Evangelical Anglicans Again Denounce England Church's Ambiguous Statement on Civil Partnerships

Evangelical Anglicans in the United Kingdom have renewed their call for the revision of the ambiguous pastoral statement on civil partnership released by the Church of England in July.

A petition letter was signed on Sept. 19 by 12 leading evangelical figures on behalf of the Anglican Mainstream, a network of evangelicals within the Anglican Communion.

In its address to the House of Bishops of the Church of England, the letter stated: "There is significant danger that our nation will be misled rather than clearly guided concerning the will of God for societal and relational health and wellbeing by adopting the stance taken in your July 25 statement."

According to the statement, the House of Bishops affirmed that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively." Therefore, evangelical leaders rejected the blessing of those who register civil partnership as it acknowledged that some civil partners may not have lived consistently with the teaching of the Church in this aspect.

They also noted that the Bishops said they do “not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality."

In addition, "lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion."

In response, the evangelical Anglicans wrote, "It is naive to think that a significant number of those embarking upon a civil partnership will eschew sexual intimacy, as hoped for by the bishops."

The Evangelicals therefore suggested that it would be better to discourage all Christians, whether lay or ordained, to enter civil partnerships in order to "avoid causing scandal."

The evangelicals said expected the Bishops to publicly, courageously, and consistently hold out to society the teaching of the Bible and the Church and its implications for holiness of life. They urged the leaders to "uphold the authority of the traditional, historic and universal understanding of the Bible’s place in defining pastoral practice in human relationships."

"We will encourage clergy and lay ministers, in their teaching, preparation and presentation for baptism, confirmation, and communion, to place the demands of the gospel before people living in active same sex relationships by calling for repentance and commitment to live a new life," they stated.

Moreover, they support bishops who exercise godly discipline with regard to their clergy in the aspect of sexual abstinence.

The letter concluded by saying "our society urgently needs to know the true guidance of God," and that the Evangelicals are committed in prayers for the Bishops.

The July 25 pastoral statement from the House of Bishops was drafted in the light of the passage of the Civil Partnership Act by the British Parliament. Since Dec. 5, 2004, gay couples in Britain have been allowed to form civil unions. While the new act does not use the term "marriage" to define the partnerships, it gives most of the benefits provided to traditional marriage partnerships in the U.K.