The following is an interview with an author in a newly published book, The Line in the Sand. This book is a joint initiative of the Australian Church Record and the Anglican Church League.
The book is available for download here: https://www.australianchurchrecord.net/lits
The audio of the interview is available on the ACL website: http://www.acl.asn.au/lits-glenn-davies
Welcome to the Anglican Church League Podcast. I’m Lionel Windsor, the ACL’s Communications Secretary. I’m conducting a series of author interviews that will be of special interest to members of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
In this episode I’m joined by the Right Reverend Doctor Glenn Davies, retired Archbishop of Sydney and Emeritus Faculty member at Moore Theological College
Glenn is an author in a recently published book The Line in the Sand. The book is addressed to General Synod members, and speaks about a turning point in the history of the Anglican Church of Australia. In November 2020, the Appellate Tribunal released a Majority Opinion that gave legal validation to a liturgy which can be used to bless a same-sex marriage for the first time in the Church’s history. This is a deeply concerning move, because it effects a fundamental change in the nature of the Church’s doctrine relating to issues of salvation, and so it threatens the Church’s unity.
The book, The Line in the Sand, is designed to help General Synod members to see the issues clearly and address them decisively in their upcoming session in May 2022.
Glenn’s chapter in the book is titled ‘The Appellate Tribunal Opinion and Worldwide Anglicanism’.
Glenn, thanks for joining us
Glenn: Thanks Lionel
L: What’s your particular interest in these issues?
G: Well I suppose in my time as being a bishop of North Sydney and then Archbishop of Sydney, for 20 years I’ve been in bishops’ orders, and had relationships not only with New South Wales in the Anglican Church in Australia but the worldwide communion too, particularly through my role with Gafcon but other avenues that I’ve had, so I’ve watched the slippage, if you like, of Anglicans holding to the Scriptures around the world, particularly North America, but not just in North America, unfortunately. So my interest in this area has been for many years and it continues to be so because I think it’s getting worse and worse around the world.
L: So this is not a ‘slippery slope’ argument; this is an actual, observable slippage.
G: Absolutely, yes, I have seen it happen; I have actually predicted it would happen and it has happened. Sadly, it is no joy that my predictions came true but it is nonetheless a very sad situation.
L: Can you outline then the argument of your chapter in the book?
G: Yes – basically, if you need to understand what the Anglican Communion is all about, it’s a federation if you like of autonomous provinces around the world – there are about 40 of them now – and since the very beginning and in the 1860s and then reiterated in the 1920s and again later last century, is the sense in which we’re bound together by Scripture, by the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and by the Thirty-Nine Articles. Those are our formularies, the Scripture of course being supreme and the BCP being a liturgical expression of what Scripture says, and the Thirty-Nine Articles a doctrinal expression.
So when churches move away from that, so North America – for years now they’ve said, ‘Oh the Thirty-Nine Articles is nothing more than an historical document that has no particular relevance to us, other than it’s in the archives so you can always look it up to see what it used to say but it doesn’t relate to us today’. So whereas in Australia, every clergyperson who’s ordained subscribes to the Scriptures and the authorised forms of worship and the Thirty-Nine Articles and that is true across the country. But unfortunately it would appear that people had their fingers crossed when they made those declarations.
L: And people might like to know that the Thirty-Nine Articles are right there on the Anglican Church League’s website.
G: They are, and they’re at the back of every prayer book which is printed too! But easily accessible and that’s a good place to find them.
L: So this is what has been the case in the past; this is the history of the Church but so often the Church has moved away from those doctrinal –
G: Indeed. It came to a crunch at the Lambeth Conference of 1998 and a resolution, a famous resolution now, called I.10 was passed, which identified that homosexual practice was against the teaching of Scripture, and they could not advise in any way in favour of same-sex blessings. But within a short period of time, 5 years I think it was, in Canada, a diocese started authorising same-sex blessings. A year later the North American Church, the TEC, ‘The Episcopal Church’ they now call themselves, did the same. And they said, ‘No, no, we’re not going to change our doctrine of marriage’ but of course within ten years they’d done exactly that. And so now the rites are not just blessing of same-sex marriages but solemnising same-sex marriages, going completely contrary to our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19. And I think that’s the critical element, that they said they weren’t going to do it but of course they were always going to do it. They were duplicitous, I’m sorry to say.
