GROUPS opposed to the introduction of same-sex marriage into the Church of England have had meetings with Bishops as the College of Bishops considers what to present to the General Synod in February.
A meeting at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday last week brought together representatives of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), the Evangelical Group of General Synod (EGGS), the Church Society and Junia, a group of ordained women in the Gospel Tradition.
A Living Out representative also attended the meeting. Living Out is an organization that describes its mission as “to see Christians live out their sexuality and identity in ways that enable all to flourish in faithfulness to the image of Christ.”
All groups argue that marriage is the only acceptable context for sexual relations and that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. They met the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, and the Bishop of Grantham, Dr Nicholas Chamberlain.
Dr Chamberlain is the only openly gay bishop in the Church of England. At the time of his appointment, he confirmed that he was living within the guidelines of the House of Bishops, which state that homosexual clergy cannot have sexually active homosexual relationships (News, September 9, 2016).
CEEC’s Director of Strategy and Operations, Canon John Dunnett, attended the meeting in his capacity as President of EGGS. “I thought it was a good reunion,” he told the Church hours last Friday.
“The meeting was organized so that [the bishops] could hear us the same way they heard other bands,” Canon Dunnett said.
Last week’s meeting followed similar ‘listening exercises’ earlier this month involving campaigners for same-sex marriage to be allowed within the Church, and for priests who are in such unions to be allowed to officiate (News, October 5).
Canon Dunnett described the position of the CEEC and other groups present on Tuesday of last week: “We remain convinced that what might be called the historical, inherited or traditional view of the C of E is both true in the Scriptures and there. for the development of all. We say what we would like to see and pray for is for the College of Bishops to regain confidence in this.
“If the General Synod adopts a change in the doctrine and liturgical practice of the Church, we will have to fight against it, because we believe that it asks us to accept things that Scripture says we cannot accept. “
The CEEC recently released a film examining the splits over same-sex marriage that have arisen in the Anglican provinces of North America and New Zealand, followed by protracted lawsuits over church property (News, January 21).
“Do we want to take the same kind of road that took North America? No, we don’t,” Canon Dunnett said on Friday.
The film argues that “a settlement without theological compromise is the best way forward for all”. Asked what form this might take, Canon Dunnett pointed to an article produced by the CEEC in 2016, “Guarding the Deposit: Apostolic Truth for an Apostolic Church.” The document outlines various options, including provisions for the provision of episcopal ministry similar to those provided for those who cannot accept the consecration of women as bishops.
Other alternatives are described in the document and explored in more detail in a later and longer document published in 2020, visibly different. These include the proposal for a “new provincial structure” in the C of E, in which the province of Canterbury remains committed to the current definition of marriage, while the province of York allows same-sex unions.
The CEEC has indicated that it will release another film in due course, in which it will present its proposals.
There was a desire among evangelical groups, Canon Dunnett said, to “move on” from the issue and find a settlement without compromising on theology. “We want to get back to evangelism,” he said.
Last Friday, a spokesperson for the bishops confirmed that all scheduled meetings have now taken place, but that “During the meetings another interested group was suggested to us, and we are considering how best to engage with them. , given the tight schedule we have before the next meeting of the College of Bishops, which is at the end of the month.
The spokesperson reiterated Bishop Mullally’s earlier statement that the meetings had been “productive and fruitful”.