Letter to the Church Times, November 2016
Bishop Nicholas had the following letter published in the Church Times of 18 November 2016, in response to the GAFCON statement of 13 November.
From the Bishop of Salisbury
Sir, — The GAFCON Statement of 13 November about Lambeth I.10 is outrageous.
First, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” When Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.
Second, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”
Third, “Love your enemies.” GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.
Fifth*, “Do as you would be done by.” Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. “The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”
For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.
As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people. Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.
+ NICHOLAS SARUM
* Note – this is an error introduced by the Church Times in-house drafting process.