27 September 2015 A.D. CoE General Synod: Beware of Some Evangelical Anglican Voters
Symes, Andrew. “Warning to Synod voters: some `evangelicals’ are not as they seem.” Anglican Mainstream. 25 Sept 2015. http://anglicanmainstream.org/warning-to-synod-voters-some-evangelicals-are-not-as-they-seem/. Accessed 27 Sept 2015.
Warning to Synod voters: some ‘evangelicals’ are not as they seem
By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.
A letter from the Southwark Diocesan Evangelical Union to its members says this:
The General Synod election addresses and ballot papers are now out.
The SDEU committee urges all members of the mailing list to use their vote and help shape the composition of the next General Synod.
Whilst the Committee does not formally endorse candidates, it might be helpful for members of the mailing list to note that the following candidates are either associated with the SDEU or worship in parishes associated with the SDEU.
A list then follows of clergy or laity who identify as ‘evangelical’ and hope thereby to gather votes from fellow ‘evangelicals’, a term commonly associated with concern about issues such as the authority of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ and the inviolability of historic Christian teaching on sex and marriage.
But of course many who call themselves evangelicals cannot nowadays be assumed to share the same doctrinal and ethical foundations. So Rev James Paice asked for clarification in an email to the group:
“Given that services to mark same sex relationships will be before General Synod this time, – a key issue for our church and our Anglican Communion – it would be helpful for all of us I think, if the candidates could ‘reply all’ as to whether they are in agreement with The Southwark Declaration’ which was devised by the DEU committee.
Rev Simon Butler gave this reply:
As matter of principle I do not sign up to declarations or any Basis of Faith, save for the things I have affirmed at ordination and at my induction. It is on this basis that I do not swear oaths in any context as a matter of conscience.
I am on record as having spoken out against the ‘Southwark Declaration’ as being divisive among evangelicals, and something I believe is more concerned with political manoeuvres than loyalty to biblical faith. I am unwilling to put my name to anything that could be used as a campaigning tool against the Bishop of Southwark to whom I have made meaningful promises of loyalty…I hold unapologetically to the teaching of the Church of England on marriage and human sexuality as expressed in Scripture and our formularies.
Finally, James is quite wrong about there being services for same sex relationships coming to Synod. That is to prejudge the ongoing Shared Conversations about which there are no clear or preset outcomes. Having been a member of the Business Committee of General Synod for five years, Evangelicals can be assured that there are, and never have been, such liturgies mooted or planned. I agree with Bishop Christopher’s view that there in unlikely to be any successful introduction of same sex marriage liturgies in his or my lifetime.
Rev Paice’s reply, also circulated to Southwark evangelicals, points out that Rev Butler, as well as standing as an ‘evangelical’ candidate, is also standing as an ‘Inclusive’, part of a coalition which includes WATCH, Changing Attitude, Modern Church and Affirming Catholicism (full list of candidates can be found here).
These organisations are well known to be campaigning for complete change in the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage and its official position on sexual ethics. For Rev Butler to say he holds to traditional church teaching as an evangelical while being a member of Inclusive Church is, according to Paice, “deception of the highest order”.
In a subsequent email, Rev Butler said that his name had been included on the “Inclusive Church” list of Synod candidates without his permission. But his views expressed elsewhere, for example in his Synod electoral address, contradict his claims to orthodoxy in the area of sex and marriage:
I am one of the very few clergy in General Synod prepared to be open about being gay. I’m also an orthodox Open Evangelical. I want to see the church move to a “permanent, faithful, stable” policy. But I also believe in the hope of the Shared Conversations: that we can find ways of living together despite our division. Those who hold to more ‘traditional’ views than me should be able to continue to hold them in a church which agrees to disagree….Yet any settlement cannot be on the basis of the institutional hypocrisy of an indefensible, discredited House of Bishops’ policy, disliked by all. I stand for a change of policy…
Rev Butler claims to be an evangelical, but advocates the sexual ethics of a revisionist. He can state his unswerving loyalty to his Church superiors on one hand, and then attack their policy on sex and marriage with strong language on the other. He assures evangelicals that change to marriage liturgies will not be contemplated by General Synod, while at the same time openly campaigning for a radical change in the Church’s teaching and practice.
As no doubt there will be examples in other Dioceses of candidates for General Synod identifying as ‘evangelicals’ having similar views to Rev. Butler, there is an urgent need for electors to find out the precise views of those they are intending to vote for. Not being prepared to sign a clear statement of doctrine is a good indication of evasiveness; being identified with mutually incompatible organisations, and overt support for revisionism more so. No-one is calling for a “witchhunt”, or a list of candidates with boringly uniform views, but at such an important time we do need honesty, transparency and truthfulness.