elements would, to my mind, be tilting at windmills. A response to a command to preach the gospel there is quite another thing. I don’t feel it incongruous that God would pull someone out of the line for another job while simultaneously moving someone else up to it. Its a matter of faith and obedience to the authority that will call us all to account.

  • Jonathan May 30, 2014, 4:04 pm

    Hi Glenn, I’m a long-time reader of your blog (although I don’t comment often). I’m also a personal friend of Charlie and his family. I’m not an Anglican, although I have a lot of family in the Anglican church and I think it’s great that you have felt your call to that church. I just want you to be aware that Charlie would not have taken this decision lightly. He has worked for years to come to an understanding with the higher-ups in the church, and always spoke about how he would exhaust all options before he left. I can only believe that he can no longer see any way he can remain as vicar in good conscience.

    I don’t want to discourage you from joining the Anglican church – your point of the need for change from inside is well argued. However, I also want people to be aware that this is not someone who made a choice on a whim, or even as a ‘last straw’.

    I also wonder at what point do/should people ‘give up’ on reforming a church that appears to be committed to heresy. I know most of my Methodist friends/colleagues eventually gave up on there being any meaningful reformation. And after all, the Protestant faith itself began with the decision that Catholicism was not capable of meaningful reform. (Reform did happen, but over the course of centuries, and in part due to the shock that Protestantism gave).

  • Chris May 30, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Based on the replies from Glenn & Andrew who against all evidence think they can somehow magically change the heretical positions the Anglican church promotes-I think I was being generous when I typed half a brain…

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 6:07 pm

    “I think I was being generous when I typed half a brain”

    Chris, sadly you confirm the worst suspicions. I wish that were not so. My request for an example remains.

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 6:08 pm

    Jonathan, yes, based on what I know (from a distance) of Charlies previous work in the Church, I am sure that the decision was not made lightly. Still, I figured that if there was any chance at all at the last minute, I’d take it.

    Plus, the letter is also for others who will find themselves in a similar position.

  • Matthew Flannagan May 30, 2014, 6:08 pm

    Max, my family were nominally Anglican and it was common in my family to refer to the Anglican church in NZ as the Church of England. Possibly because we are of Irish descent and not Catholic ( though my grandfather was). That’s all I meant

  • Max May 30, 2014, 6:36 pm

    Still keen to see the data which shows that it is a minority view in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia!

  • Max May 30, 2014, 6:38 pm

    Matthew – sure it is a common mistake. But a mistake nonetheless. It might mislead people into thinking that the Church of England was in some way in control of the Anglicanb Churhces throughout the world…

  • Giles May 30, 2014, 10:37 pm

    Well one thing to be said for being an evangelical Anglican, you can do your evangeliinsert out ever going outside the church. Worth remembering too that Jesus chose Judas, there was one apostate from the start. Maybe the other eleven should have upped sticks to form a purer church? There’s no biblical mandate for flight. The first Christians had to be forced out of Judaism.

  • Glenn May 30, 2014, 11:00 pm

    Oh sorry Max, I missed your request.

    Admittedly there hasn’t – as far as I know – been any sort of polling on a wide range of doctrinal issues in the Anglican Church here (Anglican just means “of England” and a number of people still use that term. I wouldn’t call it an error, for what it’s worth).

    However it’s absolutely not a myth that as far as we can tell, the more liberal stance on issues related to homosexuality is a minority view within the Church here. Wikipedia has a very brief rundown on the issue. In short, in 1998 the 13th Lambeth Conference passed a resolution stating that homosexual acts are “incompatible with Scripture.” The majority in New Zealand (although a percentage is not named – but a reference is given) subscribe to this statement.

    What’s more, the set of those who are vocal on the issue will be smaller than the minority that does not subscribe to this statement. So as far as data goes, it’s a minority view, and its vocal supporters form a smaller minority. That matches my anecdotal experience, but you know how people respond to anecdotes. 🙂

    Out of interest, what prompted you to think that it’s a myth?

