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Interview: St Helen's Bishopsgate vicar calls on Church of England leadership to 'submit and surrender to the Scriptures' following same-sex blessings row

by Kelly Valencia

The vicar of one of the largest churches in the Church of England has "encouraged" the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops to "submit and surrender to the teachings of the Scriptures" as congregations across the country consider their futures in the denomination.

The General Synod's decision to move forward with proposals to bless same-sex couples in committed relationships has left churches that hold a traditional view of marriage at odds with their bishops.

Speaking to Premier, Rev William Taylor said a "suitable provision" is needed for those who voted against the decision.

"We mustn't forget that when the vote came, if you discounted the House of Bishops who, broadly speaking, voted as a block throughout all the votes in General Synod…If you took the laity and the clergy, between 40 and 45 per cent voted against."

"If you've got 45 per cent of your laity in the General Synod voting against the proposal, that is a profoundly divisive proposal for family. You're not bringing unity. You're bringing division to the church," Rev Taylor continued.

Last week, the Diocese of London held a two-hour meeting with clergy from the area. It's understood between 150 and 200 attended the meeting, with many sharing concerns about the Church of England's direction of travel.

The Diocese of London covers all Church of England parishes, schools, chaplaincies, missional communities and other organisations located in North London. According to its website, the area has over 500 worshipping communities and 1,000 clergy and ministers. 

According to Rev Taylor, who also attended the gathering, the meeting was conducted with "great grace and politeness, but vigorous opposition", with representatives of HTB, New Wine and other significant networks sharing their discontent.

"We don't have the precise figures but if you've taken the percentage of the membership of the Church of England in the London Diocese represented by the group that met with the bishops last week, I imagine it must be 70 per cent, something like that. And if you were to take the youth, it would probably be as much as 80 per cent of the youth in the Diocese of London represented by the clergy in that meeting.

"So very vigorous opposition from a very significant number of people," Rev Taylor added.

Alternative oversight from Anglican leaders in the Anglican Communion has been mentioned as a potential solution for those who no longer feel represented by the House of Bishops.

Last week, St Helen's announced Dr Foley Beach, the chair of GAFCON and North America's Archbishop and Primate, will be helping with the church's clergy review process and other aspects of church life.

Asked if he thought many other churches would follow his example, Rev Taylor said churches might start receiving "emergency support" from overseas with bishops overseeing "certain aspects" of church life until there's a more definitive provision from the House of Bishops to those opposing the blessings.

"I think to say they will come under the oversight is a very full-on, quite confrontational language. Whereas, there may be aspects of oversight which people choose to access, and that will be offered from overseas."

Rev Taylor concluded: "If you submit to the authority of the Scriptures, they are plain on this matter. To try and put together a Lambeth fudge that wangles its way around in order to achieve false unity, and institutional compromise, you will end up dividing, dividing, dividing.

"There's only one type of unity, and that's under the authority of God's Word. So my encouragement to Lambeth and to those working on this is the Bible is very clear: submit and surrender to the teachings of the Scripture and then we will have true Christian unit."

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