Thinking Anglicans

Next Steps on Human Sexuality – 2

See previous article for the context. Please make comments about the Pastoral Advisory Group over there.

This article is focused on the specific proposals for the Episcopal Teaching Document Group contained in GS Misc 1158.

The material falls into two parts: there are five paragraphs which outline general principles, and then there are four and a half pages of detailed terms of reference etc.

The former paragraphs are copied in full below the fold.

The latter material starts on page 5 of GS Misc 1158. It’s worth noting that as yet none of the nominations of people to participate as members of thematic groups are shown, and also the full set of nominations for the Coordinating Group is not yet published.

From GS Misc 1158

4. The second action to which we committed ourselves was to produce a new episcopal teaching document on human sexuality. We know that, however vital our pastoral practice, part of the reason these subjects remain so problematic within the church of Christ concerns deep disagreements regarding the understanding of scripture, Christian doctrine, Christian ethics, and the nature of the church, including the particular character of the Church of England. At the same time, we are a church that rejoices to unite in worship and witness, and in doing so holds together a remarkable range of perspectives and approaches. We know that this both reflects and expresses deep agreement on scripture, doctrine, ethics and the nature of the church – without denying the seriousness of our controversies and conflicts. We also know that all parts of the Church of England can learn so much from listening to one another, to the communities and the society that we are called to serve, and to the findings of those who are committed to rigorous academic standards of research in their various fields. None of us holds the whole picture, and all of us can grow in understanding.

5. Hence this second commitment, which will involve bringing together many minds, many voices, many areas of expertise and many different skills, to produce an episcopal teaching document on human sexuality. We promised, back in February, that this process would reflect a “radical new Christian Inclusion, … founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it.” This is a formidable undertaking. It will be costly, not only financially and in terms of people’s time, but in terms of the process of exploring together on matters that touch the very nature of our being. But nothing less will address the matter with the seriousness, the depth of wisdom and the diversity of possible approaches that should characterise authentic Christian exploration of the mystery of our humanity, of which our sexuality is an integral dimension.

6. We do not expect the teaching document, or the process of writing it, to achieve reconciliation of all views across the Church of England. Such reconciliation, were it to happen, would be the work of the Holy Spirit, not of human hands or brains. But we need our internal debates to be grounded in the best available scholarship, across many disciplines and to draw in the perspectives of people in all their difference. And we need the whole process to happen prayerfully, and with the supportive prayers of our fellow Christians across the world. If the teaching document can express clearly the ground on which we are agreed – and be very clear about where we disagree, and why – it will have done its work well.

7. Below, we share with Synod the progress we have made to date in assembling the resources and people to deliver the teaching document. There is some way to go before the thematic working groups will have been brought together. Synod will understand that achieving balanced group membership is a complex process and that it would be fruitless to report on part-completed processes. When the membership of the groups is known, we will share that information – although it is also important to note that all the groups are charged with consulting beyond their own membership.

8. Synod members will not need reminding that both these areas for action were put forward in GS 2055. What has changed? The difference is that, in the light of the debate in February, we have become clearer about the scale and seriousness of the task and the need to define our terms with greater rigour – not least in pursuing the goal of radical Christian inclusion as we described it in our letter of 16th February. We, and the whole House of Bishops, mindful of the voices heard in Synod and across the church beyond it, are wholly committed to making the process outlined below work well. It is not a panacea. It is not guaranteed to deliver any specific outcome or to please anyone let alone everyone. But it is, we believe, the only way for us, as part of Christ’s church, to explore the mind of Christ together, knowing that, despite our disagreements, we are charged to preach Christ – crucified, risen, ascended and glorified – to all the people of the world.

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Ann Reddecliffe
Ann Reddecliffe
6 years ago

The first aim is given as ‘To produce a major teaching document on marriage and sexuality which will be endorsed by the whole House of Bishops for commendation to the Church of England.’ Gender needs to be added to this, otherwise the document will be out of date before it is started.

Fr John E. Harris-White
Fr John E. Harris-White
6 years ago

Reading the heavy work the House of Bishops is making of discussions on sexuality, which has been going on for many a long year, I feel their heart is not in it. Compare the Scottish Episcopal church. The Cascade conversations were respected by all, and above all genuine. This enabled the diocesan synods, and then the provincial synod to move forward and eventually to amend the canon to include same sex marriages. Now the college of Bishops have given us the way forward with clergy being nominated to conduct same sex marriages with the agreement of their Bishop, and the… Read more »

6 years ago

“Gender needs to be added to this, otherwise the document will be out of date before it is started.” I think we can be pretty sure that only adding one extra dimension, gender, will not be enough to ensure that the document isn’t seen as out of date. We probably need to go right back to the theology of God, of humankind as a species in the Image of God, and of the Fall, and build out from there, to stand any chance of having a coherent document based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason, issues of human identity, and the… Read more »

6 years ago

It is very curious that the Archbishops propose to give a nominee of the Anglican Communion a seat–one of only ten–in the core group.

Isn’t this a clear effort to stack the deck? Shouldn’t Synod reject this out of hand?

Foreign prelates having no jurisdiction in this realm, and all that.

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