The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), a group comprising 14 organisations, has called on Anglicans opposed to plans by the Church of England to allow same-sex marriage blessings.
In the declaration – which the CEEC is asking Anglicans to sign – the council says they are “compelled” to “resist all attempts” to introduce the change.
A statement published on a new website, declaration.ceec.info, includes an apology for “the times we have failed and continue to fail to love [LGBTQ+ people] as God loves them”.
The statement continues: “Sadly, however, we cannot accept central features of the bishops’ proposed way forward.” The move to bless same-sex couples, and to allow priests to be in same-sex marriages, “represents a departure from the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness”.
In Feburary, the General Synod – the Church of England’s decision-making body – announced the it would double-down on its same-sex marriage ban, but offer blessings to same-sex couples instead.
The blessings are not compulsory and members of the clergy can refuse to perform them, with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby saying he would not bless such couples.
The CEEC is inviting those who agree with the declaration to register their support on the website, which also includes a range of “supporting resources” about the CEEC’s position.
“This is an opportunity for churches, ministers and individuals to express their convictions in a way that can be passed on to our bishops as they pray and deliberate on the future,” the CEEC’s director of strategy and operations, Canon John Dunnett, said on Tuesday.
In recent weeks, some Evangelicals have publicly criticised the CEEC’s position and pronouncements
After five years of consultation, the Church of England’s decision put the religious organisation well behind other churches in the UK.
The Church of Scotland voted to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages in 2022 and the Church of Wales approved a blessing service for same-sex partnerships in 2021.
The CEEC was one of the Anglican groups which opposed the move to bless same-sex couples.
In a letter to the Church Times earlier this month, 18 Evangelicals who are members of the General Synod wrote: “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” .
The letter prompted several responses, debating what it means to identify oneself as “Evangelical”.
“We too apologise and repent for the times we have failed and continue to fail to love them as God loves them,” the council states.
In an article on Via Media, the Revd Charles Read, who works for the diocese of Norwich in ministerial formation, reflected on his experiences of the Evangelical movement in the 1960s.
“We did not, in those days, want or ask for separate structures in order to flourish. Gradually, we learned how to work within the structures of the Church of England and to bring some evangelical witness into things,” he wrote, adding that the CEEC “has become increasingly associated with the conservative evangelical tribe.
“It has long since ceased to represent the breath of evangelicalism within the Church of England. As such, its claim to speak for evangelicals in the Church of England is difficult to take seriously.”
Calling on Anglicans to sign the declaration, the council said: “We recognise that it is not always easy to take a stand but we assure you of the prayers and support of CEEC and the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship in your diocese.”
Former government LGBTQ+ adviser, General Synod member and director of the Ozanne Foundation Jayne Ozanne shared an article she wrote on the topic.
She said liberal members of the church are being held “ransom” by those who hold more traditional views.
“One just has to listen to the tone of their rhetoric to hear how cold and self-righteous they have become. It does really rather feel like the bullies have taken over the playground, and we’re all meant to just sit back and watch.
“I’m not sure what they think they are achieving – for they must know by now that they aren’t going to change our minds?” she said.
She added: “This constant refusal to allow those of us who believe, in all integrity, that Scripture, tradition and reason supports a Church of England that wishes to marry those of us of the same-sex, is sheer stubbornness.
“It is not biblical, it is not rational, it is not founded in tradition and therefore, by definition, it is clearly not Anglican.”
It added that it will publish the names of supporters in the future and offer the declaration to bishops, to “impress upon them the widespread and strongly held opposition to their proposals”.
On Tuesday, Canon Dunnett said: “CEEC has never claimed to speak for all those who call themselves Evangelical. But its ‘umbrella’ constituent membership does bring together Evangelicals from the vast majority of groupings and networks, and in doing so creates an Evangelical unity that no one else can match.”
Ed Shaw, Co-chair CEEC, stated “The Church of England Evangelical Council represents many Anglican Christians, including some, like me, who would identify as LGBTQIA+, who believe the bible is clear that sex is for the marriage of a man and a woman.
“We remain unconvinced that the House of Bishops proposals will create a safe and happy space within the Church of England for us, or those who are seeking the introduction of same-sex marriage.”