After two and a half days of heated debate, the General Synod of the Church of England on Nov. 15 narrowly agreed to permit a test period for stand-alone “services for blessing” for same-sex couples.
Originally, plans allowing priests to bless same-sex couples as part of an existing service, were tabled for further discussion until 2025. However, as a result of an amendment by Stephen Croft, bishop of Oxford, same-sex couples will not have to wait.
Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly explained, “The Church of England is not offering same-sex marriage services. This is about offering a standalone service … to ask God’s blessing.” While the Prayers of Love and Faith are expected by mid-December, it is unknown when the details and structure for stand-alone services will be ready. In addition, work will begin for bishops to prepare guidance allowing clergy to marry same sex partners, and that future candidates for ordination will not be asked whether their lifestyle and relationships are in alignment with the Church of England.
Following this devastating outcome, the Reverend John Dunnett, national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), said the organization was deeply grieved and saddened by this decision. “It appears the Church of England no longer sees Scripture as our supreme authority. The Church of England is not of one mind on questions of sexuality and marriage,” he said.
As proposals for change move forward, the CEEC urged bishops to “step back from the brink” and explore a “structural re-organization without theological compromise.” The organization recognized the resulting division in parishes across the country. “We are concerned for the consciences of evangelicals (lay and ordained) across England who now feel their membership with the Church of England is compromised.”
To this end, CEEC will establish temporary provisions enabling them to remain a part of the Church of England while a more formal and official position is being considered.
“CEEC stands united with people across the dioceses of the Church or England who wish to pray and work for the securing of orthodoxy through a form of structural provision. Our hearts remain deeply committed to contending for the faith as have received it.”
The Reverend Phil Martin, vicar of St Botolph’s Aldersgate, said: “Since the House of Bishops has departed from the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sin and therefore from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, change is needed. New structures are needed.”
Above: Stock image from a previous General Synod.
Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo