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World News

Bishops are abdicating responsibility over same-sex blessings say CofE's evangelicals

by Premier Journalist

Evangelicals in the Church of England say problems caused by the introduction of same-sex blessings are being ignored by bishops.

The decision to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith resources "for use in regular public worship" from December 17 was confirmed by the House of Bishops in an online meeting last week.

John Dunnett, National Director of the Church of England's Evangelical Council told Premier it's placed an enormous burden on local churches:

“The bishops have exported this division down to every single local parish”

Two ordained women - Rev Catherine Bond and her partner Rev Jane Pearse - became one of the first same-sex couples to be blessed at a Church of England service, at St John the Baptist Church in Felixstowe yesterday.  The couple has reportedly acknowledged that there is still “a lot pain” over the existence of their relationship.

The move to bless same-sex relationships has caused widespread division within the denomination, throughout the seven year process of deliberation and discernment known as ‘Living in Love and Faith’.  Conservatives, who believe marriage must be heterosexual, and liberals pressing for change have yet to reach agreement or even a happy compromise.

Dunnett says it remains a highly divisive situation: “You're going to have fractious debate at parochial church council meetings. You're going to have vicars having to explain to people why they're not doing this...

“This is going to be a recipe for distrust.  It's going to bring fracture to relationships that have up to now been good in local parishes.

“Already we're hearing from clergy person after clergy person and from PCC members in dioceses all over the country that they are fearing what is now going to happen.”

Dunnett says concerns from evangelicals have been ignored by many bishops, who narrowly voted to approve the measure.

“We have tried a number of times to explain to the House of Bishops that what they are doing in pursuing these prayers will have in faith is going to cause significant and painful division in local churches, the length and breadth of the country."

He says rather than encourage people to come to church, in his view the impact of the mixed messages on attendance is more likely to be negative.  “We shouldn't discount the fact that a number of people will just simply leave the Church of England. And that's not something that gives any of us a sense of joy.”

The CEEC is arguing for a differentiated settlement, to avoid people leaving, since neither side is happy with the middle ground:  “Unless we have that differentiated settlement, there clearly is going to be an unstable situation, which is just if you like attrition warfare, which is not what anybody wants for the Church of England.”

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