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Monday
Sep252017

UK & Australia: Scottish decision spurs GAFCON to action and roils Australia

Bishop Andy Lines (Photo: GAFCON)

By Sharon Dewey Hetke

ON JUNE 8th, the synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to approve same-sex marriages. The first church in the UK to do so, Scotland joins The Episcopal Church in making this doctrinal change that has caused significant division in the 80-million member worldwide Communion. The Scottish Church’s definition of marriage will be made gender-neutral and a clause introduced providing for same-sex marriage. The motion also includes a conscience clause stating that no clergy will be required to officiate in such unions.

In a statement issued following the vote, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, said that “The churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and free to make their own decisions on canon law.” He went on to add, however, that the Scottish decision “is a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage” and reaffirmed that the Communion’s “position on human sexuality is set out very clearly in Resolution 1.10 agreed at the Lambeth conference of 1998 and will remain so unless it is revoked.”

GAFCON also reacted swiftly to the news from Scotland by announcing that it would be appointing a “Missionary Bishop for the UK and Europe.” At a news conference, The Rt. Rev. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (a GAFCON-affiliated province), explained: “Today’s decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the biblical and historic definition of marriage has highlighted the need to respond to the cries and pleas of those Scots who today have been marginalized by their leaders. The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support….Our Province was formed at the direction of GAFCON 2008 after many of the Provinces of GAFCON had provided the same kind of oversight for clergy and congregations in North America. They have asked us to consecrate Canon Andy Lines.”

In a pastoral letter that criticized GAFCON’s decision, but declined to chastise the Scottish Church for contravening Lambeth 1.10, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote: “The idea of a ‘missionary bishop’ who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England. Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church’s existence.”

Nevertheless, Lines, a British cleric, was received into ACNA’s Diocese of the South on June 5th, just in advance of the Scottish vote, and was consecrated bishop on June 30th in Wheaton, Illinois. According to ACNA, their own College of Bishops “was joined by 27 Primates, Archbishops and Bishops from around the Anglican Communion” for the consecration.

In his address to the Provincial Assembly, Beach said, “After the American revolution, the new Anglican Church here – then called the Protestant Episcopal Church – could not get the establishment in England to provide a bishop. It was the Scots who came to the rescue and consecrated Samuel Seabury in 1784 as the first American Bishop. It is a privilege to now return the favour to those in Scotland who are crying out for oversight.”

Several Australian bishops present at Lines’ consecration were acting against the advice of their Primate, the Most Rev. Dr. Philip L. Freier (Abp. of Melbourne & Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia). The actions of the Most Rev. Glenn Davies (Sydney), the Rt. Rev. Dr. Richard Condie (Tasmania) and the Rt. Rev. Gary Nelson (Northwest Australia) prompted four of their fellow bishops to write to Freier asking for a legal opinion on their participation. Freier has agreed to submit  the matter to an appellate tribunal.

In a further development, the Anglican Church of Australia’s synod also passed a motion expressing its “regret” at the Scottish decision, declaring its support for Scottish Anglicans who oppose the doctrinal revision and making clear that its relationship with the Scottish Church is now impaired.

The Anglican Church of Canada will consider a similar move to the Scottish one with its second reading of Resolution A-051-R2 at General Synod in July 2019 in Vancouver, BC. GAFCON already has a strong Canadian presence through ANiC, which is in turn a diocese of ACNA.   TAP

Footage of the consecration and an interview with Bp. Lines can be found on the ACNA YouTube channel.

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