A PROPOSAL from the Evangelical Group of the General Synod (EGGS) to change its basis of faith to affirm marriage as “between one man and one woman” and commit unmarried people to abstinence has been met by fierce criticism.
Members of the Evangelical group are due to vote at a meeting at the General Synod in York, next week, on whether to accept two new clauses to section 4 of the EGGS basis of faith, which concerns sin. The proposed clauses were sent to members last Monday along with the forthcoming agenda.
The clauses read: “4.1.1. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
“4.1.2. 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.”
Anthony Archer, who has been a member of the group since 1993, with the exception of 2010 to 2015, when he was not on the Synod, described the proposal as an “unwelcome development”. There would be push-back, he said.
“What they are saying is that you can only be a member of EGGS if you are a certain sort of Evangelical. This is tribalism writ large, a retreat into the bunker. It’s disappointing, as for all of the time I have been on General Synod EGGS has been a broad grouping for all Evangelicals, Charismatic, open, through to headship conservatives.
“We disagreed over women priests and bishops, but it was respectful. We didn’t take a party line. If this amendment passes, that will all change, with the result that the increasing numbers of Evangelicals who are accepting or affirming of covenanted relationships between same-gendered people will have no place in EGGS.”
There are about 120 clergy and laity members of the Evangelical group. “The majority are very conservative, certainly on the gay issue,” Mr Archer explained. “It will probably pass, but there will be lots of push-back from affirming Evangelicals, like me, some of whom are not members of EGGS for the very reason that they don’t wish to be associated with the hardliners.”
The Archdeacon of the Meon, the Ven. Gavin Collins, who is also a member of the group, said that he was “saddened and concerned” by the proposal, which sought to define “legitimate Evangelicals ever more narrowly and prescriptively rather than allowing EGGS to be as it is at its best: a forum for fellowship, support, debate, and discussion for all members of Synod who seek to be guided and directed by the Bible. . .
“I fear that this proposal, if adopted, will undermine and weaken the credibility, witness, and impact of EGGS and of our influence on the wider Church.”
The statement would bring the Evangelical group into line with the basis of faith of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), the chair of EGGS, the Revd John Dunnett, said.
“Every now and then Constitutions have to be updated to keep them fit for purpose. EGGS is a member organisation of the Church of England Evangelical Council, and the EGGS committee is keen to see our basis of faith kept in step with that of CEEC. I am sure that our membership will welcome the opportunity to consider the proposed amendments to the basis of faith, as well as to update our Constitution to more gender appropriate language.”
An LGBT campaigner and Synod member, Jayne Ozanne, said: “I am deeply saddened and troubled by this move to exclude Evangelicals like myself from EGGS. I do question how this decision holds in the light of the six pastoral principles that we have just been encouraged to embrace by the House of Bishops.”
The six principles, commended by the House of Bishops earlier this year, invite church communities “to consider and discuss their life together as a diverse community”, with a focus on LGBT issues.