Thinking Anglicans

CEEC committee writes about sexuality issues

The committee of the Church of England Evangelical Council has issued a letter to its constituency. The full text of the letter is reproduced below the fold.

There are references in it to some earlier documents. Here are links to those:

See also the coverage of this letter in Christian Today Evangelical bishop warns split may be necessary as he spearheads resistance to liberalising CofE

Tuesday, 08 August 2017

Dear DEF members and members of networks represented on CEEC

In February of this year (after the January CEEC meeting), Stephen Hofmeyr, CEEC Secretary, wrote to DEF Chairs and Secretaries (you can find the letter on our website) providing information on CEEC’s conversations around human sexuality and the challenges at that time. You will be aware that much water has gone under the bridge since then and we are therefore writing to offer update and comment.

The February letter was sent immediately after the House of Bishops report (GS2055) was published. It described how the Officers were “heartened to read that the House of Bishops is proposing no change to the Church of England’s doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relations and that no liturgical prayers for same sex relationships, authorised or commended, should be produced”. Much work was done by evangelical bishops to secure this outcome and we are grateful for that and that this remains the Church’s official position.

We cannot, however, ignore the fact that since then this position has been under constant and serious attack. There have been several disappointing developments leading to widening and deepening concerns among evangelicals:

  • A small majority of the House of Clergy refused to “take note” of the report and so, although the majority of General Synod members wished to do so, it was not taken note of by Synod,
  • The Archbishops’ letter following this vote left many unclear as to what was meant by “radical Christian inclusion” and has led to many believing there has been not only a change in tone but a change in direction,
  • A number of bishops have openly signalled their support for changes in teaching and/or practice and the Bishop of Liverpool became a Patron of Liverpool Pride,
  • Behaviour and decisions at the July General Synod, including the rejection of good amendments tabled by evangelicals to the motions on conversion therapy and welcoming transgender people, have further heightened concerns,
  • The Scottish Episcopal Church has changed its marriage canon and now permits its clergy to preside at same-sex marriages.

Alongside these it is important to note a number of recent developments which have brought encouragement to many evangelicals around the country. These include the consecration of Andy Lines (who represents Crosslinks on CEEC) as a missionary bishop of ACNA, supported by GAFCON and many Global South Primates; the planned involvement of many evangelicals in the groups working on the House of Bishops Teaching Document, overseen by Bishop Christopher Cocksworth; and the call for a renewed orthodox Anglicanism gaining signatures online.

In the midst of this CEEC continues to endorse the theology of human sexuality and biblical authority offered in ‘Guarding the Deposit’ (GTD). We are also clear as a Council that these matters are not able to be treated as adiaphora but are of prime importance. We would encourage you to read and raise awareness of GTD (both the full text and a helpful two-page summary are on our website).

The developments of the last six months have also highlighted the prescience and importance of the second part of GTD in which a series of structural possibilities are explored. We thank God that the desired first option of maintaining current teaching and practice has, thankfully, not yet been formally rejected. However, there are many signs that the Church could reject it by embracing either the proposals of the Pilling Report or an even fuller acceptance that permanent, faithful same-sex relationships are a legitimate form of Christian discipleship.

CEEC Officers hear the call for a clearer and louder voice in support of the traditional teaching of the church on marriage and same sex relationships, not least from evangelical bishops. Without being able to be explicit, it is important to say that behind the scenes a number of initiatives are being planned, which hopefully will bring welcome reassurances and send clear messages to the evangelical constituency and the wider C of E and the even wider Anglican Communion.

More explicitly, the Council is working on two major areas. Firstly, we are seeking to help the Church of England to maintain and be confident in biblical teaching. We are positively exploring how we might contribute to the proposed Teaching Document being worked on. Furthermore, we are continuing to support and facilitate meetings in the dioceses/regions to encourage, teach and resource a biblical orthodoxy in matters of gender, identity and sexuality.

Secondly, and whilst we are committed to praying and working for a renewal of orthodox vision within the C of E, we are being realistic and thinking through what ‘’visible differentiation” might look like, should the Church depart from its current teaching, whether in law or in fact, and make such differentiation necessary. We are also aware of the need to continue to work together and support one another as evangelicals who, in different contexts, may, at times, be called to differentiate from the wider church to varying degrees and in different forms.

In both these areas we welcome any input from you.

