Evangelical leaders urge CofE to remain ‘faithful to its apostolic inheritance’

12 October 2016

More than 80 UK evangelical leaders from a variety of backgrounds, churches and organisations have signed a letter to the College of Bishops, regarding The Church of England’s current discussions on the issue of human sexuality. They urge the Church of England “not to depart from the apostolic inheritance with which they have been entrusted”, while affirming one-man, one-woman marriage as “the only context in which physical expression is to be given to our sexuality”.

The letter follows two previous letters to bishops from members of the Church of England’s General Synod, which urged the Church to uphold biblical teaching on this issue.

The first letter, signed in July by 32 members of Synod, including Christian Concern’s Chief Executive Andrea Williams, expressed a “lack of confidence” in the July Synod’s ‘shared conversations’ process

The other, signed in August by 72 Synod members, urged the Church “not to consider any proposals that fly in the face of the historic understanding of the church as expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (1991) and Lambeth Resolution 1.10.”

The Letter to the College of Bishops

The Church of England is at a crossroads in her calling to bring hope and transformation to our nation. The presenting issue is that of human sexuality, in particular whether or not the Church is able to affirm sexual relationships beyond opposite sex marriage. But the tectonic issues beneath, and driving, this specific question include what it means to be faithful to our apostolic inheritance, the Church’s relationship with wider culture, and the nature of the biblical call to holiness in the 21st Century.

As culture and attitudes continue to change, the Church faces a range of new social realities. These include the rise in cohabitation and the wide scale acceptance of divorce with its negative impact on children, the explosion of diverse types of family relationships, the emergence of gender fluidity and bisexuality, and the recognition of same-sex unions. These far-reaching social changes raise questions and – in some quarters – undermine confidence in our inherited teaching.

The Church has not always navigated these social realities well. We recognise the damage caused by judgemental attitudes. We have sometimes failed to recognise acts of great kindness and humanity. We have elevated some sins above others. We have ignored the plank in our own eye. There is much work ahead, not least in ensuring that our communities offer sacrificial hospitality and service to all, regardless of background, family structure or sexuality.

At the same time, we remain convinced of the essential goodness of the Christian moral vision. The Bible is clear that God has given the marriage of one man with one woman as the only context in which physical expression is to be given to our sexuality. We believe that we flourish, whether single or married, as our lives are brought into harmony with God’s intended design.

Any change in the Church’s teaching or practice – such as the introduction of provisions that celebrate or bless sexual relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman – would represent a significant departure from our apostolic inheritance and the authority of the Bible in matters of faith and doctrine. It would also, inevitably, be a further step on a trajectory towards the full acceptance of same-sex sexual partnerships as equivalent to male-female marriage.

There are substantive issues at stake here about the Christian understanding of what it means to be human. We do not believe that God has left us alone in the confusion and uncertainty of constructing our own identity. The gift of male and female sexual differentiation, and its unique and fundamental mutuality, is part of God’s good creation and a mirror to His own nature, and the boundaries it brings are for our flourishing and preservation.

We do not believe therefore that it is within our gift to consider human sexual relationships and what constitutes and enables our flourishing as sexual beings to be of ‘secondary importance’. What is at stake goes far beyond the immediate pastoral challenges of human bisexual and same-sex sexual behaviour: it is a choice between alternative and radically different visions of what it means to be human, to honour God in our bodies, and to order our lives in line with God’s holy will.

At this crucial juncture, as our bishops pray and discern together regarding how the Church of England should walk forward at this time, we urge them not to depart from the apostolic inheritance with which they have been entrusted.

Any further changes to practice or doctrine in these important areas will set the Church on a path of fundamental disunity. It would cause a break not only with the majority of the Anglican Communion, but with the consistent mind of the worldwide Church down many centuries. It will trigger a process of division and fragmentation among faithful Anglicans in England. Responses would vary, but the consequences for the life and mission of the Church will be far-reaching, both nationally and globally.

