Evangelicals on Synod split over marriage statement

12 July 2019

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SENIOR members of the Evangelical Group of the General Synod (EGGS) have resigned, after the group voted overwhelming to change its basis of faith to affirm marriage as “between one man and one woman”, and commit unmarried people to sexual abstinence (News, 28 June).

At a meeting at the General Synod in York, this week, the Evangelical Group voted 83 to 19 to accept two new clauses to section 4 of its basis of faith, which concerns sin.

The second clause reads: “We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.”

Several of the 19 members who voted against the proposal have since stepped down. One, the Archdeacon of the Meon, the Ven. Gavin Collins, said on Tuesday that he was “saddened” that Evangelicals who understood scripture differently from the “very narrow formulation prescribed by the committee” had now been excluded.

“More importantly, they are decisively shutting the door to the possibility or legitimacy of further discussion or consideration of this issue amongst Evangelicals — something that, to my mind, runs against our biblical responsibility, particularly at a time when the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith task-group is continuing to work on this missionally vital subject.”

The Archdeacon of Dudley, the Ven. Nikki Groarke, who has also resigned, agreed. “I cannot, with integrity, remain part of a group for evangelical synod members that no longer recognises me as an Evangelical, which I consider myself to be,” she said.

“I believe the decision to vote on this amendment to the constitution was taken unnecessarily, and closes down conversations with others who share much common ground. It will diminish the efficacy of EGGS, and makes it a single-issue group. The timing of this, while we are in the midst of a careful process, saddens me.”

An LGBT campaigner, Jayne Ozanne, has also resigned. She said: “I was deeply saddened at the vote. As I said to EGGS members, they need to be honest about the fact that many of their family members and parishioners are LGBTI+, and that, increasingly, the younger members of their congregations are in a very different place theologically. Who now is speaking for them?”

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