UPDATE: Priest goes public. Scroll to the bottom for the update.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals. The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany, and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.
“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,” one document reads. “He did it because the church had become corrupt. Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”
“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,” the document explains. “This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across the whole of the Church of England.”
The document issues a very hefty charge. “When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance, it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus; the church no longer remains distinctly Christian; it is no longer salt and light in the world,” the declaration reads.
This document ends with a clear Reformation-style challenge. “Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”
“We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct,” the declaration reads. “We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10.7, Matthew 19.5), the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.”
The declaration concludes by calling upon “the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese, alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths, live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.”
Anonymous Anglicans posted the documents to multiple churches on different days throughout the week. Below is a list of the cathedrals where they were posted, in chronological order.
1. Southwark Cathedral.
It would only be fitting for the first posting of the Southwark Declaration to take place at Southwark Cathedral. The Southwark diocese in southern London was the site of so-called “South Bank religion,” an early liberal movement in the 1960s. An anonymous priest in that diocese told PJ Media that most evangelicals calling for reform in the Church of England point to that period as the beginning of the church’s real decline.
A group of concerned Anglicans launched the Southwark Declaration in March 2015, rebuking their bishop, the Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, for elevating openly gay and lesbian leaders to clergy positions.
Since then, the situation has arguably only gotten worse. In July of this year, two lesbian clergy members celebrated their union in Southwark Cathedral. The anonymous priest told PJ Media, “She had dinner and dancing in the nave. If that’s not a gay wedding reception in any other name, I don’t know what is.”
The Southwark Declaration went up on Tuesday, the exact 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses.
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Also on Tuesday, the documents went up at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967 and is the second-largest church building in Britain. This cathedral has hosted the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. It is a symbol of British identity.
St. Paul’s Cathedral has an LGBTQ ministry called “Integrity.” In 2012, the new dean of St. Paul’s, Rev. Dr. David Ison, said the Church of England should embrace gay marriage.
“We need to take seriously people’s desire for partnership and make sure that the virtues that you see in married relationships are available to people who are gay,” Ison declared. “You can regard two Christian gay people as wanting to have the virtues of Christian marriage.” He also insisted that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.
3. Hereford Cathedral.
On Wednesday, an Anglican priest posted the declaration on the door of Hereford Cathedral. Last month, the bishop of Hereford, the Right Reverend Richard Frith, supported a motion to “commend an Order of Prayer and dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage.”
Frith claimed that local clergy were inundated with requests for such services. The local synod passed the measure — 41 votes for, 18 against.
“It’s about exploring — what are the acceptable limits, how far can we go?” Frith asked. “Some people would want to go the whole hog and say we should have same-sex marriages in church.” He presented his measure as a compromise — having a blessing, but allowing churches to opt out and not pushing the entire wedding service.
The Anglican priest who affixed the documents to the cathedral’s door gave a statement to PJ Media. “This notice, firstly, is a call to repentance, to turn back to The Lordship of Christ,” he wrote.
“On the anniversary of the Reformation, this notice recognizes the urgency of the current situation, where that Lordship is being rapidly sacrificed and given over to ‘revisionism,’ and the contemporary idols and demands of our secular culture,” the priest added.
He concluded, “This notice serves, secondly, to act as a final plea to our Bishops and leaders to act decisively, now, to save and protect the teachings and traditions of the Church, that go all the way back to the first apostles and indeed Jesus Himself.”
4. Rochester Cathedral.
Rochester Cathedral hosted an “LGBTI+ friendly Eucharist” on October 18, and it even included a rainbow flag on the altar. The eucharist took place in a side chapel and the event did not drape the LGBT flag over the main altar, but the fact that a Church of England cathedral celebrated the Lord’s Supper on an altar with an LGBT flag speaks volumes.
The Southwark Declaration and the Martin Luther letter appeared at Rochester Cathedral on Wednesday, the day after the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses. Given the event earlier that month, this cathedral definitely deserved the rude awakening.
5. Canterbury Cathedral.
On Thursday, another concerned Anglican posted the Southwark Declaration inside Canterbury Cathedral. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby serves not only as the archbishop for this cathedral but for the global Anglican Communion. Welby has pushed the LGBT narrative in the church, however, calling for “radical inclusion” this past February.
Welby acknowledged the “real and profound disagreement” on “marriage and same-sex relationships today,” and suggested that the answer to that disagreement is “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”
“This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and being sexual,” Welby declared.
This may sound positive, but the “21st century understanding of being human and being sexual” suggests a rejection of the traditional Christian (and clearly biblical) teaching that humans are made male and female, and that sexual activity is rightly reserved to marriage between one man and one woman. “Inclusion” of this sort implies exclusion of any Christian who embraces biblical teaching on sexuality.
The anonymous priest connected with the posting of the Southwark Declaration had strong words against Welby. “People have again and again and again gone to Justin Welby for an orthodox diocese and he has refused” to set up a place inside the Church of England for those who adhere to biblical doctrine on sexuality.
“He is not defending the faith, he is not guarding the flock, he is letter the wolves run ragged,” the priest declared. Even so, he hoped that Welby would notice the writing on the walls and alter his position on sexuality.
The Church of England stands at a crossroads, and the priest suggested that unless Welby embraces biblical sexuality, conservative Anglicans may leave the church in droves, joining splinter branches like the Anglican Church in North America (which broke from the U.S. Episcopal Church) or the leadership of Nigerian bishops.
UPDATE: Priest goes public.
“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury Cathedral,” Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea, told PJ Media in a statement. “This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”
“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty; it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned its children,” Rae added. He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful under-shepherd” to “guard the clock against the wolves that would seek to enter the fold.”
Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added, “We are not merely to assert biblical truth. We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”
“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,” the vicar concluded. “If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling. We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never turns out well.”
See a photo of his statement below.