And so that has infected the global communion in many ways, so you can now look at Brazil, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, where blessing of same-sex marriages has been authorised and in some of those jurisdictions, solemnisation of same-sex marriages. In New Zealand, across the ditch, they say, ‘We’re not changing our doctrine of marriage’. But as soon as you bring God’s blessing upon a same-sex union, it’s tantamount to blessing sin. You can’t sanctify sin by a divine blessing. That’s what ministers do when they bless couples. So they’ve departed from that teaching; it will not be that long in my view in New Zealand because already senior clergy, male and female, in New Zealand in the old Anglican Church, are in same-sex relationships, same-sex marriages – and there’s no discipline whatsoever from the Church hierarchy.
The movement, the cause has been lost years ago in New Zealand in my view, and the latest developments a couple of years ago demonstrates that, so we now have the Church of Confessing Anglicans which has arisen: orthodox, faithful Anglicans who want to subscribe to what we’ve always subscribed to: the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles.
And that of course is the burden of this book for General Synod members. If you’re a member of the General Synod listening to this podcast, take very serious note of what’s happening in our Church. The Appellate Tribunal’s Majority Opinion has opened the floodgates for blessing same-sex marriages. That will inevitably lead to the solemnisation. Now they won’t be able to do it through General Synod, I don’t think they’ll have the numbers, but the very fact that this gate has been opened – General Synod needs to speak confidently, persuasively and courageously with regard to saying, ‘No – thus far and no further. Stop this movement; this is contrary to God’s teaching, contrary to who we are as Anglicans’.
L: That’s very important, very significant. In this issue sometimes, as I’ve read the Majority Opinion and as I’ve read your chapter, there’s an argument that ‘Well this is not actually changing the doctrine of marriage, all it’s doing is changing the order of the way that we do things. It’s similar to say the women’s ordination issue where there was just a change in order and now there’s just a change in order and so really it’s not a change in the doctrine of marriage’ – that’s an argument that’s coming up.
G: Of course it is, and it’s a fallacious argument. It is true that we had disputes over the ordination of women and those differences still occur around the globe, so the largest province in the world, Nigeria, still doesn’t ordain women to the diaconate, whereas every diocese in Australia ordains women to the diaconate. We’re not anti-women at all. But the arguments there are not salvation arguments; they’re not linked to salvation so although there might be a difference of opinion, our communion might be impaired, but it’s not broken.
The difference between women’s ordination and homosexual practice is that the Bible clearly says that that’s a salvation issue, for those who practice such actions are outside the kingdom of God. Now that’s a serious statement that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 6 and every listener of this podcast, if you haven’t looked at 1 Corinthians 6 then look at that chapter and see how Paul addresses not just this particular sexual sin but idolatry and greed and adultery and a whole range of things. So we need to be clear if we’re going to be teaching what our Lord has taught us to tell people about the gospel which comes with God’s ordered creation, then we need to say this is not how he has planned it. Sexual activity is within a marriage of a man and a woman as God created it from the beginning. Marriage after all is God’s idea, not a human idea.
L: So this is a significant issue, a salvation issue and it’s an issue where dioceses that have departed from this have actually broken communion and that’s over very significant issues.
G: Sadly true, sadly true. And therefore if we really believe in the Anglican Church of Australia we need to make sure that this is not fractured along these lines. And that those who want to bless same-sex unions or those who want to solemnise same-sex marriages, well then start your own church! You know, go off but don’t change our church because we are grounded in the teaching of Scripture.
L: So we need to keep that unity of the Church based on that doctrine.
G: We certainly do.
L: Thank you very much for joining us, Glenn. And for all those listening, please do pray for all the members of the upcoming General Synod.
You can get a copy of the book, The Line in the Sand, by heading to the Australian Church Record website, www.australianchurchrecord.net , or there’ll be a link on the Anglican Church League website, acl.asn.au .