In recent months we’ve been publishing a collection of short films entitled ‘God’s Beautiful Story’.
The films are designed to help leaders in evangelical churches in the Church of England launch and enable good conversations about human sexuality and the implications of any change in understanding or practice within the Church of England, following the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) consultation.
We want the Church of England to hold-fast to its existing doctrine of marriage, which is shared by the vast majority of churches across the Anglican Communion globally. However, in England, the LLF process has exposed the deeply held and theologically irreconcilable views on marriage within the Church of England. It is for this reason that our latest film, ‘Learning from elsewhere’ (above) is particularly important.
The film serves as a plea to bishops and decision makers in the Church of England to consider learnings from around the world as they discern a way forward here in England.
‘Learning from elsewhere’ gathers voices from around the Anglican Communion (from both orthodox and liberal positions), who have experienced first-hand the damaging impact of change without ‘settlement’ (i.e. change that does not provide security for an orthodox biblical conviction).
One of the contributors to the film, Rev. David McCarthy of St Thomas’s Church, Edinburgh, described the period when the Church of Scotland adopted canonical change that allowed for same sex marriage: “It was one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life. I had given 30 years, more than half of my life, to this church and it felt like the church was abandoning the gospel, abandoning the Bible, and abandoning me. And that hurt.”
Another contributor, Archbishop Emeritus Mouneer Anis, of the Anglican Province of Alexandria, warns that changing the liturgy and doctrine on marriage in other parts of the Anglican Communion would have a “devastating” impact on provinces in the Middle East and their ability to continue in their mission. “Because we live as a minority within a majority Islamic world, this will hinder our mission completely,” he said.
Through the film, we argue that the Church of England must learn from the mistakes made elsewhere and if change, in whatever guise, is put forward, it must reach for a ‘settlement’, that works for everyone rather than a ‘middle ground’ theological compromise that does not help or satisfy anyone going forwards.
The film also highlights some examples of where both sides have worked together, despite their incompatible theology, and where settlement has been achieved. This has been made possible by a “spirit of candour and a search for forgiveness”, according to Russ Ayres, Former President of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Russ Ayres worked with Rev. Canon Jonathan Millard, who represented departing Anglican churches, to reach a settlement. “At the end of it we came out with an agreement and there were compromises but they weren’t theological”, said Rev. Canon Jonathan Millard, Church of the Ascension, Pittsburgh.
CEEC is committed to praying for the College of Bishops in their discernment during the autumn and encourages all members of the Church of England to do the same.
Watch 'Learning from elsewhere’ above or on the CEEC website