Bishops' report – BBC radio coverage

As the General Synod started its meeting today, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had an item on the Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships, and the forthcoming ‘take note’ debate. The piece featured a discussion between Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans and Chair of LGBTI Mission, and Susie Leafe, General Synod member and Director of Reform.

The 7-minute discussion can be heard here and begins at 1:21:45 in.


  • FrDavidH says:

    It is impossible to have a sensible dialogue with fundamentalists like Ms Leafe who can’t accept there are valid beliefs different from her own. It is always breathtaking to hear evangelicals claim that their opinions are identical with God’s. Sadly, such extremism now holds sway in the Church of England.

  • A rather frustrating interview. Refusal to legitimise gay and lesbian sexuality (by refusing gay and lesbian people to marry) is clearly a discrimination that appals secular people and subverts attempts to draw people towards faith.

    It is the Catch-22 of “Sex outside marriage is a sin, and we don’t allow you to get married, therefore your sex is always sinful.”

    So Simon, regardless of whether “The Church isn’t ready to marry gay and lesbian couples”, THAT is a key issue… right here, and right now… for the people involved, the lesbian and gay people actually living their lives, and wanting to be married in the church where they worship, because… they have nothing to be ashamed of, but are put to shame by an excluding Church.

    For this reason, even if some kind of transitional process continues to be negotiated (with no guarantee that marriage and legitimate sex will ever be granted)… I personally advocate and exhort direct action and resistance, and a de facto ‘realisation’ of the ‘theological diversity’ you mentioned.

    I repeat my question, asked now several times: what, actually, is to stop priests of conscience and churches of conscience from holding marriages in the eyes of God (which can subsequently be civically rubber-stamped in a registry if people want)?

    Apart from fear of lost tenure, fear of lost advancement, fear of losing one’s own purity in breaking oaths of obedience, fear of those in authority?

    In actual fact, believe it or not, I don’t say that lightly, and I feel *protective* about calling for that action. I would be unhappy to accept a lone priest’s offer to marry me and my girl in Church, because I hate the thought of individuals being picked off and sacrificed for me.

    But I completely believe that those people in the Church who hold those ‘diverse theological views’ you mention should now start to network for action and not just words, and take a decision to have the courage of their consciences and convictions, and say: “From date A, all of us will start marrying lesbian and gay people in church, because it’s the right thing to do.”

    To acquiesce in the bishops’ process, on the bishops’ terms, and see the can kicked endlessly down the road, frankly, consigns lesbian and gay people to ‘sinful state’ without end in the eyes of the Church.

  • The Church’s Catch-22 (can’t marry therefore can’t have sex) means our love and devotion is perpetually sinful. Would we just acquiesce if this was race, and people were refused marriage on the grounds of colour?

    Regardless of whether ‘the Church is ready’ or, as you say, ‘isn’t ready’… the half of the Church that conscientiously believes this is simply wrong should plan to take ‘de facto’ action and create a new ‘de facto’ reality in the Church of England.

    The very assertion (in the bishops’ report) of a one-sided theological uniformity for the Church is an unreality. It needs defying, not accommodating.

    Until it is, lesbian and gay people will be left in the cold. And their lives deserve better, and deserve moral courage from those who know in their hearts that this situation is wrong.

    Justice sometimes has to be seized and taken, not distributed by the largesse (or scraps of largesse… tone… informal prayers) of those who define our sacred love as fundamentally sinful and wrong. We are not witnessing an evolution towards gay acceptance: conservatism is being embedded.

    Finally, where in any of this is the case for ‘unity in diversity’? Even John Humphries seemed to point towards this, when he asked about ways the Church could accommodate divergent views. There is no reason at all why pressure could not be brought to bear – through crisis – to allow both sides of the argument to follow their consciences, with some local priests marrying LGBT couples, and others not. If provisions can be made on the issue of women priests, why not on equal marriage?

    But again, such an arrangement would need to be wrenched from reluctant bishops because of their demonstrable conservatism – and they are only likely to give ground if there is a ‘de facto’ situation nationwide, accompanied by outcry in media and Parliament.

    I think it is insufficient to say ‘The Church is not ready’. The danger is the Church may NEVER be ready. But LGBT+ people need inclusion now, and sometimes resistance of authority is the right thing to do. The ‘false news’ of the Church of England is that there is only one theological position on human sexuality… and that is simply not true, and it harms and damages LGBT youth, LGBT lives, and LGBT people who feel alienated from the Church and disgusted with its perceived bigotry.

  • Lauri Roberts says:

    Good to hear Simon. Susie Leafe sounded more reasonable than I had expected ! But it was a matter of tone, not openness to share.

    WEll, the bishops’ report requests a new tone — apparently !

    If only John Humphries had not taken valuable minutes to share his bemusement !

    Among my family, friends and acquaintances, it is fair to say, only a handful attend mass with any regularity or apparent intensity. In fact, a nephew’s wife and children, alone among my family. My husband and his siblings attending RC prep & boarding schools (the boys) and his sisters RC private day schools. None of them or their children now give the Church a second thought.

    A handful of our neighbours attend the RC church road the corner, one family a Hindu temple, and the majority one of our many handy local mosques !

  • David Nigel Mills says:

    I’m only an irregular Anglican churchgoer but I wanted to have a religious same sex wedding so my husband Ian and I got married in a Unitarian Meeting House. Isn’t a marriage in a place of worship of another denomination a possible solution for Anglicans who want a legal religious wedding?

  • Flora Alexander says:

    I thought Susie Leafe didn’t make it at all clear where in the Gospels she finds the basis for the position she is holding.

  • My frustration with Susie Leafe is not that she is a fundamentalist. She is not. The word, as always, needs using with more care. But by taking a stand as ‘biblical’ while using the bible in such an indisciplined way (as Jonathan Clatworthy points out) she discredits the very appeal to scripture she is concerned to commend and that the church itself owns as its foundation. There is actually some very sloppy use or neglect of scripture around in other traditions of the church too. And I recall Jeffrey John addressing a conference of Anglo Catholics a few years back. He expressed a grudging respect for evangelicals for knowing their bible and saying that his own tradition still had a lot of hard work to do to match them in discipline and rigour.

  • Laurie Roberts says:

    ‘a grudging respect for evangelicals for knowing their bible and saying that his own tradition still had a lot of hard work to do to match them in discipline and rigour.’

    (Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 at 11:03am GMT)

    This may be all very well, but in my experience it does not get these disciplined Evangelicals very far; and it did not do much for me as a young person, back in the day, or NOW – a lifetime later.

    Knowing lots / most of the Bible by heart only gets a person or congregation / Meeting so far.
    Not very far, at that.

  • James Byron says:

    I share Jeffrey John’s* respect for the rigor and discipline of evangelical hermeneutic and exegesis. Many leading evangelicals have trained as lawyers, and it shows. Change, when it comes to England, is gonna be driven by evangelicals who apply their talents to arguing an affirming case.

    * Aside: I believe it was the same speech in which John attacked liberals, which, considering his own positions and natural allies, was equal parts unfair and politically unwise.

  • William says:

    I thought Susie Leafe came across very well in this interview. She was measured and balanced.

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