Church of England urged to learn from mistakes from abroad on same-sex marriage

Evangelicals within the Church of England have urged those examining the issue of same-sex marriage within the church to learn from the mistakes made elsewhere.

In a video published by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), leaders who have both remained within established churches and those who have left have spoken of the immense difficulties that have arisen when their denomination has either approved the blessing of same-sex couples or approved the conducting of same-sex weddings.

It comes in response to the ongoing discussions surrounding the CofE’s highly controversial Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resource, to which recent feedback revealed a “diversity of views” within the church. Some respondents expressed the hope that the LLF Course “might contribute to the ‘acceptance of same sex marriage’ while others were opposed, “speaking against such a change in doctrine”.

‘Abandoning the Gospel’

The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) voted to change its doctrine in 2017 to allow same-sex weddings to take place in its church buildings.

Revd David McCarthy was Rector at St Thomas’ Church in Edinburgh at the time, and had long said he could not continue in the SEC if it voted to allow same-sex marriage.

The following year, St Thomas’ left, but Revd McCarthy said it was “one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life”.

“I had given 30 years or more than half my life to serving this Church and it felt like the church was abandoning the Gospel, abandoning the Bible and abandoning me, really. And that hurt.”

Irreconcilable difference

Some of those featured in the video were part of the US Episcopal Church when it consecrated a bishop in a same-sex relationship in 2003. The move was welcomed by liberals in the church, but caused outrage among evangelicals.

As a result, many congregations chose to part from the church, citing an irreconcilable difference in doctrine and theology.

Revd Wesley Hill of Western Theological Seminary in Michigan is same-sex attracted but has embraced a life of celibacy. He said the “profound rift” in the Episcopal Church has been “deeply painful”.

He urged the Church of England to “do this better than we’ve done” and to “charitably approach those with whom we disagree” without abandoning deeply-held scriptural beliefs.

Better solutions

John Dunnett, CEEC Director of Strategy and Operations, said: “We know there are deeply held and completely incompatible convictions within the CofE and that surface level solutions simply won’t work.

“We’ve seen elsewhere in the Anglican Communion that, where liturgical support has been suggested as a compromise, neither side has been satisfied and long, bitter and divisive battles have ensued. For the sake of the gospel, we need to find a better way ahead – a settlement without theological compromise that is best for all.”

Also see:

CofE report highlights ‘diversity’ of views on same-sex marriage

Is same-sex marriage on the horizon for the Church of England?

CofE not sure how to define ‘woman’

Video upholding biblical view of sexual ethics reported to police as a ‘hate crime’