  • Chris May 31, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Oh so I don’t love the church Glenn? I don’t work for her good? You don’t know me from a bar of soap yet you judge me based on the fact I don’t like the nonsense going on in the church (specifically Anglicanism)-the fact that I’m commenting here rubbishes your claim. How dare you insinuate such a thing. Your ignorance and arrogance is mind boggling.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Sure. A lot of people use the oncorrect term. I realise this. But this does not stop it from being incorrect… the “Church of England” is a particular organistaion. It is in England. The “Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia” is another orgainisation. It is in NZ and the pacific… these two organisations. They have different governing bodies. Different constitutions. Different canons. Etc. The fact that people routintly use the wrong name does not make it the right name – any more that the fact that ignorant people thinking New Zealand is a part of Australia makes it so… but enough about that. Hint: It is not 1998 any more 😉 We have a process which took place in 2012-14 to look at now.

    “Out of interest, what prompted you to think that it’s a myth?”

    I said so in my original post: Data. THe votes of various synods. The concultation processes with parishes. The diocesan huis. The information collected by and presented by the Ma Whae report… but you are the one making this claim that it is just a “vocal minority” so the responsibility to provide data to back up this claim is really yours. Otherwise it is just a catch phrase and a bit of rhetoric.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 1:42 pm

    Sure. A lot of people use the oncorrect term. I realise this. But this does not stop it from being incorrect… the “Church of England” is a particular organistaion. It is in England. The “Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia” is another orgainisation. It is in NZ and the pacific… these two organisations. They have different governing bodies. Different constitutions. Different canons. Etc. The fact that people routintly use the wrong name does not make it the right name – any more that the fact that ignorant people thinking New Zealand is a part of Australia makes it so… but enough about that.

    “Out of interest, what prompted you to think that it’s a myth?”

    I said so in my original post: Data. THe votes of various synods. The concultation processes with parishes. The diocesan huis. The information collected by and presented by the Ma Whae report… but you are the one making this claim that it is just a “vocal minority” so the responsibility to provide data to back up this claim is really yours. Otherwise it is just a catch phrase and a bit of rhetoric.

    Hint: It is not 1998 any more 😉 We have a process which took place in 2012-14 to look at now.

  • Chris May 31, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Max-Glenn appears to like making things up to suit himself as can be seen here over and over again…the fact is that you’re correct-the only way the Anglicans have moved ahead with their homosexual blessings is because a majority obviously voted for it…

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 2:03 pm

    “Oh so I don’t love the church Glenn? I don’t work for her good?”

    Chris, in my last comment before you said this (and there was a decent amount of time in between), I repeated my request for an example. Instead of supplying one, you start getting angry and insulting me. Please reconsider your approach. In context I am clearly talking about the Anglican Church, and with respect, I am interpreting your choice to respond this way as evidence that you are not able to back up your accusations.

    As a reminder, this is what I said to you:

    As for the biblical instructions you allude to (but never quote), can you explain one of them I light of how I am violating it?

    Now if you please, I am still asking for an example. This is my third request. If I am doing something wrong then I don’t mind being told. We should all wish for correction when it is needed. But if you decline again without an explanation, I will conclude that there are no examples (or at least none of which you know).

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Max, feel free to update the Wiki, deleting any claims that are factually mistaken (you don’t indicate which, if any, are).

    There are actually two claims at play. One claim (mine) is that the liberal view is that of a vocal minority. The other claim – yours – is not “I am not convinced of this.” Instead, the claim is that it is a “myth” to say that it is a minority (this is how you put it in one of these threads). I interpret myth to indicate that it is a falsehood. So if that’s your reply, you can’t escape the fact that you’re making a claim in need of substantiation.

    You imply (but do not say) that the majority has rescinded it’s support of the Lambeth statement. But you certainly can’t make good on this just implication by winking and saying that it’s not 1998 (to put it gently). Incidentally, 1998 was when the statement was first made, not when it was assented to (the article does not say when this was). (The Windsor report (also assented to by the majority, according to Wiki), was in 2003. And before you point it out, yes I know that it is not currently 2003. it is 2014, and next year it will be 2015.)

