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Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council responds to GAFCON UK

Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council responds to GAFCON UK

William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, today sent a scathing letter to the Revd Canon Andy Lines, Chairman of the GAFCON UK Task Force, addressing “erroneous assertions” in GAFCON’s recent report on the Church of England with regard to human sexuality:

Dear Andy

I have seen a paper entitled, “The Church of England and Lambeth 1:10”, produced by GAFCON UK and dated 13 November, which is described as a briefing to GAFCON Primates.  It purports to be an account of “the situation in the Church of England regarding attitudes and teaching on sexual ethics.”

The paper paints a significantly misleading picture both of the teaching and practice of the Church of England, and of Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.  I am writing to correct some of the erroneous assertions.

Having established that the Lambeth Conference has no legally binding authority or provision for disciplining provinces of the Anglican Communion, Nye returns to the Church of England.

You describe a number of issues as being “violations” of Lambeth 1:10. For many of these, I would venture to suggest that they are not “violations” – though, as noted above, Lambeth Conference Resolutions do not provide a binding discipline on member provinces of the Communion. For example:

  • clergy in the Church of England are indeed permitted to enter into civil partnerships (which are legally not the same as marriage, and therefore have no bearing on the doctrine of marriage);
  • clergy in the Church of England are permitted to offer prayers of support on a pastoral basis for people in same-sex relationships;
  • churches are able to indicate that they welcome LGBTI people, just as they would welcome all people;
  • clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice.

Nye declines to discuss individual cases publicly, and remarks that discipline is a matter for the Bishops. He signs the letter, “Best wishes, William”.

Find our report on the original Gafcon paper here; William Nye’s full letter of reponse here.


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Lisa Fox

From the beginning, in the 19th century, the Lambeth Conference was intended as a time of fellowship and dialogue, never as a group to speak on doctrine. Chris Webber wrote a fine four part essay on the history of the Lambeth conference starting here:

Tobias Haller

I’m very pleased to see one particular affirmation in the letter: “clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice.” Those with sufficiently long memories will recall that the principal reason for denying the episcopate to Jeffrey John was not the fact of his living in a civil partnership (which was within the bounds set) but the fact that he was advocating for something contrary to the teaching of the church.

Thomas Peters

I’m wondering why this article characterizes Nye’s letter as “scathing,” which implies as degree of harshness and bitterness in tone. I read the letter as as factual, carefully argued, and moderate in tone. It’s a good letter precisely because it’s NOT scathing.

As a long time reader of this website, I don’t want it to fall into the practice of sensationalizing the news. The article is otherwise an excellent summary of the letter. My two cents.

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