Should supporters of Changing Attitude who are working for a church free from prejudice against LGBT people be worried by the UK launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) on 6 July in Westminster Central Hall, London?
Anglican Mainstream has announced a series of events in and around London on the previous day, 5th July. They kick off in the morning at 9.30 at St Peter’s Bushey Heath where Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, the soon-to-retire Bishop of Rochester is the star attraction. At 18.00 at St Mark’s Battersea Rise Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney is journeying across the world, global warming notwithstanding, to lend his support.
Thirty minutes later at St Mary’s Lewisham, Bishop Keith Ackerman who retired as Bishop of Quincy (USA) on 1st November 2008 and is President of Forward in Faith North America, will be featured. At the same time Canon Vinay Samuel (India), speaks at All Saints Woodford Wells and Bishop Colin Bazley, former Primate of the Southern Cone and Bishop of Chile who retired in 2000 and is now an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Chester speaks at St Peter’s Harold Wood.
Events are also to be held at St Michael’s Chester Square, Christ Church Virginia Water and St Nicholas Sevenoaks. I can imagine FCA is hoping for some Africans bishops to arrive and lend their support.
The carefully choreographed launch is designed to give the impression that a well co-ordinated and widely supported new movement is taking root in the UK. It will rescue the Anglican churches by restoring biblical orthodoxy.
Yes, we should be worried by this because biblical orthodoxy in FCA terms means prejudice against LGBT people, discrimination, barely veiled homophobia and acute ignorance about LGBT Christians. We should be worried by Michael Nazir-Ali’s involvement, because he is one of a number of bishops ready to support FCA as a movement designed to impose reactionary conservatism on the UK churches.
On the other hand, only one Primate will be here in support, a Primate who lives on the extreme edge of the Anglican Communion, and three bishops - who have or are about to retire. The majority of people in the UK perceive the church as having lost its way in support of a prejudice which the majority have long since overcome.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is, says the publicity, an orthodox Anglican movement for mission at global and local level. The Fellowship, it says, is the outworking of last year’s GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, at which the 1200 delegates represented some 40 million Anglicans world-wide, 70% of the total active membership of 55 million. Many of the 1200 present did not approve of the GAFCON ethos and were certainly not representing anyone, let alone 40 million Anglicans.
The care with which the launch is being presented as authoritative is superficial, however. Scratch the surface and opinions as infantile and prejudiced as those posted to Stand Firm and VOL in the USA are revealed. Lisa Nolland in a related article on Anglican Mainstream refers to the “downtrodden group” of American secessionist parishes which “represent oppressed orthodox Anglicanism” as being “personally being sued by Katie and co … because they refuse to accept the LGBT agenda in the church.” David Virtue always refers to the Presiding Bishop as Mrs Jefferts Schori. Lisa Nolland shows a similar lack of respect.
The abuse which conservatives show towards LGBT people is echoed in their attitude towards pro-gay church leaders and bishops. It is their prejudice that we need to worry about – their failure to respect difference and truly embody Christian virtues.