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Church of England Evangelical Council releases new resources for churches in anticipation of division over sexuality

by Tola Mbakwe

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has said it's working to help church leaders engage biblically with issues around human sexuality with their congregation.

It's released two short films, in a collection for four, as well as study notes. The set of resources come as the Church of England considers potential change on its recognition of human sexuality, which could impact its teaching, liturgy or practices.

Rev Dr Ian Paul, from CEEC, told Premier the council felt it had to something in response to the Church's Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources, which is the latest way the C of E is discussing differences on sexuality.

“Many people have two concerns about the process. The first is that when you look at the Living in Love and Faith material, what it aims to do is aims to sort of put on display a range of views about sexuality. But… it puts one view or one moment, a different view, a different moment, a Bible passage. It never actually resolves the differences in the tensions between those different views.

“I mean, so we meet a transgender gay couple on the one hand, and then we hear something from 1 Corinthians 6 on the other. And the question is left hanging in the air. Well, how on earth do we connect these two different things?”

The Church of England website states that: “The purpose of the resources is to enable the Church of England churches across the country to participate in a process of learning and praying together as part of discerning a way forward in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.”

However, Dr Paul added that LLF makes it seem like the Church doesn’t currently have a stance on sexuality.

“Those who are involved in designing it said ‘well, we were never intended to resolve questions, it was supposed to open up discussion’. But that leads to the second issue with Living in Love and Faith, I think it has given some people the impression that the Church decides its doctrine by as it were taking a straw poll of all the different opinions and sort of settling somewhere in the middle. That's never been the way the Church of England has actually understood what it is that God's calling us to.

“So I think out of that, the Church of England Evangelical Council is simply concerned for the Church to say, there are different ways, there are better ways to actually resolve these things. [We want the Church to say] what it is that God teaches us about what it means to be human, what it means to be bodily made in His image, male and female, what sexuality and sex is all about.”

The first two short films the CEEC has released address the Church’s doctrine on sexuality and how to have conversation around that. The next couple, which will be released later, address specific issues in terms of the content of the debate on human sexuality.

With the upcoming Lambeth Conference, which gathers bishops from across the Anglican Communion, Dr Paul said it’s hard to predict how the Church will move in its process to address sexuality.

“The question is… are the bishops going to either alienate those in the global historic majority? Are they going to alienate those who want to change? Or are they, by a compromise, going to alienate everybody? It's not an enviable position to be in. But I think that's the decision that they're facing.”

The CEEC has also launched a regular e-bulletin to keep evangelicals across the country up to date about developments on the sexuality debate, among other things.

Listen to Premier’s interview with Dr Ian Paul here:

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