The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Lorna Ashworth leaves the Archbishop’s Council saying the Church of England should be “following the unadulterated teaching of Christ even when it contradicts the spirit of the age”.
A prominent evangelical leader in the Church of England has left her role in one of the Anglican senior governing bodies because “the saving gospel of Jesus Christ” is no longer preached, she said.
Lorna Ashworth, defined by British media as a key advisor of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, resigned from the Archbishop’s Council. She had been serving in this body for the last 12 years.
In a letter, Ashworth explained: “In light of this revisionist agenda and the heretical teaching that comes with it, I am no longer willing to sit around the table, pretending that we, as a governing body of the Church of England, are having legitimate conversations about mission”.
The Biblical gospel is no longer a priority in the Church of England, she said, because “‘good disagreement’ and ‘unity’ have trumped the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ”.
In recent years, Ashworth has been vocal about her views about the Christian definition of marriage between a man and a woman. She was one of the clearest representatives of the theologically evangelical minority in the Church of England General Synod.
According to Ashworth, the church should remain “true to its calling: to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20)”.
This “means following the unadulterated teaching of Christ even when it contradicts the spirit of the age”.
“There are many like myself, who long for clear and courageous biblical leadership from the bishops of the Church of England and we will pray to this end”.
ISSUES FROM THE LAST GENERAL SYNOD
In a speech during the last General Assembly of the Church of England Synod, in July, 2017, Ashworth said: “As a corporate body we have become unable to articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ which fully encompasses the reality of sin, repentance and forgiveness – without this message we do not teach a true gospel and people do not get saved”.
At this Synod, the Anglican Church approved to explore offering special “naming ceremonies” for transgender people.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND REACTION
In a statement, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, reacted to Ashworth's resignation by praising her “prayerfulness, magnanimity, and her grasp of all matters in hand has been a great asset to us all, and I am sad that she has decided to resign”.
“However, I do not share her doubts that the Church of England will be part of God's renewal of the Christian faith in this nation”, Sentamu, who oversees the General Synod, said. “I am convinced that the Church of England remains faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and will move forward rooted in the Christian faith as we have received it”.
EVANGELICALS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
This is not the first time ministers with an evangelical theology warn about the doctrinal evolution happening inside the Church of England, especially in terms of marriage and sexuality.
Also during the last General Synod, pastor Sam Alberry defended the historical Christian understanding of human sexuality, and said: “My question to the bishops is not, ‘will you preserve this doctrine?’, but ‘do you really believe in it? Is it good news for the world?’”
Other Anglican movements such as Gafcon (Global Anglican Future Conference) have also heavily criticised the Church of England for questioning basic Christian doctrines in the last years.