Remembering the Anglican Synod of 2017

Since I broadcast the first new CogWatch with Brittany Klein yesterday the discussion prompted me to think of England. When I point out that the UK has been the front lines of many battles over Christian sexuality, I refer somewhat to what I witnessed happening there in July 2017.

About two and a half years ago, Christian Concern sponsored me to visit York, England, for a synod of the Church of England. They convened to discuss various resolutions. These included a resolution to ban so-called “conversion therapy.” Also, a resolution to institute new transgender liturgy.

My main ally when I visited the synod was Andrea Williams, the CEO of Christian Concern and a staunch fighter for Christian values in the hostile environment of the UK.

I noticed immediately upon arriving in York that the social climate had turned toxically against Andrea Williams and the strong Christian position. Prior to arriving there I received reports that many synod members were already circulating smears against Andrea, claiming she was bigoted.

The supposed elite guard of evangelical fighters in the Church of England was the Evangelical Alliance. which held a meeting on Friday before the synod’s official meeting. Jayne Ozanne came with a phalanx of allies to the Evangelical Alliance that Friday night. Ozanne militates for LGBT inclusion in the church. This comes from her personal website: “Jayne Ozanne is a well-known gay evangelical who works to ensure full inclusion of all LGBTI Christians at every level of the Church.  She is Director of the Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations around the world to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender in order to embrace and celebrate the equality and diversity of all. On March 17th 2019 she was appointed to join the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel. Having been a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council for the Church of England (1999 – 2004) she is now once again a member of General Synod where she is involved in campaigning for a range of issues.  In 2017 she led a debate on the dangers of Conversion Therapy within the Church of England, which resulted in them calling on the government to ban it.   She is actively engaged through her writings and broadcasts in helping the Church develop and promote a positive Christian ethic towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.”

All this language reveals the underlying connections that explain the sinister direction of churches like the Church of England. Ozanne has her own “foundation” and conspicuous ties to government agencies. We must remember that the Church of England is the official church of the state. England does not maintain separation of church and state the way the United States does. Ironically, rather than lead to a theocracy and Handmaid’s Tale-style religious oppression, this blending of church and state dilutes church doctrine and results in secularized, political considerations overwhelming Christian witness.

Prior to the synod, I heard that Ozanne had already rallied her friends against Christian Concern by complaining that Andrea Williams had publicly mentioned Ozanne’s relationship with a woman who had a son. Andrea mentioned this, however, because Ozanne had posted photographs of herself with her lover and the boy on accessible websites.

When Ozanne arrived at the Friday confab with the Evangelical Alliance. she stood to say she felt like Daniel in the lion’s den and asked for people to hear her supportively and patiently. Her appearance was of course nothing like Daniel’s experience, since the Evangelical Alliance has no lions in it except for Andrea Williams, who was swiftly told that she had limited time to speak. As soon as she spoke about the importance of giving a hearing to people who had come out of homosexuality with the help of the gospel, an older gentleman stood and said that we should be “winsome,” implying that Andrea had been too aggressive in mentioning that she personally knew many former homosexuals who had gotten out of the lifestyle.

The audience reacted warmly to Ozanne, which presaged what was to come next. Ozanne and her friends had organized one “fringe” event to discuss the upcoming debates about reparative therapy, while Andrea had organized another to which I was invited to speak. The logistics revealed the pre-ordained outcome. I had to speak at seven in the morning in a ramshackle room on Saturday morning. Ozanne’s group met in the early afternoon in a comfy lecture room, where she seemed to have screeners who could block people from entering.

I gave my speech at seven in the morning along with several others who had come out of homosexuality. The crowd received us well, though the crowd numbered perhaps thirty, no more. We have the whole thing on recording. When we went to hear Ozanne’s speakers, we passed through a main checkpoint and then heard from down a corridor Ozanne chastising somebody for letting us in. She seemed to characterize us as hecklers and haters. The speeches in Ozanne’s event were the usual stock of personal narrative about how they tried very hard to fight their desires and found happiness only when they stopped fighting them.

It was clear by mid-afternoon on Saturday that no realistic scenario existed in which the gospel position on sexual desire could survive the modern Church of England. The activists pushing gay “inclusion” in the synod were seated at a table close to the main podium. When we came into the meeting hall, we were told to be seated in a remote upper balcony and instructed not to speak or make any distracting gestures or expressions. Meanwhile rows of pro-gay spectators filled the auditorium and cheerfully applauded one another.

All the pro-gay motions passed. When people sought to add amendments to defend the possibility of deliverance from homosexuality, the amendments were voted down. In reprisal new amendments surfaced making the resolutions ever more radical; these passed with large margins of support.

Not only did the synod banish the entire concept of sanctification in areas of sexual sin–it also opened the way for new liturgies that would distort Genesis 1-2 and make it seem as though God created some people transgender. The constant clapping and acclaim from the crowd made the entire scene feel grotesque, as if I was in a horror film.

Finally, at one point someone wanted to pass an amendment on a call for interfaith dialogue. The amendment would state that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. That amendment was blocked. It was too extreme.

In all of this I found Jayne Ozanne to be one of the most disturbing persons I have ever encountered. Strutting around the Church of England with her lesbian lover, she played the victim while she rallied the powers and principalities at her disposal to silence and crush people who had been victimized by her LGBT community and merely wanted the church’s help to get out of it and find a better life. The entire affair acted as a wakeup call to me. This is where American evangelicalism is headed as well, if we do not recommit ourselves to holiness and inerrancy.