THE Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), a group comprising 14 organisations, has released a “declaration” outlining why they feel “compelled to resist” moves to bless same-sex couples.
A statement published on a new website, declaration.ceec.info, includes an apology for “the times we have failed and continue to fail to love [LGBTQ+ people] as God loves them”.
The statement continues: “Sadly, however, we cannot accept central features of the bishops’ proposed way forward.” The move to bless same-sex couples, and to allow priests to be in same-sex marriages, “represents a departure from the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness”.
The CEEC is inviting those who agree with the declaration to register their support on the website, which also includes a range of “supporting resources” about the CEEC’s position.
“This is an opportunity for churches, ministers and individuals to express their convictions in a way that can be passed on to our bishops as they pray and deliberate on the future,” the CEEC’s director of strategy and operations, Canon John Dunnett, said on Tuesday.
In recent weeks, some Evangelicals have publicly criticised the CEEC’s position and pronouncements
In a letter to the Church Times earlier this month, 18 Evangelicals who are members of the General Synod wrote: “It has frequently been implied by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and other groups and individuals that Evangelical Christians are united in their opposition to the proposed direction of travel and prayers of blessing for those in committed same-sex relationships.
“As Evangelical members of the Synod, we would like to make it clear that this simply isn’t true. Many Evangelical Christians wish to welcome and celebrate committed same-sex relationships” (Letters, 3 March).
The letter prompted several responses, debating what it means to identify oneself as “Evangelical” (Letters, 10 March; Letters, 17 March).
In an article on Via Media published on 12 March, the Revd Charles Read, who works for the diocese of Norwich in ministerial formation, reflected on his experiences of the Evangelical movement in the 1960s.
“We did not, in those days, want or ask for separate structures in order to flourish. Gradually, we learned how to work within the structures of the Church of England and to bring some evangelical witness into things,” he wrote, adding that the CEEC “has become increasingly associated with the conservative evangelical tribe.
“It has long since ceased to represent the breath of evangelicalism within the Church of England. As such, its claim to speak for evangelicals in the Church of England is difficult to take seriously.”
On Tuesday, Canon Dunnett said: “CEEC has never claimed to speak for all those who call themselves Evangelical. But its ‘umbrella’ constituent membership does bring together Evangelicals from the vast majority of groupings and networks, and in doing so creates an Evangelical unity that no one else can match.”