    As evidence for this change, you allude to the “Ma Whae” report, but you don’t reveal what you think that report shows. It appears that this report is not available online (or at least, I cannot readily find it by searching for that name), so I can’t assess your (apparent) stance that it contains data to show that the majority (and the majority of what will be interesting) support same-sex marriage or blessings of same-sex unions. Can you provide an excerpt to show that?

  • Chris May 31, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Glenn-where did I say anything about you not upholding biblical authority etc etc?? I was talking about the Anglican hierarchy-try reading my post again…and I would like an explanation from you as to why you see fit to query my love for the church merely because I hold a differing viewpoint from you…I will not interpret that well…

  • Max May 31, 2014, 2:40 pm

    Yes. I am making a claim that you are wrong. And asking for evidence. You reply with avoidance strategies and word games…. all the evidence I needed provided. Thanks.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Just by the by – the report is easy to find on line. I just googled it and found a copy in about 5 seconds. Do a little research before making huge claims! It’s not hard!

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 2:49 pm

    Chris, my question did not mention biblical authority, as you know. However, you certainly did say that I don’t uphold biblical authority: “Obviously scripture isn’t quite good enough for you…”

    And you may have only been talking about the hierarchy, but I hope you can see that the attacking and unclear nature of your posts seriously obscured that. For example, as I indicated, some of your comments just don’t make sense: “if a plain scriptural reason for why leaders or anyone involved in churches isn’t good enough for you”. And I am certainly “anyone involved in churches,” so whatever this strange string of words means, it includes me.

    But in reply to my repeated request for any example of my violating any biblical instructions, you now say that you weren’t talking about any sins that I am tolerating. I conclude that you do not think that I am doing anything wrong by going to the Anglican Church, or else you do but don’t wish to say so. You’re still invited to come along to the parish where I worship and see for yourself. That’s a sincere offer, Chris. You are welcome.

    “I would like an explanation from you as to why you see fit to query my love for the church”

    Sure. As I already said, I was talking about the Anglican Church, and you have made numerous comments to the effect that she is a lost cause and anybody with half a brain can see that, so evangelicals should leave her. That concludes my explanation of why I think you don’t have love for the Anglican Church and are not trying to work for her good.

    See how it’s done? You ask a question once, and I fully answer it without you having to ask again. I asked you three times for an example, and you didn’t answer once, in the end, in my view, trying to back out of claims that you had made about what I’m doing.

    Chris, please read this: As I look back through this thread, it’s pretty clear that you have been trying to make it into a flame war: Insulting people as having not even half a brain, directly accusing me of making things up (clearly you didn’t read the blog policy about accusing people of lying) and the like. Please stop, or leave. The purpose of me giving people the ability to comment here, as spelled out in the blog policy, is “so that they can use well thought out comments to discuss the content of the specific blog entry (or podcast episode) in question, ask questions about the issues they cover – or answer questions, bounce their thoughts on the subject off other commenters (and me), and enjoy positive, irenic, stimulating conversation that is interesting and enjoyable (even when challenging) for all participants.”

    I can only hope that you would never dream of speaking to me this way in person, so please change your approach here. Carrying on in this way is actually bad for you.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 2:52 pm

    Anyway. Part of being a member of the Anglican Church, and particulalrly being a licenced member, is that we are bound to follow the rulings made by synod – whether we like them personally or not. We have to let go of our own personal prefereences and prejudices and realise that we are members of a communion. There is no place for Ronin individualistic priests/lay leaders who decided to do theingd their own way because they disagree with the Bishop or the canon law. This is something to seriously consider as you assess your future. There is a letting go of autonomy.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Glenn: For future reference Anglican Taonga is a *pretty* good place to start when looking for this sort of thing…

    http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/Common-Life/MA-WHEA-REPORT

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 2:55 pm

    “Yes. I am making a claim that you are wrong. And asking for evidence. You reply with avoidance strategies and word games…. all the evidence I needed provided. Thanks.”

