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A remarkable meeting

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

I’m not sure the story has been told, so here goes. Shortly before Easter there was a remarkable meeting.  

On Thursday 16th March, the Bishops of Ely and Huntingdon came to Cambridge to meet some church members concerned about the Church of England’s proposals to authorise blessings of same-sex relationships.  The meeting was organised by our Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship and hosted by our friends at Holy Trinity.

Despite being put on at short notice, 282 people came.  As far as we could tell, at least 14 churches were represented.  After a welcome for the bishops and a word from each of them, person after person came to the front to express their concern.

We heard stories of the transforming, welcoming power of Christ (including from one who bravely and movingly told us his story for the first time in public).  We heard pleas on behalf of those who experience same-sex-attraction and who want to live in holiness , and who feel that their position is undermined.  From two from overseas, we heard pleas not to bring in innovations which are contrary to the mind of many Anglicans around the world.  A retired lecturer in New Testament reminded us how clear the Bible is on this issue.  Potential ordinands told us how they were now put off applying to the Church of England.  A worker for a para-church organisation warned of how, if this trajectory is followed, students will not want to join Church of England churches.  And much more.  Again and again and again, there were expressions of deep sorrow.

All this was spoken courteously, with an expressed longing to welcome LGBTQI+ people to our churches, where all of us can hear the life-transforming news of Christ.  As one speaker put it, we want ‘radical inclusion’ (a welcome to all) and ‘radical holiness’ (all living the way He teaches).

Three things really struck me about this meeting.  The first was the degree of unity across lots of different churches – charismatic, conservative, large and small, established and plants.  And anyone who was there will have seen, this wasn’t just unity in this issue.  It was a deeper unity, based in a common trust in the same good news, a shared experience of the transforming power of our Lord Jesus, and a trust in the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture (as the Church of England has always taught).

Secondly, this big crowd included many, many younger adults.  This is noteworthy, because one driver for change is a panic in the C of E hierarchy that by holding to the traditional view we’ll lose younger people.  Not so!

Thirdly, I was left wondering if the bishops of the C of E have seriously underestimated the breadth and depth of opposition to these proposals among committed grassroots church members.  Perhaps the inadequacy of Living in Love and Faith as a consultation exercise has had something to do with this.

At the end, our bishop told us he’d been listening carefully.  We should express our gratitude to him for being willing to come.  We have not yet heard from him what the outcome of his listening will be.

In the verse at the head of this post, Jude urges his readers (plural) to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  A meeting like this is one way to do this, and let us hope bishops across the Church of England receive, and respond to, such invitations.  And listen!