The head of the Church Army, a leading Anglican mission agency with a significant evangelical constituency, has expressed his distress at the failure of two Anglican archbishops to clearly condemn violence against gay people.
The remarks come in the personal blog of Mark Russell, the youngest ever Chief Executive of Church Army, which deploys over 350 evangelists working across Britain and Ireland.
Mr Russell's comments came after Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda declined to condemn violence against lesbians and gays when challenged twice on the issue at the Global Anglican Future Conference meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week.
Encouraging bishops of all opinions to go to the Lambeth Conference "to further the Gospel and show Christ to the world", Mark Russell wrote: "I know many bishops in England who do not agree with everything other bishops say, or do not agree with some of the things they have done, but are committed to being together, to pray together, and to seek to demonstrate Christian love to their flocks. I commend them for their leadership and Godly example."
He continued: "[This] is in marked contrast to some bishops at GAFCON who refused to condemn violence against gay people in their home countries. Quite honestly that is disgraceful, it sullies their cause, and is totally un-Christian. You cannot justify violence in God's name. Period. To the eternal credit of Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, he condemned the violence ... Those who perpetrate violence against gay people in Africa now can use this silence to justify their behaviour. Christians must speak up and say this is wrong."
Many evangelicals have questioned the content and tenor of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from GAFCON supporters, belying the media image that this is a simple 'liberal versus conservative' issue.
Bishop David Atkinson of Thetford is among evangelical Anglican scholars whose views have changed on the issue. Outside the Anglican world, Dr Jack Rogers, Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary, has called for a change of heart and mind among traditional believers, as has the UK group Accepting Evangelicals - which affirms committed gay relationships.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has continued to express concerns that the Western church is allowing Christianity to be eroded by modern culture, and Canon Vinay Samuel has suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role is a colonial hangover.
Mark Russell on 'The Countdown to Lambeth': http://russellmark.blogspot.com/2008/06/countdown-to-lambeth.html
The blog has no official link to Church Army and the views on it are those of the author.
Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change, edited by Simon Barrow, is published by Shoving Leopard / Ekklesia on 30 June 2008.