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Senior bishop threatens to quit if Church of England embraces same-sex couples

Senior bishop threatens to quit if Church of England embraces same-sex couples

  • Bishop of Blackburn vows ‘to fight for the traditional teaching of the church on these matters’.
Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson.

The Bishop of Blackburn has said he and other evangelicals will quit the Church of England if it stops being homophobic.

The bishop, Julian Henderson, has vowed to fight efforts that could see the church recognizing LGBT+ relationships and even same-sex marriages.

Earlier this month the church said it was reviewing how it treated LGBT+ people. However, it won’t reach a conclusion until 2022.

The church has been considering the issues in The Living in Love and Faith project. Around 40 people reviewed the church’s stance on gender identity, sexuality and modern social attitudes.

Despite just five LGBT+ people being in the group, they concluded change was needed. This could lead to the Synod – the church’s ruling council – finally accepting same-sex marriage.

Now, in a video for the Church of England Evangelical Council, of which he is president, Henderson says:

‘As and when the church gets to the point where it changes its teaching and its liturgy and its practice in these areas, it is going to be a moment for people to have to reconsider their allegiance to the church.’

‘We cannot operate under this system’

However, the bishop is not going quietly. He added:

‘At the moment I want to be in the Church of England, I want to fight for the traditional teaching of the church on these matters.

‘But the time may come when it’s going to be essential for those who hold to scriptural teaching on marriage and same-sex relationships to say: “We cannot operate under this particular system and support this kind of doctrine and practice within the life of our church.”

‘And that may then lead to having to look for alternative solutions.’

It is the second attack Henderson has launched on the idea the church may change this month alone.

He responded to the The Living in Love and Faith project earlier this month by saying:

‘To all those in the C of E who are unsettled by suggestions that the church might decide, in the future, to depart from historic orthodoxy … we will uphold what Christians have always believed through history and what the overwhelming majority of Christians globally still believe.’

It is impossible to say whether his suggestion he may quit is a hollow threat. It would certainly be highly unusual for a Church of England bishop.

Moreover, Henderson is one of the 26 more senior bishops, who sit in the UK’s upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords.

‘Not as simple as some like to pretend’

The material brought together by The Living in Love and Faith project marked a shift in the church’s approach to LGBT+ people.

In the foreword to the material, both the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell apologize for the ‘huge damage and hurt’ the church has inflicted on LGBT+ people.

However, that is not necessarily a sign that Welby – the global leader of the Anglican church – intends to do anything about it.

Indeed, on Monday he spoke at an online meeting of the Synod and tried to appeal to both sides.

Welby claimed the issues were complex. And he added: ‘It is not as simple as some on all sides of the discussion like to pretend.’

Earlier this year, the bishops went in another direction entirely and issued ‘pastoral guidance’ saying marriage should only be between ‘a man and a woman’.

Critics dubbed it the ‘no sex, no gay marriage rule’ and gay influencers mocked the policy by revealing how many clergy they had enjoyed sex with.

While people joked about vicars ‘taking their vests off in the pantry and their pants off in the vestry’, others had a more serious take on the issue.

Theologian Andrew Graystone pointed out: ‘The bishops of the Church of England have issued 1,600 words of “pastoral guidance” on marriage and civil partnerships. The word “sex” appears 49 times. The word “love” does not appear once.’

Soon over 3,000 people and 800 clergy, including other bishops, signed a letter denouncing the guidance. They described it as ‘cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects’.