A letter signed by 27 leaders states that the process to bless same-sex couples would be “unlawful, unconstitutional, and illegitimate”.
Following the decision of blessing homosexual civil unions, the Church of England has been drafting a new pastoral guidance on the issue and the so called the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF).
The plan, which is known as Living in Love and Faith Next Steps, was updated and discussed last Sunday during a four-hour debate at the Church of England’s General Synod that is taking place in York, July 7-11.
Among the 226 responses received from the Synod on the blessings, “the most significant critical comments were that the prayers were too much like marriage (60 responses), they didn’t go far enough (44) and that more pastoral guidance would be required (42)”.
All the new material, which does not include liturgies for same-sex couples to marry and it never uses the word “marriage”, is intended to be presented to General Synod in November.
Some complaint about the delay, but the co-chair of the steering group that is overseeing the process, Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, pointed out that “this is about discerning in an environment of uncertainty and disagreement, therefore the best timelines are not always fixed. I believe that we need to get this right, rather than get it done quickly”.
The immediate work following the General Synod will be “to develop the pastoral guidance to inform the work on the PLF in setting out clear proposals for the House and College of Bishops to consider, both for the authorisation and/or commendation of the prayers and for providing effective reassurance”.
Leaders from 11 Church of England organisations, as well as the Catholic and Evangelical groups on the Synod, recently wrote to the College of Bishops to state that the PLF should be authorised by the Synod under Canon B2, a process that requires two-thirds majorities in each of the three Houses of Synod.
According to the 27 signatories to the letter, who hold to a historic view of marriage, dealing with this process by anything other than Canon B2 is “unlawful, unconstitutional, and illegitimate”.
They also warn that the proposals are unclear and ambiguous, and would lead to “disunity” and “dispute” within the church.
“We are concerned about the consequences of continuing with this process and the legal exposure and ecclesial discord which is likely to ensue. Our purpose is to encourage a better way forwards; one consistent with the legal and constitutional framework to which the church is committed", stressed these Christian leaders.
That is why they “want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem” and recommend that “some of our number are part of an initial discussion”.
The leaders, who signed in a personal capacity rather than in the name of their organisations, include Nicky Gumbel and Archie Coates from Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) church, the previous and current leaders of New Wine, Paul Harcourt and Rich Johnson, Julian Henderson, President of Church of England Evangelical Council, among others.