Evangelicals and the Church of England


Church of England: same sex blessings and the future 

Since the historic decisions at the end of 2023 by General Synod and the House of Bishops to permit blessings of same sex relationships in church, Church Times reports that plans to allow ‘standalone’ services of blessing are being postponed until plans for “safeguards and structures” for those opposed to the innovations are explored further. According to the lead bishops on LLF, the aim is to “form the basis for a settlement that allows as many people as possible to remain within the Church of England”. It is clear that this has come about as a result of pressure from evangelicals. Much prayer is needed, as faithful Anglicans will have differing opinions on whether this is heading in the right direction, or not.
Plotting the Division of the Church of England, From ViaMedia:
A full account of how evangelicals in the Church of England have consistently opposed the introduction of blessings for same sex relationships. Written from a liberal perspective, this article accuses CEEC of conspiracy to split the Church of England, and the author appears unable to understand motivation for preserving a faithful witness for biblical Christianity. But it is useful for giving an accurate timeline of recent events. 
Have evangelicals made secret plans to split the Church?
Andrew Goddard, writing in Psephizo, answers the allegations in the above article, and shows how CEEC has instead tried to develop a better, consensual way forward focussed on differentiation within the CofE rather than theological compromise and incoherence or breaking away from the CofE, and that this has been done openly, not as a secret conspiracy.
CEEC held their annual residential meeting on January 23-25. At the time of publication of this newsletter, CEEC have not released a statement following their conference. Bishop Andy Lines who was present as an observer from Gafcon, reports that there was a strong sense of unity among evangelicals from different backgrounds and a variety of positions on secondary issues, as the delegates studied the bible together (especially 1 Peter) and discussed the way forward. Canon David Short from ACNA via zoom and Bishop Rennis Ponniah, in-person from Singapore (General Secretary of GSFA), gave input. There was common agreement to contend together for a new formal structure in the C of E which protects orthodoxy.
blackboard lessons
Four lessons learned.
Surveying the events of 2023 in the Church of England, Anglican Futures draws four main conclusions from the decision by General Synod and the House of Bishops to authorise blessing of same sex relationships:
1: The extent of the problem. The C of E leadership have used their power to drive through a divisive innovation. By overriding concerns about doctrine they have effectively changed the message of the Christian faith.
2: The options available. CEEC has proposed ways of staying in the Church of England, using informal methods of “differentiation” from revisionists while negotiating for. formal structures to secure this. But the danger is gradual compromise with the new reality.
3: Humility in decision making. Huge pressures face ordinary clergy and laity as they consider what to do. Stay in and “contend” for orthodoxy? Leave …but how and to where?
4: Humility in relationships. Can English evangelicals let go of the assumption that they are global leaders, and serve Gafcon and GSFA leaders in resetting the Anglican Communion, without reference to Canterbury in which they have "no confidence"?
Meanwhile, an analysis of attendance data since 2019 by David Goodhew, who has written extensively on church growth, comes to an unremittingly bleak conclusion: the deepening decline of the Church of England. He suggests that energy and resources should have been invested into mission and evangelism rather than discussing sexuality, but does not mention how secular trends have rapidly changed the way the majority of people in society think about religion and about themselves. Church decline is seen in most denominations and most Western countries, not just in the C of E. As we pray for renewal of spiritual life in the nations in our region, perhaps we should not assume that the answer is simply to revive and refill old wineskins?

Roman Catholic Church: blessing for same sex couples? 

Vatican moves to calm bishops over same-sex blessings approval, from Premier. Following the publication of  Fiducia Supplicans, and statements by Pope Francis in December, Roman Catholic sources have issued “clarification”, saying that “the blessings did not amount to an official approval of gay sex or a sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples.”
But in the face of confusing teaching from the Pope, the RC church is also seeing a strong movement of conservatives, particularly from the global south, contending for the historic understandings of sex and marriage.  

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò says the Vatican’s newly approved blessings for homosexual ‘couples’ show that the ‘Bergoglian hierarchy’ are ‘servants of Satan and his most zealous allies.’ From Lifesite News.
Catholic Blessings for Same-Sex Couples: An International Rebellion, from European Conservative


In an article for First Things, academic and cultural commentator Carl Trueman says “This will also affect Protestants. Whether we like it or not, the officer class of our culture …makes no real distinction between Catholics and Protestants. In its eyes we are all Christians…The argument will be that, if Rome can change, why can we all not change?”
Time travellers at the Jordan river. Rollins Grams offers an imaginative satirical piece contrasting the message of John the Baptist (repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins) with contemporary Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders who want to “bless” unrepentant sinners as a mission strategy, or even to get rid of the concept of repentance altogether.

More church news 

Have many evangelical churches become too casual, losing the sense of reverence and awe before a holy God, and replacing the true joy of the gospel and salvation with a “coffee-sipping culture”? Respected pastor and theologian John Piper suggests ways in which churches can recover depth and seriousness in Christian faith, worship. But some have pushed back. See report in Christian Post here.

A return to the Catechism?

Should we return to the rote learning and memorization of a Catechism as a way of forming disciples, especially young people? This used to be commonplace in Anglicanism but has fallen out of favour. article from The Gospel Coalition explains why we need to return to this method. 

World news 

Nigeria: violent attacks on Christians in multiple locations. (December 28 2023) Death toll nears 200; further attacks predicted in Plateau State; “the ineffectiveness of Nigeria’s security forces in protecting the country’s Christian minority is being noted around the world.”  : report from Release International.
More from Barnabas Aid here (Jan 3rd) as death toll nears 300.
But meanwhile, there continues to be a weight of anecdotal support indicating increasing numbers turning away from Islam to Christ - Ex-Muslims: The Challenge to Islam It Has Never Faced, by Daniel Pipes
The global persecution of Christians continues to rise, Open Doors has reported. North Korea tops the grim ‘World Watch List’ as usual, as the most dangerous place to be a Christian. Yet “despite all the opposition, more and more people are coming to faith in Jesus and churches continue to be a force for good in the communities they serve.” See report from Christian Institute here.
time for change


Scotland: restrictions on Christian freedoms?

Turning away from the ideology of Islam can lead to ostracism from family and even imprisonment and death in some countries. In the UK, activists continue to push for severe sanctions against those who assist in any way those who leave LGBT ideology. The Scottish Government is again seeking to ban ‘practices’ that seek to change, suppress or inhibit someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Activists are campaigning for this to cover “casual conversations”, “gentle, non-coercive prayer”, and even “depending on your parents’ ‘consent’” to change gender. See more from the Christian Institute here, and keep praying for vigilance and justice.

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UK Post Office scandal: Church of England involvement?
Paula Vennells, former non-stipendiary priest in the Diocese of St Albans and disgraced former chief executive of the Post Office, was proposed as a candidate for Bishop of London in 2017 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and held other roles on C of E committees including giving ethical investment advice.
Europe: Evangelicals in politics. Countries previously associated with Roman Catholic and/or secular dominance are now seeing a rise in evangelicals prepared to stand for office in public life. For example, could Spain elect an evangelical to the EU Parliament in Brussels?


[Royalty free images courtesy of pixabay.com]

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