    Max…. are you really turning troll so quickly? That was so unnecessary. That’s disappointing – and I truly mean that. It looked as though things had improved since the bad old days. That is not what I did (avoidance and games), as you can easily see. In good faith I answered you. And yes I did use Google to search for the Ma Whae report: https://www.google.co.nz/search?client=opera&q=Ma+Whae+report&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#q=Anglican+Ma+Whae+report&safe=active

    I am disappointed with your reaction, and I know you can be better than that. Things did not have to go that way.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 2:59 pm

    See Max, the problem is that you spelled the name of the report wrong when you told me what to look for. Simple, and that explains why Google couldn’t find it. So mocking me for not doing something that takes five seconds with Google was a bit premature.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Yes.. but you claimed to have looked for it in the past…? No? If you had NOT looked for it in the past and yet thought you knew enough to write an opinion piece about majority opinions in the Anglican church… without bothering to look at the latest information from the church – then that is even worse. Do some research next time. Seriously!

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Max, firstly I have never written an opinion piece about the majority opinions of the Anglican Church, so I do not know quite what you’re referring to.

    Secondly, thanks for the link. But I am now surprised that you were prepared to claim that my comment was a “myth” on the basis – or even partly on the basis – of this report. The report contains no survey information on where the dioceses or parishes stand on these (or any) matters. Indeed the most directly relevant comment it makes is this one: “The Ma Whea? study has established that in New Zealand, as well as overseas, there are sincere and dedicated Anglicans whose views fall on either side of the line in this issue regarding those in same sex relationships.”

    So I have to regard this line of evidence as fairly weak. And you did cite that very report as evidence.

    I reiterate again – this is no word gaming or avoidance: The Lambeth conference and the Windsor report take a relatively traditional (i.e. conservative, historic Christian) stance on this, and the Churches in NZ, the majority at any rate, had assented to those. In reply, you say the claim about the majority is actually false (i.e. a myth), which means that this is a minority, rather than a majority view. It is fair for me to ask for evidence for that claim. I did indeed present evidence for mine, and since then you’ve gestured towards what you say is counter evidence – the Ma Whea report. But this does not appear to be so. The report notes that there are sincere, dedicated Anglicans on either side, but that says nothing about what is or is not a majority view. So I wasn’t being slippery or playing games. I noted some evidence and simply invited you to support the claim that this is all just a myth.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 3:21 pm

    It is part of a collection of sources I pointed you towards. The written report presesnts the fact that there are opinions on both sides as you say. The oral report they delivered at Synod spoke more about the submissions they had received from both sides, and the submissions they had received from (a large number of) people who wanted more leadership and guidence from the Church heirachy. These together indicate that there are strong opinions on both sides.

    This was not however ALL of the data I alluded to. The fact of the matter is that 100% of the people at Synod voted in favor of the compromise position which was agreed upon at General Synod. This was people from the three houses (bishops, priests, laity). This is a strong indication that people from across the spectrum are happy to work with the motion which passed. Diocescan synods similarly have supported a “move towards the blessing of [s]ame sex relationships” (which as you will not was my initial clim – important to respond to my actual claim rather than something I did not say).

    Similarly the other consultations which have taken place (submissions, parish discussions, huis, etc etc.) all support the fact that the church as a whole supports a “move towards the blessing of dame sex relationships”. This is not a minority position. You might wish it was. But I am sorry. it just plain ain’t.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I hope you understand why “other consultations” isn’t a piece of data I’m all that interested in (I’m a data analyst by trade, and that wouldn’t really make it into the pool of data to be considered).

    OK, so we can set aside the written Ma Whea report as it doesn’t offer any kind of information about which view is a majority and which a minority. That’s some progress at least. 🙂

    Obviously I was not at the Synod so I can’t comment on the oral report. In their oral report, Max, did they provide any sort of high level information about where the Church in New Zealand stands? And if so, to what level was it broken down? (e.g. parishes, Dioceses, people etc). Or was there no data to support a meaningful claim about what the majority of Church members thinks?

