All of this is by way of answer to the recent article in Christian Today by David Baker, asking “where is the Church of England Evangelical Council when we need it?” Baker argues that, at this “fraught and unsettled” time in worldwide Anglicanism, CEEC should be giving a lead. He notes the various individuals and organizations which are part of the Council (of which Anglican Mainstream is one), and suggests that this group should be speaking clearly about current issues, and being a force for evangelical unity within the C of E.
But the wide variety of responses from evangelicals to events at Synod, and the spectrum of different strategies and tactics that are being expressed from different groups, shows why CEEC cannot be expected to unite all the orthodox groupings into a single body, or even speak with one voice. People look back with nostalgia to the days of John Stott and say that this happened under his leadership. But that’s a simplistic picture – there were disagreements then about charismatic gifts, the role of women and the place of social action in mission, among other issues. And also, there is no John Stott figure today. CEEC some years ago recognized this, and made a decision to be a forum of different evangelical groups, rather than an organization speaking with a particular party line. For some, the forum is not wide enough – it won’t accept those who still refer to themselves as evangelicals though they now take a liberal position on the sexuality debate. For others, it’s too wide – it includes Bishops who voted for transgender liturgies and against ‘conversion therapies’, and it includes those who are supportive and critical of Justin Welby, and those who are pro and anti Gafcon.
So while I don’t blame David Baker for asking the question about CEEC, it will not be able to provide the clear united leadership he asks for, because it reflects the fissiparousness of English Anglican orthodox evangelicalism. What it can do is ensure that those in the C of E thinking about leaving and those committed to remaining, the loyalists and separatists, the compromisers and purists, the optimists and pessimists, reformed and charismatic, the young and old, the Jeremiahs and Obadiahs keep talking to each other on the basis of the same understanding of faith, even if their vision of the future and strategies of how to get there are very different.