Philip de Grey-Warter recently resigned as a Church of England minister in Cornwall. He is in the process of planting a new church, in the same town, with the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), which is linked to Gafcon, a global Anglican renewal movement.
Today, Gafcon shared a video of Philip de Grey-Warter addressing his Church of England congregation earlier in the summer, announcing his resignation, and telling the story of how he reached that point. It’s well worth watching in full. Here it is:
A brief summary of the main points made by Philip de Grey-Warter:
- The key sticking point for him was the Church of England’s pastoral guidance about the use of baptismal liturgies to mark gender transition (7:25-8:05). This guidance was issued in December, with the approval of the House of Bishops, and provoked a robust response (15:10-16:15).
- The reason this was such a problem was that, for him, this amounted to an official change in the Church of England’s teaching (12:50-14:05).
- In addition, there are commands in the New Testament about avoiding those who spread false teaching: Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 10-11 (14:05-15:00, 25:45-55).
- Decisions about how to proceed were made very carefully, in full cooperation with the bishops and the archdeacon, who are spoken of very highly in the video (16:30-18:55).
- He felt he had no choice: in his view, the guidance ‘denies the gospel’, and ‘how can I be part of an institution that is writing that [guidance] into its structures and belief and so on?’ (18:55-19:25).
- ‘In a church where orthodoxy has become optional, it is not long before orthodoxy will be outlawed’ (21:25-40).
- ‘It would be reprehensible to have a gangrenous limb and not to separate yourself from it. That’s why I’m doing this. It is regrettable, just as losing a limb is regrettable. But I don’t think I’ve got a choice’ (26:40-27:10).
A few brief comments in response:
- If you’re not part of the Church of England, make sure you read my recent post about how the media and social media are not telling you the whole story about the Church of England. It’s nowhere near as bad as you might think.
- It’s really valuable to hear this kind of story ‘from the horse’s mouth’ (his words!). It has clearly been a very difficult and challenging period for him and his family.
- I find his integrity and godliness admirable in the way he has dealt with the situation.
- I also appreciate the way he treats the Church of England’s official and institutional aspects with such seriousness, rather than simply ignoring them as irrelevant.
- Two issues, it seems, are worth considering in more depth:
- First, we need to be clear about what would constitute an official change in the teaching of the Church of England. Is the Church of England’s official teaching equal to the sum total of all its liturgical texts and associated guidance? Or is it something narrower? For example, Canon A 5 is very specific about where one may find ‘the doctrine of the Church of England’, while Canon B 2 makes provision for new liturgies, stating that they should not go against ‘the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’. This seems to make a distinction between the new liturgies, on the one hand, and ‘the doctrine of the Church of England’, on the other. We (or I, at least) need to think more about Lex orandi, lex credendi.
- Second, even if we conclude that ‘orthodoxy has become optional’, then how should we relate to those who have departed from ‘orthodoxy’? This is the tension between peace and purity. My concern is that an appropriate concern for purity can be taken in such an absolute way that we ourselves become those who ‘cause divisions’ (Rom 16:17), which is one of the marks of the people we should seek to avoid! We shouldn’t be too quick to diagnose other parts of the body as ‘gangrenous’. If we treated our own bodies that way, none of us would have any limbs left! In fact, sometimes the healthy parts can bring healing to the unhealthy parts (see 2 Tim 2:24-26). 2 John – ‘do not … welcome them’ (v. 10) – needs to be read alongside 3 John, with its warning against Diotrephes, who ‘will not welcome us’ (v. 9). How can we make sure we are concerned both for purity and for peace?
- Finally, for the record, there are many, many evangelicals in the Church of England, and many of them, myself included, don’t anticipate leaving any time soon.