Anglican Mainstream has published an email sent by the EGGS Committee to the members of EGGS. EGGS is the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and the names of the committee members are shown here. The full text of the email is copied below the fold.
The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday broadcast this morning carried a segment which discussed the legal implications for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Oxford was among those interviewed, along with the expert legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg. The 10 minute segment begins about 35 minutes into the broadcast.
Dear EGGS member
I am writing on behalf of the EGGS committee to offer a brief response to the Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter and Appendix released on February 15th.
We welcome the Archbishops’ pastoral letter of 15th February and note the divergence to which the Statement refers between the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England. In view of this significant change we believe that the House of Bishops is increasingly called to inhabit a prophetic role in articulating Scriptural patterns for human flourishing to our society and culture, and we assure them of our prayers and support as they do so.
We applaud their call and commitment for the church to be a welcoming community. We are grateful for the clear indication of agreement in the House that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged. We are encouraged that the Statement recognises the consistent teaching of Canon B30, the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship in this regard. We welcome the indication that clergy should not enter same-sex marriages and that those in same sex marriages cannot be ordained. We also welcome the advice that pastoral discussion with those entering same-sex marriage needs to include an exploration of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it.
At the same time as expressing our thanks, we wish to note the following concerns:
We are concerned that the Appendix says nothing about the position of lay people holding a bishop’s licence or commission.
We believe that such lay ministers, who along with ordained ministers should offer an exemplary lifestyle, should be expected not to enter into same-sex marriages, and those who have contracted same-sex marriages should not be licenced or commissioned.
We believe that the guidance in respect of acts of worship after a civil same sex wedding (Appendix paragraphs 19-21) is unclear. The distinction between a service of blessing and informal prayers is a distinction without reasoned theological difference and likely to lead to confusion at parochial level. The implication that it is acceptable for clergy informally to pray for God’s blessing on a relationship which departs from the church’s teaching (Appendix paragraph 21) seems at best counterintuitive, and we would have wished for clearer indication that those departing from the church’s teaching on this (or any other matter) should be encouraged to reconsider their ways. Many evangelical churches will of course continue to pray for people’s spiritual and physical needs in the context of all kinds of relationships : this is not to be confused with an endorsement of these relationships.
While affirming that everyone should be welcomed in our churches, we continue to believe that appropriate sacramental discipline should apply to those who choose to enter into any sexual relationship other than within marriage between a man and a woman.
The ‘sharp’ end of the challenge to respond to requests for recognition of same sex marriages is going to be at parochial level – and we are concerned that the guidance offered is insufficient in this regard.
We look forward to the conversations of the coming months as an opportunity to explore how a biblically orthodox perspective on human sexuality is good for all society and for each child, woman and man. We pray that in exploring this together we may be re-energised by the clarity of Scripture and the vision it offers for human flourishing.
Please pray for our Archbishops and Bishops in their leadership: that God will give them the ‘knowledge of His will …. that we may live lives that please Him in every way’ (Colossians 1).
Rev John Dunnett
On behalf of the EGGS Committee.