Christ Church Dusseldorf and the Church of England: Two business matters

Christ Church Düsseldorf and the Church of England

 

Christ Church Düsseldorf is not an independent church; we are part of the Church of England, and its diocese of Europe. That is important: we are not on our own but have the support of a family of churches. But with it comes responsibility for the welfare of that family. This post deals with two “business” matters in our relationship to the Church of England. The brief summary is that 1. Christ Church has resigned from the Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany. 2. The diocese of Europe has asked that we double the amount of money we send to them. 3. What has this got to do with the gospel? Details below.

 

  1. The Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany.

 

Christ Churches is one of eight churches in Germany that are part of the Church of England, and together make up the deanery of Germany. We are, however not the only Anglican churches in Germany. There are also 6 churches in Germany that are part of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. This is a diocese of The Episcopal Church (TEC)- the “official” branch of Anglicanism in the USA. The Church of England and TEC churches in Germany are together members of a voluntary association (Verein), the Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany CAECG. The exception is Leipzig English Church, which left CAECG in 2006. The clergy of CAECG meet twice a year. The Church of England and The Episcopal Church are both members of the Anglican Communion.

 

The theological direction of TEC has been a matter of concern for many years. Matters came to a head in 2003 when a homosexual man, who was living with a male partner, was consecrated as a bishop in TEC. This was the spark that lit many years of conflict within the Anglican Communion, and TEC has continued in the same direction. On 10th July 2012, the General Convention of 2012 approved a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships, which closely resembles a marriage service. On 29th June 2015, the General Convention of TEC changed its canons, (the church’s laws), to remove the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. In conversations I have had with TEC clergy, they have confirmed that same-sex marriages have taken place at TEC churches in Germany. It is also clear to me that they do not see this as a side issue, but as something that is central to their mission.

 

This is a very serious matter. The Bible is very clear that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and to teach otherwise is to lead people to destruction, (see for instance 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The risen Christ also rebukes those who tolerate false teaching that leads to sexual immorality (Revelation 2:19-26). Therefore, Biblical teaching means that faithful churches and faithful church leaders must distance themselves from false teaching, if necessary by breaking fellowship. That is why I decided not to take communion at meetings of CAECG. It is also why, at the meeting on 6th November 2017, the council of Christ Church Düsseldorf voted to resign from CAECG. I have written to CAECG to inform them of this; a copy of the letter is on the church notice board.

 

This is obviously not a decision that the council made lightly. But sometimes actions like this have to be taken out of love for and obedience to Christ, and out of love for our neighbours, including our neighbours who are attracted to others of the same sex. To them we hold out the transforming love of God in Christ.

 

Christ Church remains part of the Church of England, the diocese in Europe, and the deanery of Germany. When I’ve explained this to people in the past, they have asked where our friends at the Anglican Mission of St Thomas the Apostle, Neuss, lead by James Crofts, and Marc Jankowski, fit in. Our relationship with them isn’t directly effected by what I’ve written, but I will save a detailed explanation for another blog post, hopefully in the near future.

 

  1. Diocesan finances

 

As part of the diocese in Europe, pays an annual amount into the diocese’s “common fund”. In 2017, this was €5,600, roughly 5% of our income; the proportion that the diocese recommends that each chaplaincy in Europe pay. If we were in England, we would be paying the diocese a lot more, as this would pay for my stipend, pension, etc; instead, Christ Church pays these directly. This money pays for the central administrative costs of the diocese, (not the bishop’s stipend etc- this comes from the church commissioners). This is a voluntary payment; there is no legal obligation to pay anything. But there is a moral obligation to pay for what we receive from the diocese; if we did not do this we would be a burden on the diocese, and therefore a burden on other churches. We also have a responsibility to be good stewards of the money that God has given us.

 

In November 2017, we, and many other chaplaincies were surprised to get a letter from the diocesan office, saying that the diocese was increasing the amount that it recommended chaplaincies pay into the common fund. This would go from 5% of income in 2017 to 6% of income in 2018, to 10% of income in 2019, thus doubling the amount we are asked to give in two years. So, if our income remains the same, in 2019 we would send the diocese around €10,000.

 

I will put the letter on the notice board, and the diocese has produced this video to explain why they have taken this decision:

 

Briefly, the diocese has been overspending for several years, and in 2016 made a loss £152,000. In the next few years costs are expected to rise dramatically, especially in three areas: communications, archdeacons, and safeguarding, which the diocese regards as “costs incurred on behalf of chaplaincies”, i.e. activities which are of direct benefit to local churches. Under “communications”, the diocesan director of communications is being replaced, and “better support for digital communications”, is being provided, leading to an increase in expenditure from £74,400 in 2016 to £110,100 in 2019. Under “Archdeacons”, the increase is from £179,900 in 2016 to £355,500 in 2019. This is because until recently, the diocese of Europe, unlike all English dioceses, did not have full-time, stipendiary archdeacons; instead, some of the chaplains added this to their other responsibilities. The diocese decided that it should be a “strategic priority” to have full-time archdeacons, and the first one, (our Archdeacon, Colin Williams), took up his post in 2015. The diocese intends to appoint another in 2018, and one more in 2019, to cover the rest of the diocese.

 

The biggest increase of all is in “safeguarding”- the protection of children and vulnerable adults from abuse. Here the increase is from £23,00 in 2013 to £162,700 in 2016, £205,800 in 2017, £275,700 in 2018, and then down slightly to £231,100 in 2019. The costs have increased 10 times in six years because, the diocese claims, they have no choice but to implement the policies of the house of bishops. This means employing more staff on the safeguarding team at the diocesan office.

 

Christ Church Düsseldorf council discussed the diocese’s letter at the December 2017 meeting. We have serious questions about the amount we are being asked to pay, and whether these increases are necessary, or the expenditure of benefit to churches. The council agreed that we would increase our contribution to the common fund to 6% of our income in 2018. We have not made any commitment regarding the increase to 10% in 2019, but will write to the diocese asking for more information on the diocesan budget, and why these increases are thought to be necessary.

 

  1. What does any of this have to do with the Gospel?

 

The first issue, our resignation from CAECG, is about our witness to the Gospel. The Gospel is a message of good news for sinners who repent and turn to Christ. A false gospel has taken root in many parts of the Anglican Communion that teaches that people don’t need to repent, and so turns them away from Christ. It is not enough to talk about the true Gospel; part of our witness, and our repentance, is to testify against false gospels. Anything less is disobedience to the Lord Jesus. On the second issue, diocesan finances, money is a spiritual issue. We are responsible to God for spending it wisely, and using it in the service of the gospel.