We ask our bishops to commit to a renewed vision of a welcoming Church in which all hear the good news of the Gospel, all are invited to repent and receive the grace of God, and all are called as followers of Jesus to live out the Christian moral vision– in lives of self-sacrifice and mutual care – for the common good.

Letter Signatories

Those signing below do so in a purely personal capacity. They are evangelical leaders from a variety of backgrounds, churches and organisations and indicative of the breadth and depth of support for this letter. Some could be labelled as LGBTI but are living in conformity with the historic teachings of the church.

  1. Revd Canon Dr Peter Ackroyd, Vicar, St Marys Wootton, Chair St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  2. Revd Sam Allberry, Trustee and co-founder of Living Out, apologist for the Zacharias Trust, editor for The Gospel Coalition
  3. Revd Steve Allen, Chair of CPAS Patronage Trustees
  4. Mrs Lorna Ashworth, member of Archbishops’ Council
  5. Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, Wycliffe Hall and General Synod
  6. Revd Simon Austen, Rector, St. Leonard’s Exeter
  7. Revd David Banting, Vicar, St Peter’s Harold Wood, Trustee of Reform, and General Synod
  8. Revd Mark Burkill, Chair of Reform and Chair Latimer Trust
  9. Revd Nathan Buttery, Associate Vicar, St Andrew the Great, Cambridge
  10. Revd Tim Chapman, Minister, Christ Church South Cambs, Sawston
  11. Revd Charlie Cleverly, Rector, St Aldates, Oxford
  12. Revd John Coles, Missional Community Leader, London
  13. Canon Andrew Cornes, Sussex Gospel Partnership and General Synod
  14. Revd Alyson Davie, Chair of the House of Clergy for Rochester Diocese
  15. Revd C J Davis, Rector, St Nicholas, Tooting
  16. Revd Joe Dent, Rector, Minster Church of St Andrew, Plymouth
  17. Revd Dr Sean Doherty, St Mellitus College, member of the Living Out team and General Synod
  18. Revd Will Donaldson, Director of Pastoral Care at St Aldates, Oxford and Area Dean of Oxford
  19. Revd James Dudley-Smith, Rector and Rural Dean of Yeovil, Member of General Synod
  20. Revd John Dunnett, Chair of Evangelical Group General Synod (EGGS)
  21. Revd Jonny Elvin, Vicar, Trinity Church, Exeter and Chair of Exeter Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  22. Revd Anthony Everett, Chair of Canterbury Diocese Evangelical Network, Vicar, Christ Church and St Andrew’s Herne Bay
  23. Revd Lee Gatiss, Director, Church Society
  24. Dr Philip Giddings, former Chair, General Synod House of Laity and member of Archbishops’ Council
  25. Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, Fulcrum leadership team
  26. Revd Lis Goddard, Vicar St James the Less, Pimlico and Chair of Awesome
  27. Revd Chris Green, Vicar, St James, Muswell Hill
  28. Revd Tim Grew, Acting Lead Pastor, Trinity Cheltenham
  29. Revd Paul Harcourt, Vicar, All Saints Woodford Wells
  30. Prof Glynn Harrison, formerly General Synod and Crown Nominations Commission
  31. Revd Canon Clive Hawkins, Rector, St Mary’s Basingstoke, formerly General Synod
  32. Revd Dr David Hilborn, Principal, St John’s School of Mission, Nottingham
  33. Mr Stephen Hofmeyr, QC, Secretary Church England Evangelical Council
  34. Revd David Holloway, Vicar, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, Chair of Anglican International Development
  35. Mr Carl Hughes, General Synod and EGGS Committee
  36. Revd Dr Emma Ineson, Trinity College, Bristol and General Synod
  37. Revd Steve James, Rector, Holy Trinity, Platt, Manchester
  38. Revd Henry Kendal, Vicar, St Barnabas, Woodside Park
  39. Revd Paul Langham, Vicar, Christ Church Clifton, Bristol and General Synod
  40. Mrs Susie Leafe, Director, Reform
  41. Mr James Lee, House of Laity, General Synod and EGGS Committee
