Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jones might be wrong! Critics of Fulcrum might be eating their hats!!

Here's the thing. Supporters and proponents of Fulcrum, the evangelical Anglican website-cum-think tank, are often (in my reading) charged by conservatives as being 'open evangelicals', which in the codified world of evangelicalism means 'actually, liberal'. So one would be forgiven for predicting that Bishop James Jones' presidential address announcing a brave new world of ethical diversity in the Diocese of Liverpool would be cheerfully embraced by Fulcrum.

But no.

"The Presidential Address of the Bishop of Liverpool is a significant development in the evangelical and wider Anglican debates about sexuality. It draws attention to key questions and is driven by a passionate concern for unity and more Christ-like patterns of discussion. It is, however, seriously flawed in its response to these concerns, unconvincing in its arguments and offers a way forward that in reality threatens to create greater incoherence and division.

This response sketches Bishop James Jones’ journey over the last decade before demonstrating the flaws in his central argument that Anglicans should “accept a diversity of ethical convictions about human sexuality”. Both in what it says and in what it fails to say the address apparently marks a significant step away from the traditional biblical, evangelical and catholic understanding of sexuality and the church’s teaching and discipline in this area. The heart of his case is an appeal to differences between Christians over just war and pacifism. This argument is shown to be inadequate in various ways but most basically because an appeal to diversity on one ethical issue cannot justify diversity on a quite different ethical issue.
Given its focus and central argument, it is particularly alarming that the address offers no engagement with Scripture or Christian tradition or Anglican teaching either in relation to sexuality or in its attempt to argue that ethical diversity in this area is legitimate. Although many of the practical implications of his argument for diversity remain rather vague it is clear that he is seeking to move the Church of England and the Communion away from its current position. In so doing he also makes a number of claims in passing that raise deeper theological questions about the nature of sin and grace and the relation of church and society.

In summary, the general position advocated is one which would move the Church of England away not only from its current teaching but also from its methodology of careful, rigorous engagement with the complexities of this subject rooted in Scripture, tradition and wider ecumenical reflections. What is being advocated instead is the sort of approach taken by the North American provinces which has moved from the seemingly uncritical (and theologically undefended) acceptance of a diversity of views on sexuality within a small part of Christ’s church to the inevitable abandonment of traditional teaching and discipline within the Anglican province and then to the marginalisation and exclusion of those who seek to uphold the biblical and traditional Christian sexual ethic. It is, sadly, for that reason, that the address is of such significance and concern and merits careful analysis, critique and engagement from the wider church, including others in episcopal leadership."

That's the summary of an erudite article by Andrew Goddard. Read it all here.


  1. Critics of the Fulcrum website (who have included Tim Harris) have focused not so much on the content of the official essays etc posted there - which have always advocated WO but not (to my knowledge) revisionism on homosexuality - but on the majority of the relatively small number of posters on threads, most of whom do support revisionism on this question.

  2. I am encouraged by this posting at Fulcrum, although not surprised it came from Andrew Goddard who is one of the few voices in that direction I retain respect for. And Andrew delivers a characteristically well considered and incisive critique here.

    My wider disillusionment with Fulcrum remains, with their sniping at Anglican Mainstream and disparagement of Gafcon/FCA both at heading my list of criticisms (not necessarily that they take issue, but the way they often do so).