In the face of recent developments in the Church of England it is important to remember and be encouraged by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide share both our positive vision and our concerns about Anglicanism in England and the wider British Isles. As evangelicals in the Church of England we seek to work with them and ask you to pray particularly for the Primates in advance of the Primates’ Meeting in early October and for those working to prepare for Lambeth 2020 and GAFCON 2018.

In recent turbulent months many of us have been struggling to read the signs of the times and hear what God is calling us to do. This looks like it will be our situation for some time to come. At various points we are likely to find ourselves saying, with Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.12, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you”. As we keep our eyes on God, confident in his grace and power and truth, please pray for wisdom for all those in positions of leadership in the Communion, the Church of England, and among evangelicals, including those serving on CEEC:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2-5).

Yours in His service
The Rt. Revd. Julian Henderson (CEEC President)
The Revd. Hugh Palmer (CEEC Chair)
The Revd. George Curry (CEEC Treasurer)
Stephen Hofmeyr (CEEC Secretary)

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“In recent turbulent months many of us have been struggling to read the signs of the times and hear what God is calling us to do” – CEEC Letter – Th “signs of the times” in this instance and context seem to have been misread by the authors of this Letter to Evangelicals in the C. of E., many of whom are now beginning to discern the difficulty the Church is experiencing in maintaining the status quo in its lack of understanding of what it means to be a member of the LGBTI community in the Church. While the majority… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

The frequent – and almost indiscriminate – use of the word ‘orthodox’ by the dissenters amongst the CEEC leadership points to the mistaken ad nauseam understanding that Christian orthodoxy is more about sexual morality than it is about 1st order doctrine. If CEEC is going to use theological terms in its rejection of LGBTI people in the Church, then ‘orthodoxy’, per se, is the wrong word to use for its discriminatory attitude towards such people, their advocates, – ad nauseam -and their place in the Church

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

But Fr Ron isn’t their position as articulated that this is sex is an issue of first order doctrine? Perhaps they need it to be in order to justify schism?

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

And few of them bat an eye lid about heterosexual divorce and indiscriminate re-marriage.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Julian and colleagues: we are “thinking through what ‘visible differentiation’ might look like, should the Church depart from its current teaching, whether in law or in fact, and make such differentiation necessary.” If this statement means he is talking about maintaining a ‘different’ view of human sexuality, then that is fine, because we should accommodate diversity of conscience in the Church of England. However, if this planning of ‘differentiation’ involves possible different structures of organisation, or different episcopal oversight unsanctioned by Church leadership, that is not okay. In planning structural differentiation of organisation – potentially even a break off Church… Read more »

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Unless Bishop Henderson and his friends are equally condemnatory of the many evangelicals (including clergy) who have divorced and remarried, this must rank as the highest level of hypocrisy. If sex is only acceptable in a relationship between one man and one woman for life, all who transgress this rule for whatever reason are equally culpable.

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

It would be interesting to have a list of those whom these people consider to be ‘evangelical bishops’. And how hey would define those who are committed to preaching the Gospel but dissent from their narrow views.

Susannah Clark
Guest

‘Guarding the Deposit’ is clearly a planning document for possible schism. It is driven by a view of human sexuality that our Archbishops have failed to repudiate or contradict. Hence I’ve kept posing the same question to them: is gay sex actually wrong and sinful? In other words, if they *still* assert that 1. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. 2. Sex outside marriage is sinful and wrong. Then 3. Gay sex is sinful and wrong because it can only, ever, happen outside of marriage. On this basis, the archbishops still demand sexual celibacy from gay… Read more »

Ann Reddecliffe
Guest
Ann Reddecliffe

“…it is important to remember and be encouraged by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide share both our positive vision and our concerns about Anglicanism in England and the wider British Isles.”

That may or may not be true – I would certainly like to see some evidence for this claim. However it ignores the concerns of the people of England who do not share this vision and would not see it as positive.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

This evangelical – along with many, many others, no longer feels CEEC speaks for him. Endorsing schism is taken lightly but the fact that one evangelical bishop denies Chalcedonian orthodoxy is ignored.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Before I got to the comments, I had yanked the key quote I was going to use, only to find Father Ron’s keen eye had beaten me to it. “In recent turbulent months many of us have been struggling to read the signs of the times and hear what God is calling us to do.” Which one can only assume was followed by something to the effect of “But then, as God’s voice is hard to hear over the clangorous tumult of our own bigotry, we find it easier to just take the path of least resistance and just keep… Read more »

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

Am I going completely mad, or is a serving Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England here describing the consecration of a schismatic Bishop in his own Church as bringing “encouragement”?