  42. Revd Canon Andy Lines, Mission Director of Crosslinks, General Secretary of AMiE, Chairman of GAFCON UK Task Force
  43. Revd Chris Lowe, Mission Initiative Leader, St John’s Orchard Park, Cambridge
  44. Revd Angus MacLeay, Rector, St Nicholas, Sevenoaks, Reform Trustee, General Synod
  45. Revd Preb Charles Marnham, Vicar, St Michael’s, Chester Square, London
  46. Revd Rachel Marszalek, General Secretary of Fulcrum
  47. Revd John McGinley, Vicar, Holy Trinity, Leicester
  48. Revd Jane Morris, Vicar St Gabriel’s, Cricklewood
  49. Revd Barry Morrison, Chair of Peterborough DEF
  50. Revd Justin Mote, Chair of AMiE exec, and Chair of North West Gospel Partnership
  51. Revd Rob Munro, Chair Fellowship of Word and Spirit, Chair of House of Clergy for Chester Diocese
  52. Revd Dr Mike Ovey, Principal, Oak Hill College, London
  53. Revd James Paice, Vicar, St Luke’s Wimbledon Park and Trustee of GAFCON and Trustee of Southwark Good Stewards Trust
  54. Revd Alasdair Paine, Vicar, St Andrew the Great Church, Cambridge
  55. Revd Hugh Palmer, Rector All Souls Langham Place, Chair of Church of England Evangelical Council
  56. Revd Canon Ian Parkinson, Leadership Specialist, CPAS
  57. Miss Jane Patterson, General Synod and Crown Nominations Commission
  58. Revd Dr Ian Paul, member of Archbishops’ Council
  59. Revd Paul Perkin, Vicar, St Mark’s Battersea Rise
  60. Revd Canon Andrew Perry, Vicar, St Mary’s Longfleet, Poole
  61. Revd David Phillips, Vicar, St James, Chorley, Chair of Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  62. Revd Simon Ponsonby, Pastor of Theology, St Aldates, Oxford
  63. Revd Matthew Porter, Vicar, St Michael le Belfrey, York
  64. Revd Frank Price, Vicar, St Matthew’s Cambridge and Chair of Ely Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  65. Revd Esther Prior, Chair, Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  66. Revd Jonathan Pryke, Jesmond Parish Church
  67. Revd Martin Reakes-Williams, Leipzig English Church
  68. Revd Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford
  69. Revd David Rowe, Priest in Charge, Christ Church, Winchester
  70. Revd Canon Roger Salisbury, Secretary of the Peache Trustees
  71. Revd John Samways, Trustee Church Patronage Trust
  72. Revd Dr. Peter Sanlon, Vicar, St. Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells
  73. Mr Ed Shaw, Trustee of Living Out, Pastor, Emmanuel City Centre, Bristol & General Synod
  74. Revd Charlie Skrine, Associate Rector, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London and EGGS Committee
  75. Revd Tim Stilwell, Vicar, St Dionis, Parsons Green, London
  76. Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Convenor Anglican Mainstream, and former member General Synod
  77. Revd Andrew Symes, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
  78. Revd Canon Martyn Taylor, Rector, Rector, St George’s, Stamford and General Synod
  79. Revd William Taylor, Rector, St Helens, Bishopsgate and Chairman of ReNew
  80. Canon Professor Anthony C. Thiselton, FBA, former member of Crown Nominations Commission and Doctrine Commission
  81. Revd Rico Tice, All Souls Church & Christianity Explored Ministries
  82. Revd Melvin Tinker, Vicar, St John, Newland, Hull
  83. Revd Andrew Towner, Vicar Houghton & Kingmoor, Carlisle and Trustee, Diocesan Board of Finance
  84. Revd Gary Tubbs, Chair of Carlisle Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
  85. Revd Jon Tuckwell, Associate Minister, Christ Church, Cambridge
  86. The Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Vice Principal Wycliffe Hall & Director of the School of Preaching
  87. Mr Jacob Vince, General Synod
  88. Revd Robin Weekes, Vicar, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon
  89. Revd Paul Williams, Vicar, Christ Church Fullwood and honorary Canon Sheffield Cathedral
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