Leading evangelical church announces 'state of broken partnership' with Church of England House of Bishops

St Helen's Bishopsgate is a thriving evangelical church in the heart of the City of London(Photo: Facebook/St Helen's Bishopsgate)

A leading evangelical church in London has announced a "state of broken partnership" with the Church of England's House of Bishops over its stance on sex and marriage. 

St Helen's Bishopsgate, in the heart of the City of the London, said that the division in the House of Bishops on sexuality had "resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England", Anglican Ink reports.

In a statement explaining its decision, it said that the Church's official doctrine on sex and marriage was being "expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others". 

"Despite their consecration vows, bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England's doctrine and/or forms of service, and bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England's stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics," the church said. 

Commenting on the decision, William Taylor, Rector of St Helen's said, "The House of Bishops has responsibility for spiritual leadership in the Church of England – teaching the truth, correcting error and exercising discipline.

"Their failure of leadership over many years is responsible for the confusion that the Church of England now finds itself in.

"By contrast the Bible's teaching is clear, authoritative and loving as is the historic doctrine of the Church of England.

"Sadly, therefore, we find that although authentically Anglican, we are not, for the time being, in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops. We feel obliged to take this step to differentiate ourselves visibly from the House of Bishops."

The announcement has been made only a few weeks after the House of Bishops published Living in Love and Faith (LLF), a set of resources to foster listening and dialogue between liberal and conservative Anglicans over the issues of sexuality, relationships and gender identity.

St Helen's said that while some sections of the LLF resources set out orthodox biblical teaching, others offer "erroneous alternative views".

"The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear," it said.

"The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen's is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the Bible's teaching on sex and marriage is in marked contrast to the House of Bishops' muddled message." 

The announcement makes clear that St Helen's is not leaving the Church of England but adds that it is "no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries".

While it will remain a member of the Church of England's Deanery and Diocesan structures "for the most part", St Helen's will be "withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership".

"This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches," it said.

"We have been in regular communication with both the current Bishop of London and her predecessor about our developing concerns.

"We are grateful that the Bishop of London has, in response, proposed working with St Helen's to assess how the potential consequences of broken partnership could be addressed."