Rev Jules Gomes Interview: Welby risks a fatal Anglican split over homosexuality

(Rev Jules Gomes interviews Susie Leafe, Director of Reform, a conservative evangelical pressure group within the Church of England. Susie has been a fierce opponent of the ordination of women and will be one of the strongest conservative voices in this week’s General Synod debate on the Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations)

 

Jules Gomes: The last few weeks has seen a PR disaster for the Church of England. If not a reading from the Koran that denies the divinity of Jesus at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, it is a service of Evening Prayer at Westcott House, Cambridge using gay slang and calling the Holy Spirit “Fantabulosa Fairy.” As director of Reform and committed to biblical orthodoxy, you must be hanging in by your fingernails. How long before your fingernails begin to crack and you let go?

Susie Leafe: I’m not sure we can blame the Church of England for what happens in Glasgow but I know what you mean. The great thing to know is that we are not hanging over an abyss—God has promised to build his Church—only he knows what role the Church of England will play in his future plans.  As Reform, we have followed the experiences of orthodox Anglicans in North America and like them we are very grateful for the support and leadership we receive from other parts of the Anglican Communion GAFCON and the Global South. As always, we pray and work for the best whilst planning for the worst.

 

JG: In its recent report the House of Bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. But in the very same breath the report says that Church law should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for LGBT people. Isn’t this the C of E fudge factory working overtime?

SL: The Report will be discussed at General Synod this week. It describes itself as a compromise and I have not heard anyone endorse it without very serious reservations. Personally, I believe the most worrying element of the Report is the way the bishops have reinterpreted the law of the C of E about where our doctrine can be found. They appear to sideline Scripture and the traditional formularies of the Church, in favour of finding the boundaries of freedom in Canon Law.

 

JG: The law on marriage is being openly flouted by a number of senior members of clergy. One such person is the Revd Andrew Forshew-Cain who married his partner and is on General Synod. How is it even possible that a priest who openly disobeys the law of the Church is elected to a body that is making law for the Church and is not disciplined? Doesn’t this make General Synod a complete farce?

SL: The hierarchies would say that Foreshew-Cain has been disciplined, though he remains in post so is eligible to be a member of General Synod. However, what makes General Synod a farce is the attempt to avoid bringing important matters to the floor of Synod. The bishops have repeatedly used confidential group work or working parties, rather than synodical debate, to determine the direction of travel for the Church.  

JG: As if the civil war over the ordination of women as priests and bishops wasn’t enough we’ve had unending skirmishes over homosexuality that has consumed the energy of the C of E for the last three years. Now it gets worse with a new proposal for the baptism of transgender people! The Church has always insisted that baptism is for life. What will this new policy of baptism mean? Isn’t this the C of E buying lock, stock and barrel into the agenda of cultural Marxism and identity politics?

SL: This motion has been brought to General Synod by Blackburn Diocese—it refers to new liturgy to mark the gender transition. In many ways, I welcome the opportunity for Synod to debate the very important issues behind such a motion.  Are we a Church that really believes that God is the Creator and we are his creatures—or do we believe that somehow we can re-create ourselves? How do we affirm the truth that God created us male and female without imposing the kind of gender stereotypes that make most of us feel uncomfortable? Is it possible that God offers more to those struggling with their gender identity than liturgical affirmation of that struggle ever can?      

 

JG: To many the exchange between conservatives like yourself and liberals looks like a game of never-ending ping-pong as statement followed by counter-statement is batted across the net and slammed on the table. Where will it all end? Can there ever be a resolution to completely contradictory positions on the issue of homosexual practice within the Church of England?

SL: In short, the answer is no—not without a clear decision one way or the other—but sadly the House of Bishops are too divided amongst themselves to offer that kind of clear leadership. The real problem is that at the heart of the debate are very different views of God’s character, the extent to which God has revealed himself in the Scriptures, the nature of human flourishing and ultimately our need and the means of our salvation.  Personally, I think it is a pastoral disaster that instead of having honest debate about these matters, the argument has been personalised in issues of sexuality, but I guess that is how identity politics works.

 

JG: Some would say that leaders like you and movements like Reform are failing to recognise that the C of E is an ecclesiastical Titanic that has hit the iceberg and all you are doing is staying on board and rearranging the deckchairs. What would it take for you to leave? Why not spend all this time you are investing in the C of E into the real gospel task of evangelism and discipleship?

