Vaughan Roberts Advocates Liberal-Evangelical Settlement
Maximum Unity without Theological Compromise
The Revd Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford and member of General Synod gave an account of General Synod proceedings to The Spectator magazine. He explained to readers the extent of the opposition to the Bishops’ LLF proposals amongst the Synod members and within the Anglican Communion. He described the impact of such teaching to Christians who live celibate lives whilst facing same-sex attraction, and how the Episcopal Church in America experienced decline when they introduced similar prayers of blessing.
Towards the end of his article, he stressed the need for a lasting settlement within the Church of England: “One striking feature of Synod was the surprising level of agreement between gay Christians on each side of the debate. All are frustrated by an episcopal fudge, which upsets not just conservatives, but also liberals, because of its refusal to endorse equal marriage. This limbo position guarantees that the argument still has a long way to run, with an enormous cost emotionally, financially, missionally and pastorally, especially for those of us who are most deeply affected. This is why some on both sides have advocated a radical new approach, which recognises our deep and irreconcilable differences and seeks to find a way of creating space between us that enables maximum unity without theological compromise.
“In his closing speech at Synod, the Archbishop of York recognised the need for ‘some kind of settlement’. It is my fervent hope that this can be reached, so that we stop tearing ourselves apart and are instead free to get on with the task on which we long to focus: of bearing witness to the life-transforming message of Christ.”
The Revd Vaughan Roberts has been linked to the St Hugh’s Conversations by other participants. This was a secret meeting of evangelicals and liberals, set up by Bishop Steven Croft of Oxford, which had been running for a number of years in parallel with the LLF process within the Church of England.
One participant in these conversations, Dr Helen King, a lay reader in Oxford Diocese, explained “It was set up about three years ago by Bishop Steven with some leaders of large local conservative Evangelical churches, Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS) and CEEC, and gradually seems to have expanded to include others from the conservative/traditional and the inclusive/progressive end of the C of E.”
Dr King also clarified the level of co-operation that existed within the St Hugh’s grouping last year when the Bishop of Oxford published his booklet Together in Love and Faith, advocating the blessing of same-sex relationships: “there can’t have been any surprises there, as he [Bishop Croft] based his booklet on drafts of things he’d written and shared with them during the time that St Hugh’s Conversation has been running. There are hints in his booklet that the group exists – for example, ‘Locally … I met separately with those opposed to any change’ (p.8) and ‘There has been a vigorous and courteous correspondence and dialogue with different groups, almost continually since [October 2017]”.
“This response [of Revd Vaughan Roberts to Together in Love and Faith] came out almost immediately Bishop Steven’s booklet appeared, and both writers had shared drafts before publication.”
It is not known if the Bishop of Oxford had any hand in the drafting of The Spectator article, nor to what extent its contents reflect the thinking of the St Hugh’s grouping. To date, the Revd Vaughan Roberts has not acknowledged any participation in the St Hugh’s Conversations.