Thinking Anglicans

Evangelicals support the bishops’ LLF proposals

From the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England

Evangelical opinion on the bishops’ LLF proposals

The following letter from eighteen evangelicals was published in yesterday’s issue of the Church Times (3 March 2023 – https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2023/3-march/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor).

The Equal Campaign approves. For far too long conservative evangelical organizations such as CEEC and the Church Society have claimed that only those who subscribe to their package of fundamentalist beliefs are entitled to call themselves evangelical. As the writers of the letter show, this is simply not the case.

The full text of the letter to the Church Times is copied below the fold.

Evangelical opinion on the bishops’ LLF proposals

From the Archdeacons of Sheffield and Rotherham, of Dudley, and of Knowsley and Sefton, and 15 others

Sir, — Before and since the recent General Synod’s vote on the House of Bishops’ response to Living in Love and Faith, it has frequently been implied by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and other groups and individuals that Evangelical Christians are united in their opposition to the proposed direction of travel and prayers of blessing for those in committed same-sex relationships.

As Evangelical members of the Synod, we would like to make it clear that this simply isn’t true. Many Evangelical Christians wish to welcome and celebrate committed same-sex relationships, including those attending Evangelical churches across the country who are only now discovering that their views contrast with their church leadership’s. We would, therefore, respectfully ask that organisations, groups, and individuals holding more conservative views recognise this reality and refrain from laying claim to speak for all Evangelical Christians in their public statements.

Similarly, words such as “orthodox” and “biblical” are frequently deployed in an unhelpful manner to imply that those with contrary views are somehow “heterodox” or “unbiblical”. Again, we would simply ask that language be used more carefully and with a greater degree of integrity.

At various points throughout its history, the Church has changed its understanding of what scripture teaches, as the Spirit of Truth continues to lead us into truth (John 16.13). Evangelicals, those with a high regard for scriptural authority, have frequently been at the forefront of such changes, not least in the abolitionist movement. As Evangelicals, we are committed to the authority of scripture, but we are also acutely aware that we continue to “see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13.12) as we seek to interpret the scriptures, and have much still to learn as followers of Jesus.

As Evangelicals, we welcome the House of Bishops’ proposals as an important step on this journey, and thank the College and House for their discernment. We look forward to being able to express God’s love and blessing to more people in our communities, in the hope that they might enter into a fuller relationship with Christ.

MALCOLM CHAMBERLAIN, NIKKI GROARKE, PETE SPIERS, LIVERPOOL, ALISON COULTER, WINCHESTER, LISA BATTYE, MANCHESTER, SIMON FRIEND (CONVENERS OF EVANGELICAL FORUM), SIMON BUTLER, PAUL WADDELL, NIC TALL, VANESSA (VEE) PINTO, KATE MASSEY, MARTIN POOLE, SAM WILSON, HOLLY ADAMS, MARTIN THORPE, CHRISTINE BURGESS, JAMES WILSON, JODY STOWELL
C/O 34 WILSON ROAD, SHEFFIELD S11 8RN
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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
1 year ago

I am not an Evangelical but I’m sure I am not the only one who will find this letter moving and uplifting. What an inspiring end to the letter ! “We look forward to being able to express God’s love and blessing to more people in our communities, in the hope that they might enter into a fuller relationship with Christ.” We need much, much more of this in the Church of England. If we don’t love all God’s people and we don’t stop regarding “the other” as a threat we have surely lost our way. God created man in… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
1 year ago

Thank you for posting this. There are also many evangelicals outside synod who would sign this letter if they could. The theological breadth among CofE evangelicals is not something always appreciated here on TA. But I am wearyingly familiar with the experience, when engaging on conservative discussion threads, of being told I am not (any more, or never have been) a ‘real’ evangelical. But not by all. Despite their publicity their affiliated churches all contain a range of beliefs and those who can are trying to keep the conversations going. So I regret that the introduction to this letter calls… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 year ago

Yes, I’ve noticed the exact same thing (despite having preached at Spring Harvest, when he spoke out on equality, Steve Chalke was also subjected to it).

Despite sincerely held disagreements on biblical interpretation and application, it’d help no end if every major evangelical organization and leader signed a jointed statement rejecting unchurching people over this, and making clear that it’s something on which evangelicals can disagree in good conscience.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 year ago

David, I think that “fundamentalist” was not in the letter, not in any proper introduction to the letter, but in a comment on the letter by a group separate from the group that wrote the letter. The letter itself asks for language to be carefully used.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 year ago

Yes I noticed that too. Unfortunate.

rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 year ago

‘Despite their publicity their affiliated churches all contain a range of beliefs’ – true in fairness of all churches. I say that as a fellow-traveller of FiF on my local parish church*’s PCC, currently in interregnum, and with the rest of the PCC having no idea about my convictions. In seeking to do the right thing for my church rather than myself, I might be about to unchurch myself! I think congregations all over England are made up of people gritting their teeth – especially in rural parts. Arch traditionalists in liberal churches, and vice versa – and of course a… Read more »

Bob
Bob
1 year ago

CEEC speaks for these Evangelical Organisations, who all have members on the CEEC council.
Christianity Explored
Church Society
CMS
Count Everyone In
CPAS
Crosslinks
Fellowship of Word and Spirit
Fulcrum
JAEC
Latimer Trust
Living Out
New Wine
ReNew
The Junia Network

I’m not sure that Fulcrum, New Wine, The Junia Network, Fellowship of Word and Spirit could be described as “Conservative Evangelical”.

