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Bishops' Reflection Group: Church Times leader

The Church Times has a leader this week which discusses the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. This is titled An unenviable task.

Do please read it in full.

The two concluding paragraphs:

…It is always dangerous to underestimate the ability of the C of E to avoid resolving an issue, but it does seem clear that many of the Bishops, and possibly both of the Archbishops, are determined to halt the Church’s endless wrangling about sexuality, on the obvious grounds that it undermines mission, brings the Church into disrepute, and causes real harm to many individuals. The direction of travel is towards liberal­isation. The sticking-point is how to accomplish this without com­promising the consciences of conservatives or triggering an exodus — or, at least, too much of one. The lesson learnt by most during the Shared Conversations was that it is possible to respect the opinions of another without relinquishing one’s own views. But the growth of what has been, in essence, a greater sense of perspective exposed the few who cannot see sexuality as anything other than a communion-breaking matter.

The remarks from GAFCON after the revelation that the Bishop of Grantham was in a celibate same-sex relationship marked a new low: “We remain opposed to the guidelines for clergy and bishops, permitting them to be in same-sex relation­ships as long as they publicly declare that the relationship is not sexual. This creates confusion in terms of the Church’s teach­ing on the nature of sex and marriage, and it is not modelling a helpful way to live.” This has rarely been said so boldly, and conservatives of this stripe cannot expect the bishops to come up with any measures that satisfy them. The C of E is a broad Church with able bishops, but it is beyond their ability to accommodate a view that rejects even the existing compromise.

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Father Ron Smith
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It strikes me that the warnings directed towards the Church of England, on the dangers faced by allowing subversive elements to thrive within its own jurisdiction (AMiE & Gafcon. U.K.) by TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada; having finally come to roost. My own view, after discussing this matter endlessly here on New Zealand conservative blog sites, has come down to thinking that, in order to preserve its own integrity, the Church of England (and ACANZP in New Zealand), needs to go forward in the only direction indicated by the Gospel imperative. The Church will not expel those who… Read more »

Jayne Ozanne
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Jayne Ozanne

Would that the Church could model what it is to conduct political processes with pastoral sensitivity. What the recent communique regarding the Reflections Group (and indeed many of the subsequent comments relating to it) completely failed to recognise was the significant pastoral implications on a group of individuals who yet again are being talked “about” and not “with”. As a church which looks to champion the pastoral needs of the most vulnerable, we should have tried to go an extra mile to ensure we conducted ourselves as a role model for others to follow. I fear we have yet to… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“I fear we have yet to even start this journey, and should look to other major institutions for best practice (the Police Federation, the NHS and the Armed Forces to name but a few)!”

Absolutely Jayne, but the crucial difference is that they’re not burdened by biblical authority. I doubt any but a tiny handful of people in the CoE like discriminating against LGBT people; but so long as they believe that the Bible both condemns homosexuality and dictates their actions, much as they dislike it, they’ll consider their hands tied.

Susannah Clark
Guest

As usual, James absolutely nails it. Most decent bible-believing Christians hate discrimination between gay and heterosexual people, but feel they have to, because the Bible says so. The authority of the Bible trumps their own subjective sensitivities, and ineffect anaesthetises any conscience they have on the issue. The perceived need to submit to the infallible authority of the Bible overrules the tide of social change and consciousness of which, external to the Bible, they are a part. I think it is really important to recognise that many evangelicals with deeply conservative views on sexuality are driven, not by hatred or… Read more »

John=Julian, OJJ
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John=Julian, OJJ

Most have forgotten that back in the 19th century, the world’s Anglican mission fields were divided up between the Church Missionary Society (strong evangelical) and the Oxford and other missionary groups. So today, more than a hundred years after that “apartheid” missionary strategy, the evangelical chickens are coming home to roost. And there is no one more responsible for this contretemps than those 19th century evangelicals who promoted their own cultural and societal prejudices to their innocent African followers (who,as the anthropologists tell us) already had healthy, inclusive cultural boundaries before they were side-tracked by Christian perversion. We saw the… Read more »

Jayne ozanne
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Jayne ozanne

I completely understand the evangelical mindset, James and Susannah, as that’s the stable I come from. My point was slightly more nuanced than I think you picked up – independent of what we believe the Bible teaches on the issue, we are still called to show compassion and concern to people. Hence the ‘love your enemies’ imperative. The institutions I’ve cited have learnt how to do this and model it far better than the Church, which is a disgrace. We should be the place where we show love and compassion to all above any other organisation. At the moment we… Read more »

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

It’s ironic that human fear, exceptionalism and mishandling of Scripture – a great gift to humanity – has made the Bible a poison to the faith, and shut down revelation.

