Members of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) have expressed profound concern at the press release issued by the Church of England further to the House of Bishops meeting earlier this week.
The press release, issued by the Church of England following a leak by bishops to the BBC, confirmed that same-sex couples will be able to come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing.
John Dunnett, Director of Strategy and Operations, CEEC, said when interviewed by the Church Times: “We are grateful that the House of Bishops seem to be indicating they don’t wish to change the doctrine of marriage but our deep concern is that the proposals, in effect, amount to a ‘Trojan horse’ for doctrinal change.”
He has subsequently said: “We need to recognise that the liberals want something that is so different to what we believe is right – that the only ‘settled’ way forwards is through a clear differentiation between those in the Church of England who hold different views. At a practical level this might involve the creation of a new space in the Church of England for those wishing to pursue change.”
The press release says that bishops will also be issuing a letter of apology to LGBTQI+ people for the ‘rejection, exclusion and hostility’ they have faced in churches and will ‘urge all congregations in their care to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully” as they reaffirm their commitment to a “radical new Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it – based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”
Helen Lamb, a member of the CEEC Working Group, who took part in a debate hosted by the Religion Media Centre yesterday, described the proposals as ‘extraordinary’, saying: “We are being told on the one hand marriage is between one man and one woman and that is the doctrine, and on the other hand to bless and say that something is holy that God, in his word, says is not. I don’t see how both of those things can happen.
She added: “I fear they [bishops] will succeed in pleasing absolutely nobody…I suspect they are going to make themselves very unpopular with Christians, who will say we have always wanted to make everybody feel welcome. Church is the one place that anyone could turn up. It doesn’t operate for its members, it operates for the benefit of everybody and anyone is welcome, and I hope that they would enjoy that welcome in any church they walked into. Christian teaching calls us to something and actually God has called us to be his children and, once we are his children, to live out what we’re called to be.”
The CEEC has asked evangelicals to watch one of the films from its God’s Beautiful Story collection, which asks Are Services of Blessing for Same-Sex Couples a Possible Compromise?
CEEC has called on evangelicals to pray for the Evangelical Group at General Synod (EGGS) who are meeting this weekend to discuss the proposals put forward by the bishops, which are due to be officially published tomorrow (Friday). The CEEC is also meeting next week for its annual residential, during which it will discuss and agree its formal response to the proposals.