Do not remain silent about sexuality, Anglican Evangelicals are told
TWO short films released last week by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) call on leaders in its constituency to initiate conversations in their churches about sexuality.
A press release from the CEEC said that the films had been released “as the Church of England considers potential change in this area, which could impact its teaching, liturgy or practices, on the back of its Living in Love and Faith (LLF) consultation”, which closed at the end of April. The CEEC released another film, The Beautiful Story, in late 2020, after the publication of LLF resources (News, 27 November 2020).
The first film, Can We Remain Silent?, begins by posing a question from the Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together, formulated by the Pastoral Advisory Group: “Can it be right for our church communities to promote a conspiracy of silence — whether consciously or unconsciously — about matters relating to sexuality and gender?”
The Vicar of Holy Trinity, Leicester, the Revd Elaine Sutherland, says in the film: “This is an issue we’ve been silent on far too long.”
The director of strategy and operations at the CEEC, Canon John Dunnett, says: “We’ve failed successive generations by not actually explaining what wonderful news the Bible has about what it means to be human and how sexuality is a gift from God and reflects something of his nature. We’ve got great news and we’ve been silent.”
The Bishop of Singapore, the Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah, calls on Evangelicals not to “be afraid to be a minority, to be a dissenting voice, or a voice speaking up for truth in a world that rejects any claims of truth”.
The film includes interviews with two gay Christians, both of whom have chosen to remain single because of their theological convictions. Andrew, a catering manager, says that, in a church that he previously attended, the reluctance to talk about sexuality led him to stop attending church. “I found that I just didn’t feel safe to open up there. I still wanted to follow Jesus, but couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the two things.”
Tracey, a physiotherapist, speaks of having had “several girlfriends”, but deciding that “it is not worth doing that . . . because of what Jesus has done for me.”
In the second film, Starting the Conversation, it is suggested that church leaders start conversations about sexuality, and listen to the questions and fears of lay people.
The Rector of All Souls’, Langham Place, in central London, the Revd Charlie Skrine, warns that teaching “clearly what the Bible says about sex” can invite questions that “have some heat in them”. He recalls a woman who left a service “because she knew it [the teaching] was true and she knew it was good, but she didn’t want it to be”. She returned, however, and “became a Christian”.
The Pastor of Dundonald Church, a Co-Mission church in Raynes Park, south-west London, Santhosh Thomas, suggests that church leaders “start with a posture of listening” and welcome everyone, whatever their views or experiences. “But together we learn from Jesus, and we want to point people to him and what he says.”
Resources suggested in the film include those on the CEEC’s website, and those on the website of Living Out. The Living in Love and Faith resources are not mentioned.
The videos are available at www.ceec.info