James Byron
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James Byron

Compassion and concern will take different forms depending on whether it’s believed that same-sex relationships are sinful or normal. They’re no substitute for equality and affirmation, which remains the crucial difference between the church, and other institutions.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

John-Julian makes a very valid point. A lot of the current problems on gender and sexuality in the Anglican Churches around the world stem from the ideology of moral rectitude that seemed to be the pivotal virtue of the teaching and preaching of the first CMS missionaries. Perfectly acceptable customs that were present in native culture – especially in the countries of Africa – were often discouraged by the Evangelical fervour of the Sola Scriptura missionaries. This is probably one reason why countries like South Africa – missionised by the more Catholic Mission Societies – are more open to the… Read more »

realist
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realist

“We saw the same kind of thing here in the US when the Episcopal missionaries carried with them the Euro-American ideals of individualism, competition, and capitalism and almost completely destroyed the communal, inclusive, creative cultures of the Native Americans (which, thank God, are beginning to be reclaimed).” Where do you get your information from? Disney cartoons? You do know that the communal, inclusive, creative cultures of the native Americans included what most people today would regard as genocidal policies towards those unlucky enough to be born into a weaker tribe. You do realise that the general attitudes towards the environment… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

The bishops and Church are coralled (self inflicted) in past categories and now non-issues.

The future beckons / is here !

The Mayor of London points the way !

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/09/26/mayor-of-london-reforms-gender-options-to-recognise-people-who-arent-male-or-female/

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Most decent bible-believing Christians hate discrimination between gay and heterosexual people” Hmm. Or does the bigotry come first, the justification rather later? After all, it’s not as though anti-gay prejudice is unique to bible-believing Christians, and it defies belief that they were all accepting and loving people who were only turned into homophobes by the influence of their church. An equally plausible argument would be that evangelical churches attract social conservatives with some pretty harsh things to say about everything that’s happened since 1963 (when, as Philip Larkin so memorably said, sexual intercourse began) and they find in the bible… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Interested Observer, I think it’s a bit of both. It is pretty obvious in the USA that the conservative right is anti-trans and any religious objections are layered on top of inherent prejudice. It would be too much of a stretch to believe that doesn’t also happen with homophobia. GAFCON Africans are surprisingly honest on the issue too, saying proudly that their culture and traditions are against homosexuality so, if the Bible was totally silent on same sex relationships, then they would still be against homosexuality. Does the same apply in England. Probably less so – but it would be… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Kate, agreed, it’s a mix. Some people undoubtedly use religion as a vehicle and excuse to broadcast preexisting bigotry. Others, however, are shaped by religion. The English bishop Pete Broadbent’s a standout example: passionately left-wing, and strikingly, he fought for (secular) gay rights in the ’80s, at the time a marginal and despised position outside tiny circles of progressives. He’s clearly not homophobic, and if he weren’t an evangelical, it’s overwhelmingly likely that he be able to affirm lesbian and gay relationships. The tragedy in England is that change is blocked not by homophobes, but by the second group: decent… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“the second group: decent people, often left-wing in their politics, but who consider themselves bound by the Bible” I beg to differ. Left wing people? Perhaps, though I’ve certainly met left wing homophobes. Decent? In many things, in most things perhaps, but not in this. Here is why: Why do they feel bound by the Bible in this instance, but not in others? This is Thinking Anglicans so I don’t need to rehearse all the things that ‘the Bible’ proscribes or prescribes that are routinely ignored, or Christians believe they have a get-out clause from. If people truly believed themselves… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

James, I agree with the tragedy but, dare I say it, liberals are much to blame for the tragedy. Evangelicals tend to promote Bible study much more than liberals who seem inclined towards personal revelation instead. As a result I think the reading of Scripture has tended to be drawn towards a conservative outlook. I think though that there’s another difference in mindset between liberals and conservatives. Liberals look for some sort of compromise on same sex issues in isolation but I think, subconsciously at least, conservatives think the compromise has been to give way on female ordination and remarriage… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thank you, Fr. Andrew. It was nice to read something so affirming amidst of so much awful news.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Any one can have a change of heart – anytime ….even bishops…..

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/09/29/a-lot-of-americans-have-evolved-on-gay-rights/

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Why do they feel bound by the Bible in this instance, but not in others? This is Thinking Anglicans so I don’t need to rehearse all the things that ‘the Bible’ proscribes or prescribes that are routinely ignored, or Christians believe they have a get-out clause from.”

There is a difference, though. Given the sheer number of Bible passages emphasise differences between men and women it’s not surprising if many Christians have a faith which is also strongly gendered.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“it’s not surprising if many Christians have a faith which is also strongly gendered” I’ve been talking about sexual orientation not gender. God made them male and female, yes. And? When was the last time you saw a woman in a ‘Bible-based’ church covering her head? Despite what St Paul said. Or being silent? It’s that selectivity again. One Bible-based rule for us, one for them. It’s fine to draw lines in the sand with your Bible, but it’s curious that they’re always in front of someone else’s feet. Why should LGBTIQ Christians wait a single second longer for conservatives… Read more »