Many clergy and/or PCCs now feel in impaired fellowship with their bishops as a result of their bishop’s support for the Prayers of Love and Faith.

While they recognise the ongoing formal and legal role of their bishops, the reality is that many people (both lay and clergy) are feeling isolated, and long for support and spiritual oversight from people continuing to hold the biblical and Anglican view of marriage.

CEEC is therefore facilitating the provision of such support in order to help clergy and parishes receive spiritual oversight without having to look outside of the Church of England. This is a temporary provision which will support evangelicals until a settlement based on structural provision is made available.

We are pleased that a group of Honorary Assistant bishops have agreed to initiate this ministry and we will be discerning who God might be calling to join them in making this provision as non-consecrated overseers. We have appointed a diverse panel of experienced leaders from across the evangelical constituency (spanning charismatics and conservatives, egalitarians and complementarians) to discern whom God might be calling to such an role. This panel will be chaired by CEEC President Julian Henderson (the previous Bishop of Blackburn) and includes two other Honorary Assistant bishops. CEEC is inviting suggestions of people who might be called to an overseer ministry. 

Clergy and/or parishes, seeking alternative spiritual oversight, must continue to be accountable for safeguarding to their diocesan bishop and safeguarding officers.

This provision is both informal and temporary and will serve as a stepping-stone to the formal and permanent provision which we hope and pray will be agreed as part of a new structural arrangement and settlement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CEEC offering orthodox clergy and parishes in terms of informal spiritual oversight?

The alternative spiritual oversight being facilitated by CEEC is a stop gap measure to enable people to stay in the Church of England while we seek a more robust settlement for the long term. It is informal and temporary – and offered as a provision for those who believe they are in ‘impaired relationship’ with their bishop(s).

In practice, this means that if a vicar or PCC doesn’t have confidence in the spiritual leadership they’re under, they can ask CEEC for spiritual oversight. That doesn’t remove their obligations in law to their diocesan bishop, nor their obligations under safeguarding to the diocese – these things remain in place as the legal structures.

The spiritual oversight being facilitated by CEEC will include pastoral counsel, prayerful support and personal accountability. We, at CEEC, have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we need a radical restructuring. The critical nature of the issue – a doctrinal issue – and the number of churches involved means this requires a new differentiated structure. 

What will informal alternative spiritual oversight look like in practice?

The overseer is someone who will offer spiritual counsel, advice, prayerful support, an occasional preaching visit and one-to-one time to talk through significant issues. It is unlikely to include confirmation services (though if the relevant diocesan bishop approves it could if your oversight is provided by a bishop). Informal alternative spiritual oversight has no licensing capability and doesn’t in any way replace diocesan safeguarding arrangements. It is a voluntary relationship, but which can include real accountability and support.

Should curates apply for alternative spiritual oversight?

Curates and their training incumbents will need to think carefully before a curate applies for alternative spiritual oversight as to whether in their context/diocese there is a risk of this prejudicing their sign off.

Should a minister already receiving the ministry of the bishop of Ebbsfleet apply for alternative spiritual oversight through CEEC?

Yes because the provisions provided by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet are directly related to a complementarian theology and it is important for everyone that the theological issues of complementarian callings and sexual ethics are not put in one and the same box/are not treated as synonymous. However, we anticipate that CEEC will refer those parishes to continue under his extended oversight where he is licensed as an Honorary Assistant bishop.

Does the CEEC provision assume a temporal and spiritual divide can be made in how one relates to your bishop?

Many people find the distinction between temporal and spiritual to be helpful in thinking through the ministry received from a bishop. The alternative spiritual oversight offered through CEEC doesn’t in any way impact the temporal (e.g. legal) ministry received from a diocesan bishop.

If I received alternative spiritual oversight through CEEC might I be subject to disciplinary sanctions?

As the alternative spiritual oversight being provided by CEEC is informal and of no legal status it is difficult to see how disciplinary sanctions could be made against it.

Does the alternative spiritual oversight involve any disciplinary framework?

Alternative spiritual oversight is a voluntary arrangement and any accountability is offered by mutual agreement.

Can evangelical clergy ask for alternative spiritual oversight even if their parishes don’t want it?

Yes, they can.

If a clergy person asks for alternative spiritual oversight who do they have to tell?

Out of courtesy we suggest clergy inform their diocesan or other bishops as appropriate. We would always encourage maximum transparency.

In communicating with your bishop, your PCC or individual clergy will need to decide whether their reason for requesting alternative spiritual oversight is primarily addressing a personally need or if it helps give them a protesting voice.

Should a clergy person ask for alternative spiritual oversight if their diocesan is orthodox?

If your diocesan bishop has publicly declared and demonstrated their orthodoxy then CEEC would not normally facilitate alternative spiritual oversight.

What happens if your diocesan is against you seeking alternative spiritual oversight?

The bishops that we are working with to provide alternative spiritual oversight may or may not wish to offer it if your diocesan bishop is against it. But we will also be offering alternative spiritual oversight through non-consecrated overseers who we hope will be able to offer this support regardless of your diocesan bishop.

How will you arrange the provision of alternative spiritual oversight for clergy and churches in a particular diocese?

As far as it seems possible it seems logical to make this provision on a geographic basis since that will enable local relationships to be built and supported. At the same time we are aware of theological emphases within our constituency (e.g. around charismatic and complementarian theologies) and would want to honour these in the provision of oversight as far as is possible.

Can a PCC/clergy choose who will provide alternative spiritual oversight?

While we will honour the theological convictions of those who seek alternative spiritual oversight, it is neither appropriate nor practical for people to choose the individual who provides it.

Where do MDRs fit with alternative spiritual oversight?

MDRs are a formal part of the oversight you receive from your bishop. We cannot replicate them in an informal provision and unless your diocesan bishop invites us to be involved in this, any equivalent we offer will only be informal.

Would alternative spiritual oversight work in an interregnum?

If it is a vicar who has requested alternative spiritual oversight and they move on, then the alternative spiritual oversight comes to an end at that point. If a PCC has asked for it and received it, then it will continue, although what role it plays in an interregnum will need to be worked out at the time.