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Editorial: The Departure of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet

The Departure of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall has decided to leave the Church of England and become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. For eight years he has been the Provincial Episcopal Visitor for the Province of Canterbury.  What happened?  His theological convictions have finally won out over his ordination vows.  Whilst it would be better if he had fully embraced the Formularies of the Church of England, it is right that he depart, not for greener but for theologically more compatible pastures.  To do otherwise would continue to be a mockery of the vows he took at ordination to the diaconate, presbyterate, and at his consecration as bishop.

He will have less inner conflict since he no longer has to pretend.

Some might think that unduly harsh or unfeeling.  If emotion is the standard by which the Church operates, then it is unduly harsh and unfeeling.  However, if you believe that the Church operates (or should) from a position of revealed propositional truth, it is quite kind.

Why?  The Church of England, is a Protestant and reformed Church.  It is catholic but not Roman Catholic.  Every person ordained into her ministry takes vows to teach according to the standards as this Church has received them because they may be proven certain by “holy Writ”.  To hold theological convictions antithetical to those settled positions of this Church, is at best, disingenuous and at worst, utterly dishonest.

In his departure statement, Bishop Goodall wrote of his struggle as “one of the most testing periods of my life”.  We must not doubt him on this point but we must also not elide into a position of mashing up revealed propositional truth with unthinking emotion.

The Church of England’s Thirty-nine Articles of Religion set out our understanding of authority in the Church.  

Article XX states:  The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of the Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it expound one place of Scripture, that it may be repugnant to another”…

People can be dull but that is clear enough that even a new postulant for ordination can understand without explanation.  The clear teaching of the Bible is the standard by which our doctrine stands or falls.  

One has to wonder how long Bishop of Ebbsfleet has had this inner conflict.  Did he not know that the Church, whose members were providing his stipend, views as vainly invented and repugnant to the Word of God, the theological convictions which he has adopted?  Has he never read the 1st chapter Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians?  Has he never stumbled across James 3:1?

It would seem unlikely.  If he did, he didn’t pay close attention.

Consider Article XXII.  It repudiates these non-negotiable aspects of Roman Catholic teaching—which Bishop Goodall publicly embraces as he officially moves to Rome:

“The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration as well of images as of Reliques and also invocation of the Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God”.

Perhaps the saddest element of this matter is that the Archbishop of Canterbury reportedly views the decision of his suffragan as legitimate—as if the Church of Rome and the Church of England are singing from the same PowerPoint slide.

Whilst considering Goodall’s decision, cogitate on what the Archbishop is said to have said; “I am deeply grateful to Bishop Jonathan for his ministry and many years of faithful service. My prayers are with him and Sarah, both for his future ministry and for the direction in which they are being called in their continuing journey of dedicated service to Christ”.  

We’re to believe that the primus inter pares, not only of the Church of England but the entire Anglican Communion, is so confused that he purportedly praises a clergyman for having spent years breaking his ordination vows?   And, that he then wishes him well as he continues to live and teach contrary to the Bible—please, may it not be so!

Is it possible that the Archbishop, just returning from sabbatical, handed this task off to a theologically illiterate aide?  Maybe, but either way, it is no wonder critics think the Church of England is relegated to irrelevance.  

Do pray for the Archbishop and the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, but most of all, keep looking to Jesus.  

Please pray for repentance and revival.

Lord, have mercy!  Christ, have mercy!  Lord, have mercy!