    I’m still working my way through the data (as in, the data you’ve alluded to), and thus far have only crossed the written report off my list off possible sources re: where the majority stand. I do suspect that the list will get smaller. I’m not (yet) in a position to form an opinion on how representative the voices at Synod were.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 3:37 pm

    Well Synod *is* the body which represents the Church at an (inter)national level (we have many nations in our particular branch of the Anglican Church of course). To have 100% of people vote in favour of a motion – and at the same time make a claim that it is a “vocal minority” who support this motion is a HUGE claim. It implies that the only people who go to General Synod are members of a “vocal minority” and that the majority of the Church has no involvement in Synod. Having been there (as an observer) I can tell you that this is not true. There was a wide spectrum of people from different nations, different traditions, and with different opinions, values, and theological slants. 100% of them voted for the compromise position which a team came up with at General Synod. Not a “vocal minority”… this alone should be enough to make you reconsider your in itial claim – unless you want to go down the path of claiming that Synod has been completely hyjacked by a “vocal minority”… many of whom are pretending to be part of the majority all of the time apart from when they are voting… but this seems to be getting into conspiracy theory territory!@

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Max, hold on. I’m not sure that you appreciate the nature of the claim (the one that you regard as a myth). As I understand it, there is a view (one that appears plausible to me) that the decisions made at the Synod level are skewed in a way that often does not represent the majority, but in which the voices of a more liberal minority are over-represented.

    It doesn’t quite seem to address this concern to simply point out that Synod is the body that represents the Church. Of course it is. Indeed, it is this very fact that sparked the concern about a vocal minority.

    Am I to understand that you simply don’t believe that it’s possible for an official body to not represent the majority of the people it represents? I’m not sure that a conspiracy is required here either.

    (I’m still interested in the answers, if you know them, to my earlier questions regarding the oral presentation in regard to Ma Whea, and whether or not any high level empirical data was discussed – or if instead they only spoke about submissions that were made to them.)

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:26 pm

    Well how would this happen? Each parish selects representatives to go to synod. Each synod then selects representatives to go to general synod. If the vast majority of Anglicans (and anglican parishes) held a conservative opinion then why would they (i) vote in the “vocal minority” of their own parish to represetn them at diocesan synod and then (ii) vote at the dio synod for the “vocal minority” to represent the diocese at general synod. It just does not make sense.

    If the majority of people in a diocesan synod held a certain view… (and these come from all parishes and ministry units) then why would they be vote in the very people who did not hold this view?

    The way the synod reps are chosen just does not allow a minority to take over. That is why it sounds like a conspiracy theory.

    Perhaps you could explain how you think this has happened?

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:30 pm

    “I’m still interested in the answers, if you know them, to my earlier questions regarding the oral presentation in regard to Ma Whea, and whether or not any high level empirical data was discussed – or if instead they only spoke about submissions that were made to them.”

    There were no tables of data presented. It was however made clear that there were an equal number of strong views on the extreme ends of the spectrum, but with the majority of people just wanting the church to make a decision and show leadership. Which I think they have done. A decsison which keeps all sides happy (apart from a few on the far ends of the spectrum on both sides) is a good decision.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 5:33 pm

    Max, as I have already indicated, “I’m not (yet) in a position to form an opinion on how representative the voices at Synod were.” Yet you ask me now to explain it. Sorry.

    But even without looking more closely, I can right away see that some of your comments do not ring true: “The way the synod reps are chosen just does not allow a minority to take over.”

    This appears to overlook the very concern in question, namely that representation is skewed so that it is drawn disproportionately from more liberal quarters. It just doesn’t make sense to reply by pointing out the mechanism by which a parish selects its representatives. But as I said, I’m still looking at the way representation works. (In the meantime please bear that in mind, as requests for me to now explain the very thing that I’m still investigating seem to overlook this.)

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:35 pm

    “As I understand it, there is a view (one that appears plausible to me) that the decisions made at the Synod level are skewed in a way that often does not represent the majority, but in which the voices of a more liberal minority are over-represented.”

