The true doctrine of marriage cannot be changed, regardless of how the Church of England’s general synod votes, says Andrea Williams. But things are about to get harder for churches and ministers with traditional views on marriage and sexuality
It is being widely reported that the Church of England’s governing body, General Synod, has backed trials of services blessing same-sex relationships. The Guardian says “services to celebrate gay marriages could be held within weeks”.
The CofE leadership are often at pains to claim that these services - and the prayers within them - only “ask for God’s blessing”, and that they don’t directly bless these relationships or sexual activity within them.
This is straight out of the CofE playbook: deceptive language that allows the de facto approval of sin while pretending they’re not contradicting the Church’s doctrine of marriage. All this nuance is lost within minutes of the vote as media outlets report that these ‘blessings’ are going ahead.
Teach and pastor faithfully. Keep your ordination vows even if your bishops are breaking theirs
On paper, not much has really changed. An amendment squeaked through by the barest of margins to ask the House of Bishops “to consider” these services being made available for use. The services, and the prayers within them, may well be illegal for clergy to use, no matter how boldly the bishops commend them.
All these technicalities aren’t really the point though. The purpose of these prayers and services are to bless what God detests. Canon law stands against these prayers; even more so, God’s holy law.
The CofE leadership’s mantra is that everyone is committed to “walking together”. This is little more than passive aggressive bullying: evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are largely committed to staying exactly where they are, while the leadership and liberals walk the broad path to acceptance from culture - and damnation from God.
“Walking together” is a bad joke. My ex-gay friends from X-Out-Loud, who were visiting synod, were told to take their t-shirts off because people were offended by their message that change is possible. I am offended by the ubiquitous rainbow lanyards and heresy on the floor of synod. Not for the first time, I was called “satanic” by a liberal, who said my presence there was disturbing.
Orthodox, evangelical voices within the CofE now face a crisis of public perception. Although they are objecting to these changes clearly in synod, they are still seen by other Christians as part of a denomination that has wildly rejected God. As the Church is seen to ‘walk together’ towards sin, faithful CofE churches are seen by other evangelicals as increasingly compromised, making fellowship and mission together ever more difficult.
Sending a message
Faithful Anglican voices need to send extremely clear messages - through their words and actions - that they are not ‘walking together’ towards the blessing of sin. This includes public statements and cutting financial ties. But there are other simple steps that can be taken with little cost: minimising or stopping any activity that suggests a shared mission with compromised leaders and churches. Refusal to participate in centrally branded CofE initiatives like Follow the Star. This should make it abundantly clear to other faithful local churches that they value fellowship and partnership with them more than with CofE liberals who have abandoned the faith.
As for ‘red lines’ and ‘hills to die on’, every faithful CofE minister and church needs to be prepared for the worst. You may want to stay and fight, but what are your plans if you are kicked out? How will you protect your parishioners from the wolves who might take your place?
This will be hard. In recent years, the Christian Legal Centre have supported several faithful CofE ministers who have been punished for holding the Church’s own doctrine of marriage. Some of them were present at a synod fringe event on Tuesday, telling the stories of how they have been dragged through punishing procedures, stopped from fulfilling roles in the local community or lost their jobs for standing faithfully on marriage.
I am offended by the ubiquitous rainbow lanyards and heresy on the floor of synod
The world is now hearing that you can pop down to your parish church and book yourself in for a same-sex blessing. That may not be technically true, but how are churches going to refuse these request? Many will find their names dragged through the gutter and be thrown out of ministry roles in the community.
Pray and stand firm
Great courage is needed. It will not be easy to consistently “fight against sin, the world and the devil” while most of our bishops are traitorously aiding them. Teach and pastor faithfully. Keep your ordination vows even if your bishops are breaking theirs.
And whether you are in the Church of England or not, you can pray for the faithful to stand firm. You can pray that bishops and liberals alike will repent, realising that Jesus Christ is better than our lusts. When bishops or ministers take a stand – small or big – you can encourage them and ask for more.
My heart longs for Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, to repent and change the course of the Church of England. It’s not too late.
The fight is fierce, but we have a great and mighty saviour who has promised not to abandon us. Let your hands be strong, and be valiant.