In December 2023, the House of Bishops commended the use of a selection of readings and prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and asking for God’s blessing for same sex couples in Church of England services. Pastoral guidance is anticipated to follow in due course. The House of Bishops also gave a ‘green light’ to trial the introduction of standalone services to bless same sex couples. It is expected that these will be introduced in 2024.
CEEC believes these proposals indicate a departure from the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England. CEEC believes a line has been crossed, which we hoped and prayed would not happen. These changes have caused further division and broken fellowship within the Church of England and a greater tearing of the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Where does this leave orthodox evangelicals up and down the country?
Many of us will be feeling a profound sense of dismay. The Church of England appears set on a course to reject our historic and biblical understanding of sex and marriage in favour of a more Western individualist understanding.
For some people, though they are profoundly dismayed by this decision, they will feel they have no choice other than to ‘keep going on as normal’ in their local churches and parishes. For many of them, the implications of what has been decided at General Synod and by the House of Bishops may not become apparent – at least for some time.
For others, you might be asking the question, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’. Whilst CEEC acknowledges that some might feel in good conviction, and they need to now leave the Church of England in order to join some other denomination, we encourage you to holdfast, for the moment at least, while we use a whole range of ‘good protests’ to bring the bishops and General Synod to a discussion around the provisions that we will need if we are to remain and flourish within the Church of England.
CEEC has called on evangelical churches and clergy to join in ‘good protest’. Not to offer pushback on the situation in which we now find ourselves will be received as a willingness to acquiesce.
All of us reading this are peaceable Anglicans, who love our local church and want nothing more than to be able to share the gospel with the men, women and children in our communities. The idea of ‘stirring things up’ is almost anathema to us.
At the same time, not to contend against such an obvious and significant departure from biblical teaching would mean that we are accepting a departure from the faith as we have received it, and failing to hold on to the gospel that is good news for all men, women and children, and the massive disappointment to Christians around the world, in countries where their stand for the gospel has cost them dearly, even to persecution and death.
CEEC is therefore calling on every minister, warden, PCC and lay member who is, in good conscience, unable to accept the introduction of a doctrine of blessing sexually active relationships outside of marriage to take some action.
Of course, every parish and context is different – so whether you are reading this as a minister or a lay person, you will need to work out what is both possible and appropriate in your own context.
What is CEEC doing now?
CEEC remains convinced of the urgent need for structural provision to secure orthodox life and witness in the Church of England for the future. CEEC will continue to advocate and press for this.
In the meantime, CEEC has put in place two temporary provisions – informal alternative spiritual oversight and the Ephesian Fund – to enable orthodox evangelicals to remain in the Church of England while permanent structural provisions are sought. Details of these provisions can be found on the CEEC website.