Evangelical ministers in the Church of England are being urged to indicate their willingness to repudiate their obedience to any bishop who departs from established orthodoxy on issues of sexual morality – and to seek alternative episcopal oversight.
It follows the announcement this week that the Church of England intends to allow blessings for same-sex couples.
A document drawn up by a senior Anglican evangelical and now being circulated online says: "If the Bishops, with or without the authority of General Synod, were to authorise canons, regulations or liturgy which would depart from the Church of England's position on marriage and sexual relationships, it is proposed that those who cannot accept this change should sign a deed (or, in the case of a PCC, should pass a resolution) abjuring (repudiating) their canonical obedience to their Bishop."
The document continues, "This would make it clear that it is not a question of faithful ministers departing from the Church of England, but rather that the Bishops and Synod, by their actions, had themselves effectively departed from the faith and teaching of the Church of England."
The writer of the statement, who is currently remaining anonymous in order, they say, to be able to accomplish other things behind the scenes on behalf of the evangelical constituency in the C of E.
Clergy, licensed laity and church councils (PCCs) are being invited to indicate to the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) before the February Synod debate that they are prepared to sign a deed or pass a resolution to this effect.
The document – called "The Keeping Faith Declaration" – says that any bishop who authorises or commends liturgical provision for the blessing of same-sex marriage or civil partnerships will have "departed from the faith which is revealed in the holy scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness."
It adds: "We are looking for the Bishops to acknowledge that we have a rightful place in the Church, and for them to enter negotiation with us as to how they propose to deal with our dissent from their proposals. Here it will be a matter of tactics around the negotiating table."
According to the declaration, the CEEC has already been exploring the possibility of a separate province for revisionists or alternative episcopal provision for traditionalists.
"It is clear that a settlement modelled on the House of Bishops' Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests is unlikely to succeed," it continues.
The declaration also says: "We recognise the desire of the Bishops to find a way forward which will hold the Church together, but we believe that the only position that could be embraced with integrity would be for them to uphold the C of E's current position. We would not be able to welcome or accept an 'accommodation'."
However the statement concludes by expressing the sentiments to the effect that although the options of rejecting the authority of liberal bishops and seeking alternative episcopal oversight are on the table, the hope is that the necessity of using them can be avoided by Bishops and Synod maintaining a clear orthodox line on these matters.
David Baker is Contributing Editor to Christian Today and Senior Editor of the newspaper and website EN, available at less than the cost of a cappuccino per month at https://www.e-n.org.uk in print and online. He writes here in a purely personal capacity.