Where is the Church of England Evangelical Council when we need it?
A long time ago, in a land that certainly now feels far, far away, the renowned Anglican evangelical theologian John Stott had a good idea.
What would happen, he mused, if different evangelicals within the CofE could be brought together to talk, pray, plan and resolve any differences?
Thus was born the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) in 1960. And it still exists today. Indeed, in 2014, according to its website, it had a bit of a revamp, with a new constitution and leadership. And the website is rather good.
The problem is simply that it doesn't look as though it is doing or saying enough. And that's a pity, because at this somewhat fraught and unsettled time in Anglicanism's history it is arguable it is needed more than ever.
The CEEC's quietude is all the more puzzling because it is full of talent. The list of council members contains the names of many people who have a history of leadership, competence, vision, passion and godliness.
It is also usefully diverse too – bringing together bishops, lay people, theological college principals, and different groups such as New Wine, Reform, CPAS, Fulcrum, Anglican Mainstream and Awesome (a network of Anglican evangelical women leaders).
There is some thought-provoking material on the website – for example, a paper on transgender issues by Martin Davie, the Oxford University theologian, and a thoughtful discussion of same-sex relationships and the options for Anglican traditionalists.
But these papers – useful though they are – fall a long way short of fulfilling the list of aspirations set out on the vision webpage of the CEEC. Broadly speaking, it reads as though it is CEEC which should be leading, envisioning and co-ordinating the concerns of evangelicals within the Church of England.
And such leadership is desperately needed. Take the most recent General Synod, for example. Since that meeting, most of the evangelical noise in reaction to it has come from one particular section of the Anglican evangelical constituency. Thus we have had a public statement from one group who have already been meeting to discuss how to ensure a 'ensure a faithful ecclesial future'.
And then we have had a letter to the Daily Telegraph from many of the same people, plus others, calling for a 'renewal of orthodox Anglicanism and of Anglican structures in these islands' – a phrase which I have no doubt was chosen for its helpful ambiguity in covering both those who want to stay in the Church of England and those who want to leave.
But from the CEEC there has been not a peep – at least so far as I can see. Indeed, the most recent item on its news page dates from January this year. And that's a pity. Because if it wants to 'promote and pursue unity amongst evangelicals' then now would seem like an excellent time to be pursuing this endeavour with fresh zeal.
Moreover, if it wishes to 'advocate the presence and engagement of evangelicals in the structures and life of the Church of England' then the current time post-Synod – when some are thinking about giving up on that approach – might be a really helpful time to explain afresh why.
From my perspective, as an ordinary member of the clergy serving in an ordinary parish, a simple thing the CEEC could do would be to have an e-mail list whereby they update us with theological resources, public statements and other news. And whereas every other evangelical or Anglican network seems to have a presence on social media, CEEC appears to remain invisible.
According to its website portal, a main aim of the CEEC is to 'bring evangelicals in the Church of England together for the sake of the gospel' and to 'encourage one another and build one another up'. That sounds good to me.
So let me start the ball rolling by encouraging them – and hopefully building them up – by saying simply: 'Dear CEEC council. You look like a godly and wise bunch of people. For the sake of the gospel, after this recent controversial Synod, I'd love to hear more from you. So – please – what will you do to help us and lead us at this important time?'
David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Follow him on Twitter @Baker_David_A