An excellent piece in yesterday’s Times:
A highly-regarded adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has quit the inner counsels of the Church of England in protest against an “agenda of revisionism” that she says is promoting “an ongoing and rapid erosion of faithfulness”.
Lorna Ashworth resigned from the Archbishops’ Council and General Synod, saying: “We have a liberal agenda because the church is not anchored in the Gospel. There is no more conversation about Heaven, Hell, sin, forgiveness, judgment.”
Her resignation illustrates the fissure in the church between liberals and traditionalists which is now threatening outright schism. The immediate flashpoints are gender and gay issues. Last July, the synod voted to ban sexual conversion therapy and to consider special services for transsexual people. A motion to permit the blessing of same-sex marriages has been submitted for next February’s synod but has yet to be adopted for debate.
This week, the church told its schools that pupils should be able to explore their gender identity and should be “afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence”. This muddled document seems to equate boys dressing up in a tutu and girls in a tool belt with psychological confusion over sexual identity, which is rare. Yet as is happening elsewhere, the church’s guidance risks confirming children in this confusion along ideological “gender” lines, while it denies it can be a disorder at all.
Ashworth’s protest, however, is a far deeper one about the church’s general embrace of secularism. The true message of Christianity, she says, risks being drowned out by people who prefer to discuss social justice because “if we talk about sin, then we have to talk about bad behaviour and people don’t want to be judgmental”.
As a result, the church wants to replace sin, judgment and repentance by “good disagreement”. Thus it would give good and bad equal status. In other words, it would vitiate its role as moral arbiter altogether.
The reason is that the church wants to be inclusive and prevent bullying. It is certainly important for religious bodies, like everyone else, to be sensitive to the needs of those who don’t fit in. Being inclusive, however, does not mean giving powerful interest groups the right to remake society in their own image. Which is precisely what’s happening.
The church hierarchy fails to grasp that secularism is a direct attack on the bedrock principles of Christianity. Secularism would ditch Biblical precepts in favour of radical autonomy, replacing normative morality and even physiological reality by subjective emotion and remaking the world in the image of “me”.
Ashworth belongs to a group of dissident conservative evangelicals, including the Queen’s former chaplain, Dr Gavin Ashenden. He and other members of this group wrote in a letter to the press last July: “There are now effectively two opposed expressions of Anglicanism in this country. One has capitulated to secular values, and one continues to hold the faith ‘once delivered to the saints’.”
On his blog, Ashenden writes strikingly that the church’s behaviour is rooted in the thinking of Carl Jung, who developed a psychology of spirituality at the heart of which lies the reconciliation of opposites.
Jung believed, writes Ashenden, that two concepts should be dealt with in this way: gender and evil. “The genders are reconciled in some kind of androgynous synthesis, and good and evil befriend each other in some form of mutually convenient accommodation.”
This is exactly what the church is now doing. Just like the gender fluidity it is so eager to embrace, it is promoting the notion that secularism and Christianity can flow in and out of each other.
The secular goal, however, is not tolerance and inclusivity at all. It is to overthrow the Christian basis of the West. It is an exercise in the doctrinaire use of power. As such, the agenda the church is embracing is resulting in the bullying and intimidation of all who transgress the doctrine of gender and sexual fluidity.
Joshua Sutcliffe, a Christian maths teacher in Oxfordshire, faces a disciplinary hearing this week on charges of “misgendering”. His crime? To tell two pupils who were working hard: “Well done, girls.”
One of the girls, however, identifies as a boy. Following a complaint by the pupil’s mother, Sutcliffe was suspended. Reportedly, he also faces claims that he breached the school’s equality policy by referring to the pupil by name rather than as “he” or “him”.
This kind of bullying is said to be occurring within the church itself; the dissident clerics have written of the “booing of traditionalists” and the “personal abuse” they suffered at the synod.
As Ashenden observes, those pushing these reforms on the church threaten to change Christianity out of all recognition. “It’s hard to know what to call it,” he writes. “Some have suggested using the label MTD: ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’.”
The outcome of the church evacuating itself of meaning in this “inclusive” way is not a growing flock but empty pews.
Many think the church is an irrelevance. It is not. It is indissolubly connected with Britain’s national identity and the health of its culture. The church is, however, suffering from a kind of spiritual auto-immune disease, attacking its own protective organisms while embracing those that will destroy it. As with the church, moreover, so with the society at whose very core it lies.
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