    I was discuccing this with a couple of people the other day. The odd thing you find in these situations is that this sort of view is held by people at both ends of the spectrum. eg. some conervatives think that Synod and the church is controlled by a minority of liberals… while the liberals think that Synod and the church is controlled by a minority of conservatives. You find the same thing in secular politics… where the rightwingers will refer to the government as leftist socialists while those on the left will see the same government as far too right wing.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:39 pm

    I do not see how it could be drawn *disproportionately* from more liberal quarters. The “liberal quaters” can only select their own reps… they cant go into a conservative evangelical church and decide who their synod reps will be.

    If there are more “liberals” then it is because there are more parishes which selected “liberals” to represent them I guess… not sure this makes it disproportionate. But as I said: the perception that Synod has been taken over by liberals is just that: a perception. Some liberals see it as the exact opposite. Having been there I would say that both are wrong and that it was a good representative body of people. Not that I talked to everyone, so take that as you will.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:41 pm

    ” But as I said, I’m still looking at the way representation works. (In the meantime please bear that in mind, as requests for me to now explain the very thing that I’m still investigating seem to overlook this.”

    Fair enough. But this *might* indicate that you have jumped the gun a little in declaring that it is a “vocal minority”? Do your investigations and then make this call.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 5:42 pm

    “I do not see how it could be drawn *disproportionately* from more liberal quarters. The “liberal quaters” can only select their own reps… they cant go into a conservative evangelical church and decide who their synod reps will be.”

    Max… you aren’t understanding the possible scenario that I am describing. But I’ll say more once I’ve done more fact finding.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 5:49 pm

    I could help you out by describing exactly how you propose *could* happen under our system. I don’t thikn it *has* – but under certain circumstances (which I don’t think exist) it could….

  • Francesca May 31, 2014, 7:10 pm

    “The fact of the matter is that 100% of the people at Synod voted in favor of the compromise position which was agreed upon at General Synod. This was people from the three houses (bishops, priests, laity). This is a strong indication that people from across the spectrum are happy to work with the motion which passed.”

    I was at the Affirm meeting when we were debriefed by Peter Lloyd, who was one of the evangelical representatives from Auckland at General Synod, who said that the reason he voted for it was to buy time. Evangelicals were concerned that same-sex blessings would be allowed in 2014. But no doubt everything I say will be dismissed as ‘anecdotal’.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 7:43 pm

    I suspect that a lot of AFFIRM people feel that way. But they still voted for it. And are not part if the so-called liberal vocal minority. Another vocal minority perhaps?

    Either way they must have agreed with the motion or they would not have voted for it.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Thanks Francesca, that’s the sort of thing that I am hearing. Max – I think your last sentence just ignores the very point that Francesca was making. If I am hearing her correctly (please correct this if it’s not correct, Francesca), she is saying that people voted for it as a pragmatic move, rather than because it is what they want for the church long term.

  • Max May 31, 2014, 8:02 pm

    Fair enough. But presumably if they were the majority (as you claim) they would not have to vote in this pragmatic manner.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 8:07 pm

    That will in part depend on the very matters into which I am currently looking. 🙂

  • Mick May 31, 2014, 8:39 pm

    Glen opines it is a minority voice dominating the synod. Max claims a majority of opinion supporting synod’s pronouncements and synod is the voice of the church. Its a theological version of global warming. “the communion is settled” everyone else is a change denier. It sounds similar to Jeremiah’s day. Synod would be well read if they took that book to heart. A majority among the priests and prophets means exactly jack when it comes to blessing sin.

  • Glenn May 31, 2014, 9:35 pm

    Mick, I agree with that sentiment as well. 🙂 When it comes to the truth of the matter, Synod cannot change right and wrong.

    But I do think it’s worth exploring the question of whether or not there are smoke and mirrors at play. Creating the impression of a liberal consensus when there is none can be an effective way of convincing people that their (Evangelical, traditional, historical) battle has been lost and they should just go away. Sometimes it works, too.

  • Ma May 31, 2014, 11:02 pm

    To clarifyMick. What I am saying is that the decision which has been made is one which reflects the majority opinion of the church. I did not say this made it true necessarily. That is a whole another question.

