A DAMAGING split among evangelicals in the Church of England is looming after Gafcon’s missionary bishop to Europe, Andy Lines, denounced the Church’s statement on welcoming trans people in church as a ‘false gospel’.
The new pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship, says that parishes should use the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith for a person who has undergone a gender transition.
It also says that trans people should be welcomed and addressed publicly by their chosen name. The service should have a ‘celebratory character’.
However, Bishop Andy Lines, who met with leaders of AMiE (Anglican Mission in England), said that they were ‘dismayed’ that the guidance suggests using the same service to “recognise liturgically a person’s gender transition.”
He said: “The baptismal liturgy should never be used in a way which invites confusion between the glorious salvation found in Jesus Christ and humanly devised rites of passage.”
The Bishop who led the work to prepare the guidance, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, said: “This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have ‘come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life’, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ.”
But while Bishop Henderson commended the guidance ‘for wider use’, Bishop Lines responded: “It is because our hearts go out to all those who struggle with their gender identity that we cannot commend this false gospel or walk with those who promote it.”
His comments are significant because Bishop Henderson was one of the English bishops to welcome the appointment of Andy Lines as a Gafcon missionary bishop.
He, together with the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Rev Keith Sinclair, had written to Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the ACNA, offering their prayers for the new bishop. “It has been good to meet and pray with Andy in recent years, and to know his heart for the gospel and the witness of the church. Please pray for us in the Church of England, for faithfulness and fruitfulness in these days,” they wrote.
However, the comment from Bishop Lines, that he ‘cannot walk with those who promote’ the new guidance will widen tensions among evangelicals.
It is because our hearts go out to all those who struggle with their gender identity that we cannot commend this false gospel or walk with those who promote it.
Others have already criticised the new guidance.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Christian Concern’s chief executive, said the Church was continuing its “devastating trajectory towards an outright denial of God and his word” by turning its back on what God has said in the Bible.
She said: “Very sadly, the guidance colludes with the unproven and untrue notion that a person can be ‘born in the wrong body’, rejecting the truth that God saw his own creation of humans as male and female as ‘very good’. As God is eternally the God of truth – not lies – Christians cannot and must not fall over themselves to accommodate transgender ideology.
“There is no need for Christians to sacrifice truth in a misguided attempt to be loving. It is not loving to mislead people – and wider society – into the falsehoods and myths of transgender ideology.
“The Bible, God’s revealed and perfect word, does not recognise postmodern gender theory. Neither does the official doctrine of the Church of England. It is time for bishops to teach faithfully on this issue and for the clergy to speak with love, compassion and truth.”
Meanwhile, the Rev Lee McMunn, the mission director of AMiE, said ‘faithful Anglicans will be aghast’ at the guidance.
However, he went further. “Without taking our eyes off the priority of church planting, we are eager to develop more robust Anglican structures that will help serve the gospel ministry of our congregations.”
Susie Leafe, the director of operations for Gafcon UK, added: “We can feel powerless when we see the Church that we love succumb to the spirit of the age but Gafcon UK exists to offer hope and a home to all Anglicans who wish to uphold orthodox faith and practice. No one need feel alone.”