THE Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) is to offer alternative episcopal ministry for clergy and congregations that oppose the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples.
The plan was revealed in a statement published by the CEEC on Friday afternoon. There is also a new national fund, the “Ephesian Fund”, and churches and individuals are invited to divert their giving away from central diocesan finances.
“PCCs will also be able to pay part or all of their voluntary parish share (also known as ‘quota’) via the Fund”, the statement said, “thus enabling their share to be used to support only local churches who stand with them in the historic Anglican and biblical position on sexual ethics.”
The conservative Evangelical group the CEEC has become a prominent voice in opposition to the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples and revised guidance to clergy that would allow them to marry same-sex partners (News, 9 June)
On Wednesday, the General Synod voted to support the implementation of new prayers by the House of Bishops, including introducing a trial period for stand-alone blessing services (News, 15 November) before a formal decision on them by the Synod in two to three years.
The former Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, will lead the CEEC episcopal panel, which includes two other honorary assistant bishops. Their identities have not yet been announced, but it is understood that they are members of the C of E rather than of breakaway Anglican groups.
A source at the CEEC confirmed that they will not be paid for this work, but will be able to claim expenses.
The CEEC is a trust that is independent from Church of England structures. Accounts available on the Charity Commission website show that it has had an increase in its income, and expenditure, over the past two years. In the financial year ending in March 2021, it received a total of £113,000 from churches, individuals and trusts. In the most recent financial year, this figure had risen to almost £175,000. In the same period, staff costs increased from £5784 to £63,170
Friday’s statement says that clergy and PCCs should “still look to their diocesan bishop for legal and formal oversight”, including when it comes to safeguarding. But other aspects of episcopal ministry could be performed by Bishop Henderson or the other bishops, including confirmations — though a source at the CEEC suggested that they would expect this to happen with the approval of the diocesan bishop.
In dioceses where there are bishops who have opposed the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples, conservative parishes may apply to them for oversight rather any bishops who have voted for such blessings.
The CEEC statement promises further plans will be introduced “to support orthodox ordinands, parochial clergy and senior leaders, as well as supporting lay ministers, chaplains, patrons, archdeacons and other groupings in the Church of England whose commitment to orthodoxy might be challenged as the Prayers of Love and Faith initiative moves forward.
“Our hope and prayer is that these temporary provisions will enable orthodox evangelicals to remain in the Church of England whilst we seek a permanent and structural settlement to secure orthodox life and witness going forward.”
The statement ends with an indication that “CEEC is committed to working with the House of Bishops to seek a settlement that is acceptable to all.”
Church House was approached for comment.