  • Francesca June 4, 2014, 1:03 am

    “she is saying that people voted for it as a pragmatic move, rather than because it is what they want for the church long term.”

    That is exactly what I am saying, and what we were told at the Affirm meeting.

  • James June 6, 2014, 11:51 am

    I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I’ve been interested in the Orthodox Church. I actually plan on paying the local Greek Orthodox parish a visit next Sunday with the prayer that the Holy Spirit would open my eyes to the truth of the Orthodox-specific things if true, and to the artificiality of the Orthodox-specific things if man-made. I’ve also mentioned the idea of having the historical-Christian Anglicans break off and join communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. If such a thing were to happen on a large scale, I imagine the heavy-liberal Anglican remnant withering away if left on its own.

    “All the resources that were once used for the propagation of the Gospel would be handed over to those responsible for the Church’s downfall.” I really recognized this when a friend from my parish shared with me how the tools of the Episcopalian Church provided for his faith life and I could relate. To run with your metaphor though, I’m not just thinking about leaving the pirate-infested ship, but getting the fleet to recapture it.

  • Chris June 6, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Laughable-even the so called evangelicals in the Anglican church spinelessly opted to vote in favour to “buy time” rather than standing on God’s Word which is quite clear on the homosexual issue and vote NO! Gutless compromisers…too afraid to stand for the truth-you should hang your heads in shame.

  • Francesca June 7, 2014, 9:06 pm

    “Laughable-even the so called evangelicals in the Anglican church spinelessly opted to vote in favour to “buy time” rather than standing on God’s Word which is quite clear on the homosexual issue and vote NO! Gutless compromisers…too afraid to stand for the truth-you should hang your heads in shame.”

    How dare you stand in judgment on your fellow believers within the Anglican Church who have fought against the tide of liberalism at every turn? You have no idea how much courage and self-sacrifice on our part has gone into fighting this particular change in doctrine. We are NOT afraid to stand for truth. And we shall do so again when this issue rears its ugly head in 2016.

  • Chris June 8, 2014, 12:42 am

    I’m sorry Francesca but voting yes isn’t fighting-you have compromised yourselves but voting yes-it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Courage and self sacrifice would’ve been to vote no…if I was in the Anglican church I would never vote to allow something that I believed clearly was unbiblical to “buy time”. Unbelievable.

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 1:27 am

    Chris, just out of interest – and without going to look it up (because you’ve already expressed a strong view on it, so I assume you already know this) – are you able to state, in this thread, what these compromisers voted for?

    Thanks.

  • Chris June 8, 2014, 9:36 am

    Glenn-I’ve read “A Way Forward” which clearly outlines a process to develop liturgy to bless same gender unions…according to Max & Francesca 100% of the delegates at the Synod voted for this…therefore they have compromised themselves. Gods Word says homosexual acts are an abomination-the Anglican church says something different…

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 9:41 am

    Never mind your additional commentary, Chris. Just the answer will be fine.

    So are you saying that, in your understanding, there was no vote to bless same-sex unions? OK, so I hope you’ll stop saying that. And if you think that’s a trifling technicality or a quibbling distinction – it is not. And that is why this was viewed as a time-buying strategy. This was a vote to allow time for people who wanted these blessings to happen to develop a liturgy to decide how they would do it. As I have been asking around, I have found that this distinction lay at the heart of some people’s willingness to use this strategy. It is effectively: “Oh, that’s what you want to do? Then go and spend some time telling us how you would want to do it.”

    You must drop this idealistic but untrue view that this is a communion of people united on what the biblical view of sexuality is and whether or not to follow it. This is not the case, and it is clearly unreasonable to blame the Evangelicals within the Church for liberal directions that are being taken in some quarters. As you know, the evangelicals face opposition from within and, they maintain, they need to think about how to think and act strategically. You mightn’t like the fact that they find themselves having to act politically. But I don’t see you volunteering to get involved and to help.

