Church of England must 'learn from mistakes' over same-sex blessings and marriage

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Anglicans from around the globe are expressing their pain and hurt at divisions over human sexuality in a new resource published by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).

The video has been released today as the Church of England's Living in Love and Faith (LLF) dialogue around issues of sexuality, gender identity and marriage, moves from the listening phase to the discernment phase.

Feedback from LLF conversations the length and breadth of England will inform a series of meetings by the bishops who will then bring proposals and a "clear direction of travel" before General Synod in February 2023.

Many of the contributors to the CEEC video - part of its "God's Beautiful Story" collection - have been through similar processes already and talk about the hurt and divisions they have caused.

The CEEC said that the LLF consultation "has exposed the deeply held and incompatible views on human sexuality within the Church of England".

In the video, the CEEC warns that the Church of England must learn from the mistakes of other provinces.

John Dunnett, Director of Strategy and Operations, at the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), said: "We know there are deeply held and completely incompatible convictions within the CofE and that surface level solutions simply won't work.

"We've seen elsewhere in the Anglican Communion that, where liturgical support has been suggested as a compromise, neither side has been satisfied and long, bitter and divisive battles have ensued.

"For the sake of the gospel, we need to find a better way ahead – a settlement without theological compromise that is best for all."

Contributors to the video include Anglicans involved in a lengthy property dispute between the Church of the Ascension, Pittsburgh, and The US Episcopal Church (TEC).

With the help of external mediators, a settlement was reached that enabled the congregation of the Church of the Ascension to continue using the building while paying the Episcopal diocese an annual fee.

"At the end of it we came out with an agreement and there were compromises but they weren't theological", said Rev Canon Jonathan Millard, of the Church of the Ascension.

Russ Ayres, former President of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the settlement could be reached because of a "spirit of candour and a search for forgiveness". 

Rev Canon Philip Ashey, President of the American Anglican Council, spoke about the harms being caused by divisions over sexuality.

"Church fights, church splits, church litigation is never a good witness to the world," he said. 

Rev David McCarthy of St Thomas's Church, Edinburgh, reflects on the devastation he felt after the Church of Scotland embraced same-sex marriage.

"It was one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life," he said.

"I had given 30 years, more than half of my life, to this church and it felt like the church was abandoning the gospel, abandoning the Bible, and abandoning me. And that hurt."

Archbishop Emeritus Mouneer Anis, of the Anglican Province of Alexandria, warned that changing the liturgy and doctrine on marriage in other parts of the Anglican Communion would have a "devastating" impact on provinces in the Middle East. 

"Because we live in a minority within a majority Islamic world and this will hinder our mission completely," he said.