Evangelicals criticise Bishops’ same-sex marriage guidance

The Church of England’s latest same-sex marriage guidance is “insufficient” and “unclear”, evangelicals within the Church’s ruling body have warned.

The ‘Evangelical Group in General Synod’ (EGGS) committee raised concerns with its members about the House of Bishops’ statement – released last month – which allows for special prayers to be said for gay couples.

Revd John Dunnett, chair of the group, wrote in a letter: “We believe that the guidance in respect of acts of worship after a civil same sex wedding is unclear.”

Confusion

He said that allowing for informal prayers is “likely to lead to confusion” at a local level, as there is little difference between them and a service of blessing.

He added it was “counterintuitive” to imply it is acceptable for clergy to pray for God’s blessing on a “relationship which departs from the church’s teaching”.

Revd Dunnett explained that the challenge to respond to requests for same-sex marriage recognition will be at a local level.

Insufficient

He said, “we are concerned that the guidance offered is insufficient in this regard”.

The Bishops’ statement revealed they are unwilling for someone in a same-sex marriage to be ordained, and would consider it inappropriate for current clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage as people in these positions need to “model the Church’s teaching in their lives”.

But the EGGS committee said lay ministers should also offer an “exemplary lifestyle” and therefore need to be required not to enter into same-sex marriages.

Endorsement

The EGGS letter affirmed that praying for people’s needs in all kinds of relationships is “not to be confused with an endorsement of these relationships”.

Revd Dunnett welcomed the Bishops’ agreement that the Christian understanding of marriage is between one man and one woman.

The House of Bishops’ statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage came as an appendix to a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The letter, directed to clergy and members of the Church of England, said that the Bishops are still discussing the controversial Pilling report on human sexuality, which recommended marking gay relationships in special church services.

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