Evangelicals will 'engage' with Church's sexuality resources but say key issue is 'obedience' to Scripture
The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has promised to engage with the Church of England's new resources on sexuality, relationships and identity but will also contend "unflaggingly" for "the faith once for all delivered to the saints".
The Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources, published today, are the outcome of a three-year long process led by the Bishop of Coventry.
They cover relationships, marriage, human sexuality and gender identity, and are designed as a suite of resources to encourage a Church-wide "learning journey" over 2021.
The centrepiece of the resources is a 480-page book that includes real-life stories as well as perspectives from Scripture, science, theology and history.
CEEC President and Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, said that while evangelicals were prepared to engage with the materials, submission to Scripture would remain paramount.
"To those who have been involved in Living in Love and Faith, we offer our thanks for their time, energy, commitment and hard work," he said.
"We will look closely at the materials now published and respond fully in due course. For us, this is about following Christ by submitting to what Scripture says, just as He did.
"So we will need to discern which of the materials in LLF do that by evaluating all of the various resources in the light of Scripture.
"While discussions about these issues are always welcome, the key question is not one of church procedure but whether we think that the teaching of Scripture is right. So we will engage, but this is actually about obedience to Scripture."
He continued: "To all those in the Church of England who are unsettled by suggestions that the Church might decide, in the future, to depart from historic orthodoxy, we say: 'We are here for you. You are not alone. We will resource you, support you and lead you.'
"We will contend unflaggingly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We will uphold what Christians have always believed through history and what the overwhelming majority of Christians globally still believe. These are not matters on which we can simply agree to differ, for reasons the New Testament makes clear."
CEEC Chairman, Rev Hugh Palmer, said it was important to engage in the LLF process in order to "genuinely hear" those in the Church of England who are calling for change, but added that there were others in the Church who must be heard too.
"Yes, the way Christians have treated LGBT people is shameful, and we all want to recognise that," he said.
"But we also hear the under-heard voices of countless same-sex attracted but celibate Christians whose lives bear witness to the radical way of Jesus and the New Testament, and we cannot, and will not, let them down."
The Bishop of Birkenhead and the CEEC's new National Director, Keith Sinclair, said: "To those in society who cannot understand why we believe as we do, we gladly affirm that, like you, we all want to see people doing well, living in life-giving ways and flourishing.
"This isn't about whether we want gay people or those with bisexual or other attractions to be included in the Church – we want them to be welcomed and included in all our churches. It's about how we do that as those who want to follow the radical way of Jesus and the New Testament."