Archbishop Justin Welby says Anglicans will “seek to move forward together”, but churches in England and in other parts of the world say the moves lead to a “fracture”.
The General Synod of the Church of England, the most influential national Anglican Church in the world, has decided to go ahead with the celebration of “trial services” to bless same-sex unions.
With a narrow majority in all three Houses of the Church (for example, by just one vote in the House of Laity), the motion was sent to the House of Bishops, which is now expected to commend the document “Prayers of Love and Faith” (PLF) and introduce liturgy that some hurches will use to bless homosexual unions.
In the past years, the debate between conservative evangelical groups and progressive liberal groups has been focused on what these changes mean in terms of doctrine and the role of the Bible in the Anglican Church.
Over one hundred men and women training for ordination warned in October in a letter about a “fracture” if the Church of England proceeded with the plans to bless gay unions. 11 bishops also “dissented publicly” with the steps planned by the majority.
According to UK news website Christian Today, in the debate ahead of the vote at the Synod, evangelical minister Vaughan Roberts (Oxford) said: “If this motion is passed there will be a tearing of the fabric of the Church of England at the deepest level – in every parish, deanery and diocese”.
“A good number of my congregation have put their family's lives on the line in Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and many more would be willing to do so to defend the Scriptures, the very Word of God”, added Adrian Clarke (London), another Anglican pastor, “and consequently they are saying to me that if these prayers are passed, either we leave the CofE or they will leave this church”.
The Church of England Evangelical Council, spoke of “a watershed moment, in that it appears that the Church of England no longer sees Scripture as our supreme authority”.
Also Gafcon, the conservative movement that represents the views of most Anglican bishops in Africa, Latin America, reacted against the decision of the Church of England Synod.
In a statement on 16 November, the Primates underlined that “Holy Scripture is clear and unequivocal in its affirmation that the only proper context for sexual intimacy is the relationship of a man and woman who have been joined together in marriage”.
“This week, the Church of England has made it clear that they disagree with Holy Scripture”, the network continued. “They have decided that they can bless that from which the Bible calls us to repent. What is more, although these motions were passed by very narrow votes among the clergy and laity, the bishops gave their support and approval by a very clear majority. This is a tragedy for Anglicans”.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Church of England, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “We have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the Church on these hugely important questions”.
“In particular, we have heard deep and heartfelt concern about the way the bishops have sought to implement Synod’s earlier decision on the Prayers of Love and Faith”.
“So, while this motion was passed, narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together”, he concluded.