SL: Great question—and one that I get asked frequently. What most people don’t realise is that week in, week out, evangelical churches are going about the business of evangelism and discipleship—individuals are coming to faith and people are growing in their knowledge and love of God in Church of England churches all over the country. If organisations like Reform allow that work to keep happening for just a week, or month, longer, then that may be a great thing.    

 

JG: Has Archbishop Justin Welby completely lost the plot? Or is he on your side seeking to strive for biblical truth in the church? Why do you think he is calling for another Primates Meeting while refusing to impose the very sanctions he agreed to in the first place on The Episcopal Church of America?

SL: Archbishop Justin has a strong commitment to reconciliation and Church unity. When he was chosen as Archbishop of Canterbury he knew his brief was to keep the Anglican Communion together. Is he sincere in his efforts? I think so. Is he doing that in a way that I, and many others, think is helpful? Not at all. The way he has continued to spin the decisions of the Anglican Communion Primates to suggest that they all agreed to ‘walk together’ is wrong.  The only part of their Communique that was written and agreed by all the primates were the Addenda—‘It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However…’ and they went on to describe the consequences TEC (Episcopal Church, USA) should face for their fundamental departure from the faith. And as you say, these “consequences” have not been fulfilled in any meaningful way.

There are people from all sides of this debate, who for very different reasons think the content of the House of Bishops’ Report to be discussed at Synod deplorable. The lack of a proper debate this week seems designed to minimise the scope for episcopal embarrassment rather than advance the cause of the gospel. Without a clear commitment from the Bishops that they will not do anything that is perceived to undermine the teaching of the Bible, as set out in the 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10, it is perfectly possible that conservative members of General Synod will wish to vote against the ‘take note’ debate in order to register their very deep concern that the report is designed to lead the C of E into an unacceptable compromise.

Rev Jules Gomes

  • Charitas Lydia

    I am appalled by this interview by Susie Leafe. Considering all the compromises made by the evangelical organisations like ACNA, GAFCON, and REFORM over the last few years, I have begun to believe that all these well-meaning organisations are too naive to believe that this apostate church called the C of E is going to be used by God or there is a hidden agenda on the part of these organisations to seek security, power and important through this UNHOLY ALLIANCE with the C of E. There is something called purity of doctrine. If these evangelical organisations seek this purity of doctrine and not their own vested interests, they will obey God’s words in the book of Revelation 18:4 “Come our of her my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.”

    • Busy Mum

      Yes – the CofE is probably more than ready to be spewed out……

      • Charitas Lydia

        I think these evagelical organisations should let the apostate Church of England die its own death rather than trying to keep it alive by supporting it with a threadbare support. It is not going to work, it might pass its filth onto these organisations very subtly and contaminate them. They should let the dead (CofE )bury their own dead and get on with building the kingdom of God.

        Actually these evangelical organisations are dis-serving God and all those faithful Christians who have placed their hope on their leadership. It is self-delusion and deception of many… to believe that the CofE will practise to some orthodox set of beliefs.

        • mudlark2

          As a practising Anglican, I don’t have any real regard for the different organisations battling it out within the church. I’m just a very ordinary member of the laity and I feel the spiritual needs of congregations are being totally forgotten in this obsession with sexuality. Most of these would be clerics should have gone into politics and are using the church for their own ends. While I respect the resolve of evangelicals, I don’t really warm to their opposition to the ordination of women or their desire to jettison the traditional liturgy in favour of the ‘Good News Bible’ and singing along to CD’s.
          For all its committees, synods and the like, the CofE is a pretty undemocratic institution as far as those who actually give up their time and money to it are concerned – much like the House of Commons.

      • Bruce Atkinson

        I believe that the lampstand of authority (see Revelation 1-3) has been removed by God from Canterbury and thus the C of E. She will wilt … and die, “not with a bang but with a whimper.”

  • Bik Byro

    In an article on the church and homosexuality, Jules Gomes asks about “the C of E fudge factory working overtime”

  • Vox Populi

    Jesus said, ‘Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”. Susie says, “Yes, BUT.” To these wonderfully crafted, pointed and direct questions, the Director of Reform is wonderfully blunt, indirect and diplomatic. If this is a person described as ‘one of the strongest conservative voices in this week’s General Synod debate,’ God help the weaker conservative voices and the rest of us laypeople scuttling to get off the Titanic in desperate need of a lifeboat.