JeremyB
Guest
JeremyB

Don’t these people realize that MPs will start asking why public funds should support a discriminatory institution that inflicts psychological harm?

Susannah Clark
Guest

If you decide to withdraw yourself and your congregation unilaterally from Church governance – without the consent of Synod – then you cannot expect to retain churches, halls, church facilities… which are the property of the established Church of England, under its Synodical oversight, and also an inheritance for all future generations of English worshippers, including gay and lesbian worshippers. I totally respect right of conscience – the right to believe in faith that gay sex is wrong – and I believe the Church should legislate to frame and protect people who take that view. No-one should be compelled to… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Totally agree with you Charles. But where do the other evangelical voices counter and challenge this?

s_snowberry
Guest
s_snowberry

As far as I am aware is not technically correct to say that churches, vicarages etc are owned by the national Church of England.

Legally they are owned by the incumbent of the church:
https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchlawlegis/property.aspx

I am sure however that if a church decided to leave the formal structures the Diocese would be likely to mount a legal chalkenge.

Kennedy Fraser
Guest
Kennedy Fraser

I am reminded of the comments of Abp Sentamu in April 2011: n a television interview, Dr Sentamu was asked whether it was appropriate for the Prince, who is in line to become head of the Church of England as King, to have been living with his bride before marriage. He said he had conducted wedding services for “many cohabiting couples” during his time as a vicar in south London. “We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, they want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow,” he… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The article closes out with, “We are to remain in the mother-ship….” What delicious unintentional irony. More ironic still is the fact that positions taken by socially conservative evangelicals so seldom contain any good news.

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

I was interested in David Runcorn’s point. I wouldn’t identify as evangelical but do think it is really important that other evangelical voices are heard so that a broad church is maintained and so that evangelical doesn’t simply become short-hand for conservative and anti nay movement whatsoever on sexuality and specifically same sex relationships. The must be a mechanism to ensure that it is very clear that the likes of +Blackburn speak only for their own, relatively small, constituency. I was also interested in the critique of the passing of the motion re transgender people seeking affirmation as a proof… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

“I believe, to concentrate minds, General Synod should clarify in advance the principle that if you withdraw yourself from Synodical and Church of England governance and organisation – as agreed by Synod – then you lose your church buildings, halls, facilities.”

I wonder how likely this is…

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I wonder if anyone has run the “Forms of differentiation” past any members of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament for comment?

Laurence Tibbet
Guest
Laurence Tibbet

Why is the presumption here that “visible differentiation” means conservatives stepping away from current CofE structures? Why not, rather, those agitating for change having a differentiated structure created for them? The assumption almost everywhere is that the 2020 teaching document will favour the ‘affirming’ side and nudge conservatives out; but, in light of the HoB Report following Shared Conversations, is that really as foregone as people are assuming?

Susannah Clark
Guest

“As far as I am aware it is not technically correct to say that churches, vicarages etc are owned by the national Church of England. Legally they are owned by the incumbent of the church.”

Not if the incumbents are removed from their posts.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“”…it is important to remember and be encouraged by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide share both our positive vision and our concerns about Anglicanism in England and the wider British Isles.” That may or may not be true – I would certainly like to see some evidence for this claim. However it ignores the concerns of the people of England who do not share this vision and would not see it as positive.” Indeed. I may be true that the LEADERS of that overwhelming majority share those views, but there is no evidence that the people… Read more »

Simon Butler
Guest
Simon Butler

David Runcorn makes an important point. It is important to note that CEEC have become less signifcant within the context of a much broader tradition of Evangelicalism. CEEC is much more conservative that its constituency. But my take on where the other evangelical voices are is that they are present within the structures of the Church of England. Evangelical bishops and archdeacons work day-in, day-out supporting evangelical (among other) ministers in their mission and service of the Gospel. They will naturally be an encouragement and a witness to a wider evangelicalism within dioceses. Of course, for some (especially those wedded… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m struck by how the language used by the authors of the letter and GtD demonstrates their distance from the way most people think. Not just the major points aptly dealt with by other commenters, but the phrasing. In documents about human sexuality, to refer to ‘visible differentiation’ and ‘guarding the deposit’ will meet with sniggers.

