CHRISTIANS cannot simply “agree to disagree” on issues of sexuality, because they are of “eternal significance”, a new video released by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) says.
The film, How Important Are Our Differences?, was released on Tuesday. It is the third part of a series, God’s Beautiful Story, which also includes the films Can We Remain Silent? and Starting the Conversation (News, 6 May).
The Pastor of Dundonald Church, a Co-Mission church in Raynes Park, south-west London, Santhosh Thomas, says in the film: “We can’t agree to disagree on these foundational issues of sexuality and Christian living, because Jesus says they’re issues of eternal significance. And therefore if we imply that somehow there’s a range of different things you can believe and live . . . that’s fundamentally dishonest to the teachings of Jesus. His teaching tells us this is a matter of primary importance.”
The CEEC’s National Director, a former Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, says that, in the New Testament, “there is disagreement allowed on certain areas, and on the question of sexual ethics there is no latitude. . . And therefore I don’t believe we are at liberty to simply rewrite scripture and introduce into the life of the Church now areas in which the early church of the apostles were very clear as to what the Lord’s teaching was.”
Bishop Sinclair was a member of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, but declined to sign its report that suggested clergy be permitted to provide a public service to mark same-sex relationships (News, 29 November 2013).
A co-chair of the CEEC, Ed Shaw, says that the Pastoral Principles and the Living in Love and Faith resources are enabling better conversations about sexuality. “But neither of those resources is going to be able to sort of cover up the fact that we profoundly disagree on these issues, and that we need to be open and honest about that.”
How Important Are Our Differences? also includes speakers from the Global South, including the Bishop of Singapore, the Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah. “Whatever happens in the Church of England is going to have very serious ramifications for the [Anglican] Communion,” he says. If canon law was changed to allow same-sex marriages in the Church of England, it would “jeopardise the whole inter-relationship” of the Communion.
He stops short, however, of saying that Churches in the Global South would break away from the Communion in such circumstances: “The Communion goes beyond the Church of England; in the grace of God, it’s collectively owned. So, the Global South has no intention to break away from the Anglican Communion. Rather, we might see it as a section of the house that is being fireproofed, because there’s a subtle fire or there is a wildfire.”