The pick-and-mix approach to biblical truth in the Church of England's latest report on human sexuality, Living in Love and Faith, certainly confirms my decision to leave the denomination, which I did last year after serving for 23 years as an ordained minister.
In a recent article, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Symes, has well summarised the problem with LLF's treatment of the Christian Scriptures:
"LLF (p328) suggests that certain ways of reading the bible which might seem 'obvious' are in fact formed by 'the experience of the privileged groups that do most to produce them. So what we take to be just 'sound interpretation' may in fact be white, male, middle-class, affluent and Western interpretation and theology'. Instead, we're encouraged (p329) to consider 'queer hermeneutics' which focusses on unmasking the 'cisgender heterosexual perspective' behind certain assumptions about gender and sexuality."
Andy makes a powerful appeal to conservative Anglicans thinking of taking part in the planned LLF discussions in the build-up to decision time in 2022 at the CofE's governing body, the General Synod, over whether it votes to change the traditional Anglican teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman for life and that sex is exclusively for marriage:
"I would want to plead with anyone thinking of taking part in next year's conversations on that basis: don't! No matter how clearly and winsomely you communicate your view, at best it will be immediately relativised ("that's your opinion"); you will be patronised ("haven't you read these theologians?"); at worst you'll be accused of hate speech. The only justification for conservatives taking part is for those who've read up on all the intersectional theory and queer theology to just sit quietly, listen and take notes, seeing it as a research project on what the trajectory of the Church of England really is as illustrated by LLF: a compromise with secularism and neo-paganism. Meanwhile, energy should go into planning for differentiation within and/or separation from the institution depending on conscience and circumstance."
So, given the spiritual direction of the CofE, I do not envy my former conservative evangelical peers who are staying in. However, I do want to avoid being smug. To look down Pharisee-like as a leaver on CofE conservative remainers trying to stand up for biblical truth from within would surely be more spiritually dangerous for me than staying humbly under the cosh in the denomination.
I feel very thankful that the Lord has led my wife and me to a lovely independent evangelical church here in Morecambe, Lancashire, where we are now living – Church by the Bay.
But despite having left the CofE, I remain committed to its Protestant and Reformed doctrinal standards, the 39 Articles of Religion. And I still love the historic liturgy of the Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer. This Evening Prayer Collect seems particularly appropriate in these difficult days for conservative Christians in the CofE and outside it:
"O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour."
Julian Mann is an evangelical journalist and author of Christians in the Community of the Dome.