Evangelical Alliance expects more Anglican churches to join over CofE gay blessings

The head of the Evangelical Alliance, Gavin Calver, believes the organisation may see a growth in membership as the Church of England moves ahead with divisive plans to bless same-sex couples.

In an interview for the Religion and Media Centre's Big Interview podcast, Calver said it was "too early" for the EA to tell Anglican evangelical congregations what to do because the Church of England is still in the process of formulating new pastoral guidance on the blessings.

However, he said that the EA was ready to be a place of support and a "port in a storm" for evangelical congregations dismayed over the Church of England's direction of travel.

"We'll probably find that a number of Anglican churches join the Evangelical Alliance, because it's actually a time where they want to be in unity with wider evangelicals, as well as continuing in their space, which is challenging," he said.

During the interview, Mr Calver reiterated the EA's position on marriage as a union between one man and one woman for life, but added that the Church needed to be compassionate towards same-sex attracted people and welcome everyone in through its doors.

"The theology is quite simple — I think the pastoral implications are incredibly complicated," he said.

Asked about his views on conversion therapy, Calver said that the EA was concerned about the "unintended consequences" of government plans to introduce a ban.

He said that it would be "discrimination" to allow churches to pray for people with unwanted feelings towards a person of the opposite sex while prohibiting prayer if those feelings were towards someone of the same sex.

"We did a lot of work on this over the last couple of years to say: let's not stop the Church being the Church, but if someone wants me to pray with them so they don't act on feelings they don't want to act on, I think we should be free to do that," he said.

He continued, "Conversion therapy is one of the most loaded terms. The bill that the government is seeking to bring in is seeking to go further than most of us would feel was OK, in terms of restrictions of prayer in a church setting."