Sarah Brush
Sarah Brush
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

I think there is a difference between having people from those organisations who are members of the CEEC Council and CEEC speaking for these organisations.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Sarah Brush
1 year ago

If the organisations all had identical positions on everything then there would be no need for anything other than CEEC: their existence proves your point, I think.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

One swallow doesn’t make a summer. One letter in the Church Times from a small number of evangelicals is hardly a resounding endorsement of LGBTQ Christians . I’m sure there will be further slick videos from vociferous evangelicals – some “suffering” from same-sex attraction – to ensure evangelicals uphold a view of Scripture which “proves” God likes only nice married “straight” people and celibates.

Joe
Joe
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 year ago

God loves sinners not nice people. Sinners who repent and trust Jesus enter into God’s presence. Jesus said there is no one good except God.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

There are many, many evangelicals who would not describe themselves as ‘conservative evangelicals’. Anyway, didn’t Paul warn us against party spirit?

William
William
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 year ago

I was trying to work out how this related to what Janet had said about ‘party spirit’, but I think it is a response to a different thread on the coronation.

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

… at the moment. But those affiliations long preceded the CEEC response, and may be tested in the coming months.

Tim Evans
Tim Evans
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

Nor could CMS, whose members would express a wide range of evangelical and other less evangelical views. I don’t think they require members to sign up to a statement of faith as most of the other organisations do; I didn’t when I went to work overseas through them.

Simon W
Simon W
Reply to  Tim Evans
1 year ago

They hide it well – their conservatism is expressed in an ‘ethos statement’ – not something members must sign, per se, but included as an appendix in the Mission Partners handbook.
It states that “the CMS community ‭‭affirms the teaching of Scripture as the normative ethical framework and guideline in human ‬‬relationships, upholding faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and abstinence for those not called to such marriage.”

Tim Evans
Tim Evans
Reply to  Simon W
1 year ago

Interesting. I didn’t have to sign anything before going abroad, but it was a very long time ago well before the current debates and divisions took centre stage.

Phil Groves
Phil Groves
Reply to  Tim Evans
1 year ago

Tim – when were you a mission partner? This was pushed through as part of the deal when SAMS was incorporated into CMS. around 20 years ago and was part of a campaign by the then Gen Sec Tim Dakin to redefine CMS as a movement of a membership who signed up to a rule of life. Not a good time for CMS.

Tim Evans
Tim Evans
Reply to  Phil Groves
1 year ago

It was a very long time ago – well before the Tim Dakin era when things seemed quite relaxed. I’m obviously well out of date with the current ethos and policies.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

Well, I’m not sure. Some of these organisations may not be entirely of one view, but to be an organisation with the right to nominate a member of the CEEC council you need to be fully subscribed to its statement of faith, with contains the two additional statements, one on marriage etc. I think it would be good to do some work on a diocese by diocese basis to assess precisely the possible opposition in the parishes to the House of Bishops motion. Each diocese ought to be doing that anyway, as a means of risk assessing the potential loss… Read more »

Phil Groves
Phil Groves
Reply to  Bob
1 year ago

It would be ironic if ‘Count Everyone In’ is among those who exclude.
Their website is really great and the ministry of those with learning difficulties is vital for the church to be whole. I just hope they are inclusive towards LGBTI+ people with learning difficulties. My guess is that they are. My prayer is they are.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Groves
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Phil Groves
1 year ago

This is important. There is some evidence that neurodiverse (autistic spectrum) men and (especially) women are up to four time more likely than the general population to report some form of LGBTQIA identity, yet these men and women often have difficulties in accessing appropriate sex education programmes.

Phil Groves
Phil Groves
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 year ago

As a neurodiverse person – dyslexic- we have plenty to come to terms with. Shame is our common experience- as we share on our face book group – and being shamed by the church. By the look of the website this group is wonderful for those who enrich our society as people with Down’s syndrome. However if the are not welcome if they are LGBTI+ it will be dreadful. I pray for inclusion.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
1 year ago

“Jesus’s call and invitation is to love one another as he loves us; to love even our enemies and those who hate us, because love changes and transforms us. That’s precisely why it’s so hard and challenging. Because all too often we don’t want to be changed and transformed. It’s too difficult. It means seeing ourselves as God sees us and loving ourselves as God loves us – however we’re tempted to think or feel about ourselves. It means letting go of dearly held beliefs, tribal loyalties and the security of the familiar. It means drawing close to those we… Read more »

Andrew Kleissner
Andrew Kleissner
1 year ago

There has long been a caucus of Accepting Evangelicals across the denominations: this article dates from 2013: https://tinyurl.com/2p855vf4

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
1 year ago

There is an evangelical parish in my diocese (Montreal) that invites same-sex couples to its (Alpha) Marriage Course. I would hope that some of these signatories would similarly put their words into action.

Keith
Keith
11 months ago

One very interesting organisation that hasn’t joined the CEEC is Spring Harvest…always regarded as the most popular evangelical festival.
It seems there may be a diversity of views on sexuality at Spring Harvest, especially as their co-ordinator Cris Rogers advocates “good disagreement” rather than schism.
I’m certain that many members of Fulcrum-a nucleus of ‘open evangelicals’-do not agree with the CEEC’s hard line stance on sexuality.By definition, they’re open to understanding scripture in better ways,rather than being rigid or doctrinaire.

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