Evangelicals push for new bishop after Church in Wales allows pastors to bless gay marriages
Evangelicals who hold to traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage are pushing for a new bishop to be appointed in the Church in Wales following the results of an early September vote to allow pastors to bless same-sex marriages.
The Church in Wales, composed of six Anglican dioceses in the United Kingdom, does not allow clergy to conduct legally binding same-sex marriage ceremonies. However, in a Sept. 6 vote of 28 to 12 in favor with two abstentions, clergy were approved to host blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions in their churches.
On Monday, members of the Evangelical Fellowship within the Church in Wales expressed formal disagreement with the vote.
In a statement, EFCW addressed the Church in Wales Governing Body, asking for more "clarity and consistency" in the plan to protect and care for dissenting churches and leaders.
EFCW is calling for a new bishop, whom it said, can represent those who "hold to an understanding of the doctrine of marriage as only being between a man and a woman."
The fellowship further expressed that it finds that the Governing Body of the Church in Wales "no longer properly represents the convictions of the wider membership of the Church in Wales."
"[EFCW] deeply regrets the recent decision of the Governing Body to authorise a liturgy to bless same-sex civil marriages and partnerships [and] we recognise the difficulties faced by the bishops and others within the Church in Wales as they have wrestled to bring better pastoral provision for those who are LGBT," the statement reads.
The statement acknowledges that the church has "not always engaged well" with the LGBT community by being "deeply insensitive" and "hurtful."
"This is something of which we repent unreservedly," the statement expressed. "The Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. However, the decision to introduce a rite allowing for the blessing of same-sex unions, while well-intentioned, is the wrong step for the Church to take."
The EFCW finds that the Church in Wales has "departed from" the apostolic faith as revealed in Scripture.
"The only biblical context for sexual activity is heterosexual marriage," the statement argued. "The new rite for the blessing of same-sex unions, which introduces liturgy permitting the blessing of same-sex civil marriages, has, de facto, changed the Church's doctrine on marriage."
EFCW also said they find that the approved vote has caused damage to the Church in Wales' relationship with "the majority of the provinces in the global Anglican Communion" — which has taken a stance "committed to an orthodox understanding of human sexuality."
Relationships with bishops and clerics who choose to perform such blessings are now "impaired," the statement stated.
"This decision has brought disunity to God's Church," EFCW added. "Such disunity is a grave and serious matter which grieves the heart of God. The decision dishonours those who, persuaded that Scripture teaches that sexual activity is restricted to heterosexual marriage, have chosen to remain celibate, often at tremendous personal cost."
As a result of the vote, ECFW claims there are a "significant number of Welsh Anglicans" who are faced with the "tough decisions as to where their future spiritual home lies." There "have been and will be resignations from Clergy, Lay Readers, Worship Leaders, Church Wardens, Sunday School Teachers and parishioners."
"A number have withdrawn their regular giving to their churches. Others are determined to remain in the Church in Wales structure. A significant number are seeking help and guidance on deciding their future in the Church in Wales," the statement adds.
"EFCW is committed to helping in this discernment process, including conversations with those offering alternative Anglican structures, and will continue to offer fellowship for all Evangelical Anglicans regardless of whether they stay in the Church in Wales or leave it."
While some clergy have been told that dissenting ministers will not have to surrender their church buildings for blessing services, the statement warns that other bishops "believe they can exercise their prerogative to insist that a same-sex blessing service take place in any building in their Diocese, regardless of the conscience of the local cleric."
"This needs clarity and consistency across the Province with details on how dissenting PCCs, Lay Officers, congregations (as well as ministers) may be protected and cared for if they do not wish their church buildings to be available for such services," the statement asserts.
Even with the current "difficulties, pain and grief," the fellowship assures that it will continue to place its "hope and trust in God."
"God has not abandoned Wales or His people," the statement concludes. "We pray for all those engaged in proclaiming Christ boldly and faithfully to this nation, for it is in Him that help and salvation are found."