Same sex ‘blessing’ services authorised: C of E continues on revisionist trajectory
On 18th January, news broke that the Church of England bishops had agreed on a way forward on the issue of sexuality following the LLF process. The secular media headlined the decision not to change the teaching on marriage or to carry out actual marriages of same sex couples, but that some form of services of blessing would be permitted.
On 20th January the Bishops’ response document in full was released, accompanied by press conferences and media interviews with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. It became clear that prayers of blessing for same sex couples would be authorised, in the context of apologies for “rejection, exclusion and hostility” towards LGBT people in the past, encouragement of full welcome and inclusion of same sex couples in churches. The document promises new guidance about how those in ministerial vocation are expected to order their relationships, although bishops have verbally given assurances that requirements for celibacy will be dropped.
While the proposed measures will be discussed at General Synod on February 6-8, the bishops believe that they do not need to be formally approved by vote. Lawyers have said that since it will be people who will be blessed, not the status of a relationship, and since the guidance and draft prayers and services of blessing are voluntary, they do not necessitate a change in the church’s canons.
A selection of biblically orthodox response and commentary:
Response to CofE Bishops Statement by Foley Beach, Gafcon
What are the bishops saying and doing in response to the end of LLF? by Ian Paul, Psephizo
Failing the Green Test – a critical examination of the material from the House of Bishops by Martin Davie
The Hypocrisy of Authoritarian Bishops by Lee Gatiss, Church Society
Woe to the English Bishops: Dominic Steele interviews Ben Kwashi and Lee Gatiss on The Pastor’s Heart
Church of England ‘blessing’ gay unions would violate biblical teaching and jeopardise Archbishop of Canterbury’s continuing role in the Anglican Communion: Statement from GSFA
Sorry, Anglicans, There Is No Third Way by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative
Where is repentance? Statement from Bishop Andy Lines of Anglican Network in Europe
“Dear Justin…”RT Kendall’s open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury on sexuality, from Premier Christianity
The Church of England Evangelical Council met from 24-26 January, to discuss their response. Their statement released on 27 January shows united opposition among evangelicals in the C of E to the bishops’ proposals, and promises further guidance for churches, networks and DEF’s on possible action which can be taken.
- Can the bishops’ guidance be rescinded? Pray for General Synod, that those members who hold to the biblical line may do so clearly, graciously and persuasively; that bishops will repent.
- Will there be a safe space for continued biblical witness within the Church of England? Pray for discussions going on about “structural differentiation”, and for boldness to take principled action.
- Can the wider Anglican Communion help? Pray for deepening relationships between faithful leaders in the C of E and GSFA; pray for those who will be attending Gafcon Kigali in April.
- Do new Anglican jurisdictions have a role? Pray for Anglican Network in Europe, with its two Convocations AMiE and ACE, and for those considering establishing new congregations.
- Will the biblical message on sex, marriage and what it means to be a human being still be tolerated in the public space? Pray that government will not impose secular ideologies on church and society, restricting gospel freedoms.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have unveiled a major report on social care in England, and how a new ‘national covenant’ is required to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable are properly cared for, and carers rewarded for their work. “Reimagining Care” attempts to set out an inspiring vision for the future, drawing on Christian theology and tradition. All people, even the ‘unproductive’, are important, made in God’s image; to cause harm to the most vulnerable through neglect is sinful. There is a challenge to the government to invest more resources and ‘redesign the system’, and encouragement to all churches to do more to build community and facilitate practical caring.
It is important to engage with this. Is the analysis correct? Are the solutions realistic? Is Christ glorified and the gospel promoted? In what ways can my church contribute to better care, and rebuilding of communities generally? Linked to this is the ongoing attempt by some health leaders and MP’s to legalise “assisted dying” or euthanasia – pray that latest consultations will not result in changes to the law.
Clergy mental health
A major study on wellbeing among Church of England clergy has been published, concluding that the mental health of many in full-time ministry suffered during the pandemic. While the report comes from a secular sociological perspective rather than a biblical-pastoral one, it contains many useful insights for the development of healthy relationships and effective support within churches.
Genocide in Nigeria, Armenia and Syria: The Persecution of Christians. Raymond Ibrahim, writing in Gatestone Institute, outlines some news of violence against Christians. Please pray.
Anniversary of much-loved hymn:
2023 is the 250th anniversary of the first singing of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’.
John Newton, a former slave trader who became a pastor, presented it in January 1773 to accompany his teaching on 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 during the evening service at St Peter and St Paul Anglican Church, in the market town of Olney, between Northampton and Bedford. Read more from Evangelical Focus.