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World News

Christian youth camp charity CPAS responds to social media backlash over same-sex statement

by Ros Mayfield

A backlash against the well-known evangelical organisation CPAS that erupted last weekend, appears to have taken its Trustees by surprise.

The brief social media storm, which concerned a statement on the Church Pastoral Aid Society’s website, regarding their affiliation with the Evangelical Alliance’s standpoint on sexuality and gender identity, caught the attention of liberal and conservative evangelicals alike.

CPAS, which has existed for 188 years, describe themselves as “an evangelical Anglican mission agency”.  They’re best known for running popular Christian camps for children and young people, which have been foundational training grounds for many adults in the church today, and they also offer training and support to evangelical Church of England churches looking for clergy.

The CofE remains sorely divided over the issue of same-sex relationships, and in recent months divisions have been emerging under the ‘evangelicals’ umbrella - previously considered a ‘safe harbour’ for conservative believers.

It means evangelical para-church organisations can sometimes struggle to find language that’s deemed acceptable by all their members.

In the wake of the weekend’s criticism, some of which came from CPAS’s own supporters, those looking for the link on the organisation’s website were met with ‘Page Not Found’ appearing to suggest that the information had been taken down.

In a statement on January 11, the Trustees said: “We know there have been concerns raised in recent days about CPAS’ position on sexuality, and, most significantly, whether CPAS is a safe and welcoming organisation for people of all sexual orientations. We want to respond to these concerns directly.”

They said that as an organisation they represent a “broad family, holding a spectrum of convictions”.

The statement continues, regarding the PLF statement: “our intention was to provide clarity about the trustees’ position, namely that they hold to the doctrine of the Church of England on marriage and sexual ethics.”

In November 2023, the Trustees said they posted 3 additional links, including the “Evangelical Alliance’s Affirmations on Human Sexuality”, written in 2012.

The statement goes on to say that this link was removed on January 8, “following concerns raised about, for example, whether some wording within the document could be interpreted as supportive of conversion therapy.

“To be absolutely clear, CPAS is opposed to conversion therapy, and seeks to uphold the highest standards of safeguarding and pastoral best practice. The Evangelical Alliance has been working on producing a revised version of the document for many months, and the CPAS Trustees wrote to them last year on this matter.

Regarding concerns raised by some about their residential camps and youths who may feel same-sex attracted, the Trustees statement said: “We believe that every church and residential holiday we support should be a place of welcome and a community of love for anyone who attends, no matter their belief, gender, sexual orientation or background.

“We have training in place to ensure that Venture and Falcon holidays are safe, welcoming and accessible to a diversity of children and young people of any belief, race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, and financial circumstance.”

They also affirmed that the organisation’s focus is on mission, and that training offered is not limited to one theological view.

The statement concludes: “We believe that the Christian faith is good news for everyone, and we will continue to reflect that conviction in all our ministries.”

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