(A Fulcrum Press Release) The recent publication of pieces by two members of the Fulcrum Leadership Team – Andrew Goddard’s ‘Should we all join the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans?’ and Graham Kings’ ‘Glacial Gravity or opportunist autonomy?’- has led Charles Raven of the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Doctrine (SPREAD) to write ‘On being moderately faithful: Why Fulcrum is wrong about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’. This has been circulated by and posted on Anglican Mainstream (and other GAFCON supporting sites) and thus appears to have at least the implicit support of the FCA leadership.
As a Leadership Team we regret that our attempts to raise genuine questions and engage in dialogue with FCA have produced a response so antagonistic and ill-informed about Fulcrum. A fuller more detailed response will address specific issues but we wish to highlight and respond to the following elements of Raven’s article which sadly confirm our concerns, demonstrate the validity of our questions, and suggest that elements in FCA are determined to attack Fulcrum and distance themselves from the majority of evangelicals in the Church of England.
Charles Raven believes that Fulcrum are “in denial about the Church of England” and that our core problem is “attachment to the status quo”. By this he appears to mean that we do not share his view that the Church of England needs FCA in order for it to become a “safe place for the gospel of Christ”. Contrary to his claims, Fulcrum does not hold that “matters of faith and matters of church order do not come into serious conflict” in any situation nor do we think that bishops “exercise an authority which is independent of the authority of the Scriptures and the Church’s own historic teaching”. However, while we do not think ‘all is well’ in the Church of England we do not believe that as a church we are currently facing these issues in an unprecedented way and have “come to a fork in the road as historic as the sixteenth century reformation” which requires new structures. Rather, we believe change will come by faithful and gracious witness to the truth and focussing on the reforming power of Scripture, taking very seriously the biblical injunctions to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3) and “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (Heb 13:17).
Fulcrum is not for the status quo but for transformation and “renewing the evangelical centre”. This centre is not politically defined nor a moving point “being continually pushed in a revisionist direction”. This centre is the evangelical heart of Anglicanism and the heart of evangelical Anglicanism.
Our aim as Fulcrum is two-fold. We look for evangelicals to move away from the margins and evangelical ghettos and to work within and be central to the Church of England as a whole. We believe that this will renew its doctrinal and missional centre which is essentially evangelical. We also look for the renewal of the centre of evangelical Anglicanism as expressed in the CEEC basis of faith. Raven’s vision of what is necessary for “spiritual integrity” unfortunately suggests that FCA is committed to quite the opposite trajectory: a distancing from the Church of England and a narrowing and marginalising vision of evangelicalism.
The article also claims that Fulcrum is “in a degree of denial about itself” but his picture here is seriously flawed. Fulcrum has never supported the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal views on sexuality which were questioned at the time of his appointment and its own position is clearly stated as “the proper context for sexual expression is the union of a man and a woman in marriage”. Raven’s astonishing rejection of the claim that Fulcrum is “committed to orthodox faith and morals” is not based on any statements or actions by members of the Fulcrum Leadership Team but on guilt by association and insinuation of dishonesty in relation to Don’t Throw Stones, an Anglican network opposed to homophobia.
We remain concerned that in fact “a degree of denial about itself” appears to lie at the heart of FCA and in particular in its central but uneasy coalition of Anglo-Catholic and evangelical opponents of women’s ordination. Geoffrey Kirk of Forward in Faith, whose church hosts one of the pre-FCA services, has written of how the decision of some “to make an ecclesiological crisis out of an ethical issue…is neither entirely rational nor even entirely honest” and described Anglican Mainstream as “a group which seems to have no tactical ability, strategical sense or basic ecclesiology” and whose “making opposition to homosexual practice the cynosure of orthodoxy” has led to the accusation that “evangelical traditionalists are motivated more by homophobia than faithfulness to the Bible…alas…an accusation which the incoherent behaviour of Anglican Mainstream and similar groups, makes it very difficult to refute”. David Phillips of Church Society is clear and honest that Anglo-Catholic liturgical practice (and presumably also theology) is “a serious problem to be addressed sooner or later by GAFCON” and both he and SPREAD surely believe that in relation to the sacraments, Mary, purgatory, prayers for the dead and other matters some of the Anglo-Catholic bishops supporting FCA “accommodate themselves to heretical teaching…and therefore abandon their sees” (in the words of Reform’s resolution cited by Raven). This may explain why the Bishop of Ebbsfleet is “not confident that FOCA or GAFCON can deliver anything with enough ecclesiological rigour to satisfy the basic needs of Anglo-Catholics”.
While we are delighted if such differences are genuinely able to be overcome and treated as secondary within FCA we wonder why, given this agreement across such great divides, fellow-evangelicals in Fulcrum are so unwelcome and maligned and Bishop Wallace Benn has recently explicitly aligned FCA only with conservative evangelicals alongside Anglo-Catholics and charismatics?
Raven believes that “Fulcrum is wrong about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans” but both the substance and tone of his article unfortunately suggest that we are right to raise the concerns expressed in our questions and critique and he does nothing to answer them satisfactorily. More seriously, he accuses Fulcrum of “being moderately faithful”, presumably with an intended ambiguity. If we are viewed as faithful but in a more moderate, less aggressive, confrontational and polemical manner to many in FCA then we plead guilty. We believe this is itself a more faithful form of faithfulness and are encouraged that there is hope for dialogue and building relationships with others who recognise our way as a way of faithfulness. Sadly, the article’s message appears to be that Raven and perhaps others in FCA view us as only “moderately” and not “sufficiently” or “fully” faithful. In other words, Fulcrum is not truly faithful but ultimately faithless and so “if there is no repentance or reform” then, as with the “deeply compromised Church”, FCA believes that “structural separation” from us may have to follow. To this charge we plead not guilty. We hope and pray that this is not FCA’s stance and that a more constructive response to our concerns may therefore develop from Monday’s launch of the Fellowship.
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