Which is just as well, we don’t want the people of England (and the rest of the Communion) to take this too seriously.

Laurence Tibbet
Guest
Laurence Tibbet

@Susannah – have you actually read the CEEC report? Leaving the Church of England is, from their perspective, an unlikely last resort. Most of their suggestions involve the reorganisation of CofE precisely so that the diversity of views you speak of can be *genuinely* upheld and respected. What they don’t want is an agreement of ‘tolerance’ that leaves one side at the mercy of the other’s goodwill – you know, like other recent such agreements…

badman
Guest
badman

Is the Bishop of Blackburn a focus of unity?

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

‘As far as I am aware is not technically correct to say that churches, vicarages etc are owned by the national Church of England. Legally they are owned by the incumbent of the church’ At any given time: ultimately it is the national church through the Diocese who own. Incumbent ownership is notional and with a very limited legal definition of ‘owned’ i.e. owned for the purposes of his /her cure of souls. No vicar could sell his/her church building or vicarage. ‘Ownership’ really amounts to the incumbent having to be consulted /agreeing if any change to the building is… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Thanks Andrew. There was time when the CEEC was the ‘umbrella’ which hosted the breadth of Anglican evangelicals. But a few years back it got taken over increasingly conservative voices (I think in part because ‘broader’ evos failed spot what was happening and stay involved enough). But it is one thing to say CEEC doesn’t speak for all of us – but another to find a forum that is more open to genuine debate and engagement. For a while Fulcrum was one such space.

David Runcorn
Guest

Simon – I agree – I wrote my comments before I saw yours. I agree there is very honourable and creative engagement in the wider church at every level by evos. But I keep engaging with con evos concerns where I can because I do not want to let them claim words like ‘Orthodox’, ‘biblical’, ‘faithful’ as their own and no one else’s.

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

Not sure that Evangelicals are the majority if all parishes are taken into account as Simon Butler suggests. They may have the largest congregations in urban settings and it may well be that the majority of clergy nowadays are from an evangelical background but are they really the majority? In our deanery I would guess seven of the ten clergy would be happy to varying degrees owning the term evangelical (two of us would self describe as modern / liberal catholic) but would be very surprised if this applied to five eights of their congregations. Also, I worry that some… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

The Church of England may be moving into uncharted waters, not led by the Holy Spirit, but by those who believe their doctrinal view and its ecclesiological consequences are superior to the prevailing view. The talk on this thread about church properties is imported from TEC, where the issues have been litigated over for a long time now, with different outcomes in different states. In my diocese, St Albans, only one parish, to my knowledge, has declared UDI. They do not pay any Parish Share. Its quantum is immaterial to diocesan finances. They also therefore make no contribution to ministry… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Loved the phrase: “the fissipariousness of Evangelical conservatism”. – Andrew Symes –

Surely, what Mr. Symes really means is that the Evangelical voice is by no means fully represented by the CEEC leadership – certainly not on the issue of LGBTI membership of the Church.

Mr.Symes’ statement also betrays the FACT that the term ‘Mainstream’ for his brand of Anglicanism is quite oxymoronic; the ergonomic thrust being more of a ‘Slipstream’.

Christina Beardsley
Guest
Christina Beardsley

I don’t believe that the Bishop of Blackburn has voted in favour of the Blackburn Motion at any stage of the process, i.e. neither when it was passed in his own Diocesan Synod, nor in July 2017 when he voted in favour of the Land amendment, and after that was lost he abstained when the vote on the Blackburn Motion was taken.

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

Anthony Archer said “The Church of England may be headed into uncharted waters, not led by the Holy Spirit”, I assume that acceptance of gay and transgendered people as created and loved by God and treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else is what he considers to be “not led by the Holy Spirit”. If he is saying this, it is hard to imagine that discrimination, exclusion, and hate are what the Spirit is calling for. What’s worse is that he presumes to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit with special insight as to where the… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

“not led by the Holy Spirit” Well that confirms what I have been thinking for many a long year.

Susannah Clark
Guest

‘Anthony Archer said “The Church of England may be headed into uncharted waters, not led by the Holy Spirit”, I assume that acceptance of gay and transgendered people as created and loved by God and treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else is what he considers to be “not led by the Holy Spirit”.’ Richard, I think that is the opposite of what Anthony believes. I refer you to Anthony’s very moving and honest writing in ‘Journeys in Grace and Truth’. He relates how he came increasingly to realise that far LGBTI Christians, and their relationships (including… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

Anthony, when you said ‘hoards of new believers’, I think you probably meant ‘hordes’, but then perhaps not, since hoarding (of long-held positions, property etc.) is very apposite to what this thread is dealing with! A Freudian slip perhaps?