    • James Chilton

      Susie Leafe is on both sides of the fence at the same time.

      • Bruce Atkinson

        Yes. Very much a Welby-like thing to do.

  • PierrePendre

    I don’t keep up with CoE politics as much as I should, fascinating as they are, so I missed the new dilemma about baptising transgendered people. Surely the baptism is of the person whose life is a gift from God whether male or female and regardles of the baptismal name.

    If a transgendered person was baptised as an infant, why should he or she need to be baptised again after changing sex? An unbaptised transgendered person would seem to me to have the same right to seek baptism as anyone else who was never baptised.

    Someone who seeks to be rebaptised after a sex and name change would appear to misunderstand the nature and purpose of baptism. It’s an unnecessary self-indugence like that of couples who want to renew their marriage vows. The vows gain nothing through being duplicated.

  • I say this as someone who is becoming a Jew– the Church of England actually a Church anymore, or is it becoming a political party? I think it is perfectly acceptable to have debates about contemporary issues of the day, which has occurred within the Church ever since its inception. Of course, there will be disagreements and rebel factions and so on. Of course, there are those who will wish to change that which is considered orthodox, as there have been throughout Church history. But some of the actions being taken here seem incredibly inappropriate. Reading Qur’anic passages that are in diametric opposition to the Christian faith is ludicrous. Calling the Holy Spirit the “Fantabulosa Fairy” surely beggars belief. Sticking to the heart of the faith is what has informed my decision to become an Orthodox Jew, as opposed to Reform.

  • Rob

    All this gay stuff is a totally irrelevant sideshow at best. What will most certainly destroy the CoE is having an Archbishop that is happy to label Brexit and Trump supporters fascists:
    http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/02/15/archbishop-canterbury-thinks-were-all-fascists-cheers/

  • Groan

    Well apparently the Bishops got “embarrassed ” seems fudge isn’t popular on the menu

  • Cassandra

    The idea of same sex marriage is a travesty. It latches on to the fast depleting status of marriage – fast depleting thanks to left liberal egalitarianism- whilst at the same time further undermining it.

    Marriage is fundamentally about the getting and raising of children. This is the sole function of human beings as animals.

    Society exists solely to support this key function. Anything which does support it is to be encouraged. Anything which does not support it is to be discouraged.

    As same sex so-called marriage can never produce children, it can never carry the moral weight of true marriage, even though it is true that marriage between men and women sometimes cannot produce children.

    It therefore weakens the social status of true marriage and so society’s sole function of furthering the getting and raising of children. It should not therefore be countenanced.

  • Redefining marriage because the civil law had changed would obviously be ridiculous and repugnant if you were a Catholic or, for example, a Baptist. But it was what the Church of England was set up for. The problem is with the fundamental nature and character of the Church of England itself.

  • Bruce Atkinson

    Conservative? Perhaps moderate. There was a fudge factor and preference for further debate (otherwise known as ‘indaba’) shown by her answers. Yes, it was subtle. But with a little discernment, we should say it was clearly present. I was very much dissatisfied with her answers.

    • Charitas Lydia

      This is a very good illustration of the frog in the kettle. Like her evangelical brothers and sisters who continue to remain in an apostate church that will not repent and return to the Bible, Susie is slowly being boiled in the C of E kettle. This interview very well demonstrates why Reform, AMiE and GAFCON (at least in the UK) are all talk and no action.

  • Rosalind Taisia

    “Susie, Susie, give me your answer do!” I am so disappointed that instead of finding a lifeboat and rowing away as fast as you can from the sinking C of E (so aptly described by the interviewer as the Titanic) you and Reform are still sitting in a holy huddle and hoping for a miracle. The Bible is very clear on what Christians should do in such cases: LEAVE! Our Lord himself says that he will snuff out the candles of churches that are disobedient to his Word.

    Your argument that the longer you remain in the C of E the more people you can save is spurious. What about the Free Evangelical Churches? The biggest churches in Britain are independent charismatic and evangelical churches—many of them black and Asian. They don’t need the security and support of a corrupt structure to flourish? If you put your trust in God and leave he will bless you. All you need is a bit of courage and a real backbone!

    • Bruce Atkinson

      You tell ’em, Rosie! And keep telling them.