In the run up to Christmas, in a talk on gratitude, he foolishly made the remark, “Of course some of us know who we really need to thank for our Christmas presents.”The fuse was lit.
A small girl went home after school in tears because that vicar had said that there was no Father Christmas. Her parents were outraged and rung the local newspaper who immediately picked it up and ran an article the next day.Within hours of it going to press the vicarage was inundated with phone-calls from the press – local newspapers, nationals, radio stations, and finally, a photographer from The Sun turned up on the doorstep asking for a photo of my father and I playing with one of my toys from last Christmas.
In the midst of this the BBC rang the Bishop of Manchester for comment.“Did he know” went the question, “that one of his clergy was going around telling children that Father Christmas doesn’t exist?”
The Bishop thought for a moment, and then simply replied, “I didn’t know that belief in Father Christmas was a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.”I have been prompted to tell this story because of news coming out of the GAFCON meeting this week. According to the Daily Telegraph they have, ‘criticised what they called “revisionist attempts” to abandon basic doctrines on issues such as homosexuality and “turn Christianity merely into a movement for social betterment” during Dr Williams tenure.’
As a result they think that the Archbishop of Canterbury should lose his role as figurehead of the world-wide Anglican Communion.Now there is a debate to be had as to whether it is appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be so caught up in the strife of world-wide Anglicanism that he (or hopefully in the future, she) is inhibited from displaying the right kind of leadership in the Church of England….
But... and this is a big BUT… I have to ask the question,
Since when has a doctrine of homosexuality been a basic doctrine of the Church of England – let alone the Christian Faith?
Did Jesus say anything about it in the Gospels? - No.Does it appear in the Creeds? – No.
Does it appear in the 39 Articles of Religion or the 1662 Prayer Book? – No.
So how is it now being portrayed as a basic doctrine of the Church?
What is more, if this is true, it only provides more evidence that the Church of England is institutionally homophobic. After all, if it is a basic doctrine of the Church, then our whole existence as a church has, as one of its foundational doctrines, an anti-homosexual faith. You can’t get much more institutionally homophobic than that.In truth, however, the traditional understanding of homosexuality is not a basic doctrine of the Church of England, the Church in general, or the Christian Faith as a whole.
Like belief in Father Christmas, it has acquired a status in some parts of the Church which might lead the unwitting observer to that conclusion, but to mis-quote a former Bishop of Manchester,
“I didn’t know that belief against homosexuality is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith – because it isn’t!”