Bishops in the Church of England are being urged to reconsider proposals to allow services of thanksgiving and dedication for same-sex couples.
In an open letter, the Evangelical Alliance has called on Church of England leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the traditional doctrine on marriage. They argue that the current proposals appear to “dramatically compromise the Church’s teaching and practice on relationships and sexual ethics”.
Written by CEO Gavin Calver, the letter described the plans as “an unsustainable way forward”.
“We are desperate for the Church of England to maintain its historically biblically orthodox view on marriage being between one man and one woman,” Calver told Premier.
Bishops insist the Church’s doctrine of marriage has not been changed.
The draft proposals - announced by the House of Bishops earlier this month – suggest a set of prayers that would bless same-sex couples instead of legalising marriage.
The plans are the result of a six-year period of internal debate on whether to allow same-sex marriage in the church.
But given divisions among the bishops themselves, the proposals are being described as “the best we can do” in the current context of the Church.
But for Calver, the proposals are a “clear step away from the church's historical position”.
He told Premier: “That step away also probably suggests further steps away into the future. So it's not just about the Holy matrimony, it's also about choosing to bless things that perhaps haven't previously been blessed by the church.”
“And it's also about the place of sexual activity in faithful relationships. And so it's deeply concerning and problematic on a number of levels.”
Calver added they felt they needed to speak out, given the influence the Church of England has in other denominations in the country.
“The Church of England has a tremendous influence on all of us, whether we are Anglicans or not. And therefore, this being so significant for the state church has an impact on all of us. And something of this greatest significance, nationally and globally, is a moment in which we, as the Evangelical Alliance, felt it was appropriate and necessary to say something.”
Once debated and refined in General Synod, the Prayers of Love and Faith will be made available to all priests in the Church of England.
Calver concluded: “Personally, I'm hoping that for some people who are on Synod, it [the letter] may give them a chance to rethink. It might make them realise they are not alone voices, there are many more people in this space. And I'm also hoping it might bring some balance to the conversation that's going on at the moment.
“There's a lot of people saying that the legislation - the silent proposals - aren't going far enough. And I think some of us also need to say, ‘well, actually, we think they're going further than they should’. And so I think there needs to be a balance to the conversation too.
“My ultimate prayer, as we've put it towards the end of the letter, is that the Church can be the Church in this season, sharing the Gospel with those around them, and not just speaking into this issue.”