And I think Richard Grant has completely misinterpreted what Anthony was saying, but I’ll leave Anthony to speak for himself.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Did not make myself myself clear @Richard Grand. And maybe to others. ‘Not led by the Holy Spirit’ was a jibe at those planning ‘visible differentiation’, and not the other way round!

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

Laurence Tibbet: there is already a guaranteed structure for “visible differentiation” to protect conservative evangelicals in the CofE: the Bishop of Maidstone. Given that the “flying Bishops” are there because of who they profess to share full communion with, rather than specific doctrines, conservative evangelicals are alone in the CofE in having the guarantee of a Bishop who agrees with – and pastors – congregations sharing their own theological views. And yet this letter makes no mention of +Maidstone, but instead to “encouragement” that Andy Lines has been (schismatically) consecrated Bishop. His consecration has been carried out in direct defiance… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

Dear Richard Grand, I think you have misunderstood Anthony Archer, which you will see if you read his chapter in the book “Journeys of Grace and Truth: Revisiting Scripture and Sexuality” edited by Jayne Ozanne. His comment I am sure applies to CEEC and any action they plan to take.
Susannah Clark: As always I have appreciated your posts. Thank you.

Fr John E Harris-White
Guest
Fr John E Harris-White

If as Anthony Archer grandly proclaims the Church of England is not now lead by the Holy Spirit, then I suggest he places his statement at the feet of the two Archbishops. The Holy Spirit goes and leads as I understand where it wills, and is not the posesion of any particular section of His church, be they Catholic or Evangelical. Such absurd claims do the church no favours, and speaks rather of folk with their backs to the wall. The people of England need to be guided and lead by folk who themselves are pen to the leading and… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Invoking the ‘apostolic legacy’ to police who can or cannot exchange vows in the presence of God and family on occasional Saturday afternoons in July seems completely out of proportion to the faith as actually experienced when ordinary folk attend Church Sunday by Sunday. Relying on the Christian/pagan distinction in the time of the apostles to differentiate between a Christian and an LGBT identity nowadays is, I believe, a false and dangerous dichotomy, and a tragedy, post-1967. Comments above refer to the involvement of MPs. They would be wary of any Measure from Synod implementing structural changes in the Church… Read more »

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

Thank you all for the clarifications. I am happy to find that I misread what was said. However, in Canada we have endured so much of the self-righteous talk about how the Spirit only sides with conservatives, not to mention the use of their favourite buzz words, such as. “Biblically faithful” and “orthodox”, that it becomes the default assumption. At least I know that my posts are being read!

Laurence Tibbet
Guest
Laurence Tibbet

@David Beadle: I don’t think we can draw a straight line between the 5GP provision embodied in +Maidstone and what’s being talked about here. It’s a different issue and the Church of England has not come to a “clear consensus” from which a small group seek to dissent. Any “differentiation” will be drawn along different lines, and certainly won’t be a purely conservative evangelical minority (as with the +Maidstone provision). If the number of those wishing to maintain current teaching is large, then it’s by no means obvious that they’ll be splitting off as everyone here seems to be assuming.… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

“…a third province to be created for “progressives”. Is that outcome actually plausible?”

I agree. I assumed differentiation wasn’t predicated on property issues, nor that the present teaching would end up being the outlier.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Why would supporters of equality need a separate province? It’s not they who keep trying to separate themselves from those who don’t share their views. If the homophobic wing of the church find gays to be so abhorrent they can’t stand to share a church with them then they have the choice to leave.

crs
Guest
crs

The Church of Scotland’s arrangement wasn’t all that different in point of fact. Keep the traditional teaching. Then allow individual parishes to depart from it if they so wish. Given that the CofE is Episcopal rather than Congregational, one way forward would be to create a differentiated province of like-minded progressives. This isn’t a matter of abhorrence — though use of the term is designed to trap — but instead of allowing progressives scope to pursue their own way. I am not necessarily in favour of this; one would have to understand the model in particulars. But it isn’t altogether… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Is a beneficed clergyman’s right to the parish property the same as ownership? They can’t leave it to their heirs.