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A gathering at the CEEC meeting (2017)

My first CEEC meeting

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Posted by Jake Eggertson, 17 Jan 2017

Jake Eggertson speaks about his first experience of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) which met last week.

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) is “a networks of networks, bringing evangelicals in the Church of England together for the sake of the gospel.” It exists to “encourage and equip evangelicals in the Church of England to keep mission and evangelism a priority,” to “facilitate Biblical teaching and equipping” (by, for example, commissioning papers and other resources), to “advocate the presence and engagement of evangelicals in the structures and life of the Church of England,” and to “promote and pursue unity amongst evangelicals.” On January 11-12, the council, comprising of a number of evangelical Bishops, representatives of various Anglican evangelical groups, and other elected members gathered together for the annual residential meeting. For the first time, I was one of them.

Save for the constant embarrassment of introducing myself as Jake from JAEC (I was representing the Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference), which provided much amusement to Lee Gatiss at least, it was an eye-opening and valuable experience. However, the event was also tinged with enormous sadness. For, Mike Ovey, my college principal at Oak Hill, who tragically died a few days before the residential, was also meant to be in attendance. I was most moved by Emma Ineson’s opening Bible reading in which she spoke on “God’s Creation,” touching upon Mike’s celebrated teaching on the Creator-creature distinction. As has been highlighted in the many wonderful tributes to Mike Ovey in recent days, it was clear from this wide gathering of evangelicals that he will be incredibly missed, and leaves a huge gap in the Anglican evangelical constituency.

The vast majority of the residential was structured around the discussion paper entitled, “Guarding the Deposit – Apostolic Truth for an Apostolic Church” (available to download on the CEEC website), which engages with issues related to the potential blessing of same-sex couples entering into marriage in the Church of England, as well as potential options for what might happen next following the House of Bishops’ proposals to General Synod next month. Without commenting on the detail of the discussions, I have two brief personal reflections from my experience of them.

First, I was very much encouraged that in such a wide group, there was a huge amount of consensus on the theology of human sexuality. This can only be a good thing for evangelicals in the Church of England. Not only does it serve to unite us, but hopefully, it will also lead to a greater resourcing of orthodox teaching to people “on the ground” having to deal with sensitive pastoral matters.

However, second, as far as what the future holds for evangelicals in the Church of England, the options are highly complex and uncertain. This is not the place to outline those options, but I was struck by how any potential response to what happens at General Synod has huge ecclesiological implications. In other words, the question, “what is the Church?” is not a sideline or simply pragmatic issue. Nor is it, according to Gerald Bray (in his new book on The Church), anything new: “each generation finds itself having to address ecclesiological issues over again, much as their sixteenth-century predecessors did.” Our particular ecclesiology — and we all have one —  will determine the steps we take.

I was glad and privileged to be present at the residential, where there was a wonderful sense of unity and determination to stand together on the biblical foundations that undergird the Church of England. My prayer is that, as Anglican evangelicals, we don’t revert to a ghetto mentality when push comes to shove. In the words of the preface to Anglican Evangelical Identity (Latimer Trust, 2008):

This is a time to stand up and link arms to the left and right with all who will work for the renewal of the church in mission, holiness and unity, including taking the uncomfortable decisions that are going to be necessary for that to come about. Evangelicals have made enormous contributions to the life and health of the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion in many generations past. It would be tragic if, after all the great gains of the last generation or two, we were to squander it all in factional in-fighting.”

Jake Eggertson is an ordinand at Oak Hill College, and a member of the Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference committee.

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