  • Chris June 8, 2014, 9:44 am

    Perhaps the Anglicans should read Romans 1:24-32 with particular attention to verse 32…

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 11:11 am

    Chris, you might try yourself reading to the punchline of the passage, Romans 2:1. “you therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, because you who pass judgement to the same things”. No I’m not saying you are Gay! Nor was Paul’s saying that of his readers. His point is that we are all guilty of sin and thus should hesitate to judge. You have fallen into the rhetorical trap Paul set for the Judaisers, by first painting a lurid picture of Pagan sin to get the Judaisers cheering so he could catch them in their self righteousness. Yes I am judging you, ironically, but as you might say, let judgement begin with the house of God.

  • Chris June 8, 2014, 11:45 am

    Let judgment begin with the house of God-this is exactly what I am stating and pointing out-the Anglicans have voted in favour of blessing same sex unions, a clear departure from biblical teaching so I’ve called them out on it. Yet it appears here that I’m the one getting singled out for judgement because I dare mention it…ironic indeed Giles…

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 12:29 pm

    “the Anglicans have voted in favour of blessing same sex unions”

    Wait up there Chris – your story changed slightly in this comment. When I pressed you to give correct specifics, you described something a bit different. Scroll back a few comments.

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Maybe I overstepped. It’s my pet peeve about Romans 1 that no one ever reads on to Romans 2. As I have judged Chris so will I be judged and vice versa. I’m glad Chris accepts the C of E is the House of God. At least we agree on that.

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I might say I’m not persuaded the Bible condemns all homosexual acts. But I don’t agree with trying to make the C of E formally approve gay unions (I’d prefer a blind eye) as it would mean an almost complete split between black African and white European Anglicans. The are other churches that embrace full equality if that what gay Christians are looking for.

    Perhaps if you Evangelicals stressed that you could persuade more Liberals. You know how they hate to be thought racist!

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Giles, in general, Evangelicalism embraces “full equality” of all persons before God. They don’t believe that all relationships that exist should be considered marriage – but then nobody believes that. Calling it an issue of equality or “full equality” is seriously misleading and inflammatory, I think.

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Glenn, it was not my intention to inflame. I don’t consider this to be a simple equality issue. Eg I defend a conscience exemption for those who don’t want to assist in gay weddings via making cakes etc. My point was that those who think in these terms and are satisfied with nothing less than full affirmation can go elsewhere. For myself I think the demand for exact equality is neurotic. Eg I can’t see how one could compare a gay union to Christ and the church. I’m on your side in opposing the more extreme demands. And I’m pointing out that there is a clash of “equalities”, in that this issue is racially divisive. You should take allies where you can find them, it’s not as if you (evangelicals) have a solid majority. There’s lots in the middle like me.

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 2:54 pm

    I was talking of secular weddings re exemptions here. The C of E is legally forbidden to perform gay weddings in the UK even though we have secular gay marriage.

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 3:07 pm

    “My point was that those who think in these terms and are satisfied with nothing less than full affirmation can go elsewhere.”

    Fair enough. I just make a conscious effort myself never to speak in terms like: “The[re] are other churches that embrace full equality if that what gay Christians are looking for.” I think conservative churches do affirm equality. Glad to see you do too. 🙂

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 3:32 pm

    My perspective comes from having many African Christian friends who think the West has overthrown the Bible and 2,000 years of tradition to celebrate perversion, and many gay friends who suffer cruelty sometimes justified from the Bible. I’m not talking not be able to marry but not be afforded common human decencies. I don’t at all think all conservatives are guilty. For years I held the conservative view and still loved my gay friends.

  • Glenn June 8, 2014, 3:47 pm

    I almost added a caveat to clarify that of course I am only talking about the marriage issue, and the fact that the conservative view on marriage is not at odds with equality of persons, and of course I don’t mean that evangelicals therefore automatically treat everyone as an equal in all ways because they might be racist etc.

    But I didn’t think I needed to add that.

  • Giles June 8, 2014, 3:56 pm

    Yes, always tempting to cover against misconstrual. I find racism as common amongst Liberals, it just takes a different form. Bishop Spongs comments on why Africans don’t embrace gay rights drip with racist contempt. Glad you are joining C of E anyway. Must sign off. Cheers

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