Our prayer is that the Church of England will keep faith with its biblical inheritance and reaffirm its current teaching on marriage and sexuality.
In February 2023, General Synod gave a ‘green light’ to the Living in Love and Faith proposals brought forward by the House of Bishops. This raises several important questions…
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Frequently Asked Questions
What's the problem with the House of Bishops' proposals?
We believe that the House of Bishops’ proposals and subsequent public communications are erroneous for a number of reasons, including:
- Decoupling sex from its place in marriage between one man and one woman;
- Failing to explain and defend why they have departed from previous statements and decisions of the House of Bishops and the General Synod;
- Failing to offer a theological account of their claims regarding the distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony, and the nature of blessing;
- Blatantly disregarding the convictions of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion and other major global Christian denominations;
- Failing to critique the modern sense of self and individualism and the sexualisation of our society, which is leaving our children and young people confused and vulnerable;
- Failing to provide a vision of the holy life in following Jesus as Lord.
We believe that the responsibility of the Church of England is to serve the nation by proclaiming the gospel, not by compromising with prevailing culture. We are convinced that these proposals will undermine and damage the mission and discipleship of our churches, especially among young people.
Furthermore, CEEC believes it is inappropriate for the General Synod to consider the House of Bishops’ proposals before revised pastoral guidance has been issued, which could redefine the discipline and teaching of the Church of England.
What does the CEEC suggest as a way forward?
CEEC remains committed to the highest degree of unity possible within the truth and doctrine of the Church of England. However, we believe that the current proposals will prevent us from walking together and promote disunity, even schism.
It is clear that the strength of feeling amongst parties with differing convictions indicates that we have to find a better way forward. In the event of the current proposals being pursued, CEEC will continue to advocate a settlement, without theological compromise, based on a permanent structural rearrangement resulting in visible differentiation.
Is the Bible really clear on matters of sex and marriage?
Some have claimed that the Bible isn’t clear in its condemnation of same-sex sexually active relationships and since they believe it is not, Christians are free to disagree on the matter, and the door is open to “committed, long-term” same-sex partnerships. However, despite the attempts of some to redefine what the bible is understood to say on this matter, it cannot honestly be said that we have come to a fresh understanding of the relevant passages. Only a tortured, twisted exegesis (of the kind that would never be acceptable with any other passage) can make them say something else. A good place to follow this argument is in Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay?, Rachel Gilson’s excellent Born Again This Way? or Ed Shaw’s book The Plausibility Problem.
If the Bible is so clear, how can church leaders argue differently?
Many simply do not regard the Bible as authoritative in this matter. It is, they argue, fallible and only a book of its times. This tragic misperception can ultimately be traced back (via poor theological education) to a lack of gospel preaching in our churches, for it is only the work of the Spirit of God which makes us trust and love the words of Jesus, and his apostles and prophets. Others do know Jesus but are simply ignorant of the Scriptural teaching because they have not had the Bible preached fully to them. Perhaps their preachers are afraid of venturing on to this territory! Yet others do read the Bible, but have fallen for the teaching (widespread for the past 50 years in Western churches) that the Spirit’s words should not be identified too precisely with the Bible; they suggest that God’s Spirit may be leading us into new things.
What is the big problem with same-sex marriage and blessings? Jesus does not mention same-sex marriage and the Bible does not discuss it.
Jesus believed in marriage as being between a man and woman (Mark 10.2-10, Mathew 19.3-11); in replying to questions about divorce, Jesus quotes the verses Genesis 1.27 and 2.24 as God’s creation ideal, before the Law of Moses’ permission of divorce because of hardness of heart. Jesus also taught against ‘sexual immorality’ (e.g., Mark 7.21, Matthew 15.19). Jews of the time understood ‘sexual immorality’ to include same-sex intercourse.
Given his views on marriage, it would be grossly misleading if Jesus did not make it clear he disagreed. Gay-affirming scholars agree that in Romans 1.26-28, that Paul criticises same-sex relations as against nature, likely alluding to Genesis 1.24 in the Greek Septuagint translation, and meaning that they are against the male-female creation ideal. Paul elsewhere uses a Greek word arsenokoitai which combines the words forman (arsenos) and bed (koiten) used in the Greek Septuagint translation of Leviticus 20.13 condemning ‘a man who beds a man as a woman.’ It thus means ‘men who have sex with men’ absolutely, not just e.g., in abusive relationships. 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 lists the ‘sexually immoral’ and specifically ‘men who have sex with men’ amongst those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, the problem with same-sex marriage and blessings is that they redefine Jesus’s and the Bible’s understanding of marriage and sexual morality to bless what the Bible warns is a sin that, if not repented of, excludes from the Kingdom of God.
Can’t we just agree to disagree? What is ‘adiaphora’ all about?
Some Christians say that while they personally think that same sex sexual intimacy is wrong, this is a ‘secondary’ matter on which Christians may legitimately agree to differ (referred to by bible scholars as a matter of ‘adiaphora’). They point to passages such as Romans 14:1-15:13 in which Paul deals with disagreements about diet and Sabbaths in the church in Rome, and encourages the believers to get on with each other. This view appeals to many bishops in the Church of England because it allows them to keep the peace between people who are pro- and anti- gay blessings.
We must recognise, however, that same sex sexual relationships are not to be found among the disputable matters in Romans 14-15, but in Romans 1 (see especially Romans 1:24-27), as an example of sin. Sexual morality is never regarded in Scripture as debatable. As Paul put it, writing to the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)”. This being so, we dare not affirm such practice or we will be leading them down a path that excludes them from God’s kingdom.
We must hear the words of the Lord Jesus: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:1-2).