CEEC releases new short films on sexuality

Apr 26, 2022 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

The Church of England Evangelical Council has launched a series of four short videos to help churches to engage biblically with issues around human sexuality. The first two films are available to view on YouTube: “God’s Beautiful Story”.

The first film addresses “silence” within many evangelical churches on the topic. Why is this? There may be anxiety about causing offence, lack of confidence in being able to articulate what the bible teaches, or fear resulting from hidden personal experiences. But meanwhile all the time, Christians are being encouraged to follow the messages of our culture, about the value and identity of self being defined by sex and gender.

These messages often amount to what are described as “lies”: “It’s really important to teach lay people the biblical perspective on sex and gender”, says one interviewee; “don’t be afraid to be a minority, a dissenting voice, speaking for truth”, says another.

The second film gives some initial pointers to how conversations might be started in church settings. Humility, an attitude of listening to real questions, fears and hurts, not placing burdens on people, and always seeking to be guided by the Spirit and to lead people to Christ are the recommended postures.

The next two instalments will address why issues of sex and marriage go to the heart of the Christian gospel, and therefore why they cannot be seen as ‘adiaphora’ (ie, things on which Christians can agree to differ). Lastly, there will be an introduction to the contentious matter of how radically differing understandings of the meaning of Scripture and what it means to be human can coexist within the same church. If changes are made to liturgy, doctrine or practice within the Church of England, might it lead to some kind of “differentiation”?

Many will appreciate the careful, gentle way in which these issues are raised, presented by relateable people rather than dry text. Churches will find the videos and the accompanying notes helpful in introducing discussions on sexuality and teaching the historic Christian understanding in a non-threatening way. It may be that there are some parishes where congregants and those on the fringe being drawn to faith in Christ are genuinely open to hearing, perhaps for the first time, what the bible teaches about what it means to be human, if it is presented winsomely.

Others will regard this initiative as “too little, too late”; many evangelical clergy are facing situations where congregations are already well-informed and bitterly divided on the issue. Church of England members, educated for years by secular culture, especially social media and the views and experiences of friends and family, have made up their minds and are not open to going back to what they see as outdated and untenable opinions. There are increasing numbers of parishes where clergy known to hold conservative views on sexuality are being told not to talk about them publicly; that they are potentially a “safeguarding risk” to “LGBT children”, for example (this has happened where parishes are connected to local Church of England schools).

These new CEEC videos show a diversity of different faces voices confidently articulating and commending a Christian sex ethic that is faithful to Scripture and the apostolic tradition, positive and attractive, and encouraging churches to do the same in the context of evangelism and pastoral ministry. That is a good thing.

The material would work best supplemented by material which explains the falsehoods of secular ideologies and why they have become dominant in the culture including among the leadership of the established church. It needs to be accompanied by a call to prayer and advocacy for continued freedom to teach and minister pastorally in the face of threats of harassment at work and even legal bans (eg on “conversion therapy”). And a reminder that, while disordered sexual desires affect all adults not just those with same sex attraction or gender confusion, these ‘minority orientations’ are not innate or always unchangeable: the Holy Spirit has power to enable a life of sacrificial obedience and holiness, but also transformation, as some have testified.

How can we start the conversation about sexuality in the local church? by Ian Paul, Psephizo [a more unequivocally positive review of the films – ed.]

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