Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 2 September 2017

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Fifty years on – the new Co-ordinating Group meets for the first time

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Revd Dr Charles Clapham
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An excellent analysis from Colin Coward of the differences between the (suppressed) 1967 report, and the 2017 proposed ‘Teaching Document’ on human sexuality. Just to underscore some of his observations: The episcopal domination of this new committee is staggering and unprecedented. Colin contrasts it with the working party which produced the 1967 report, which included only one bishop. But it also contrasts with virtually every other official report produced in the Church of England over the last fifty years: Faith in the City (for example) produced by a committee of eighteen, including only two bishops (and neither as chair); and… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

Further to my previous post, one might also draw attention to the (I think ?) unprecedented inclusion of of an ‘Anglican Communion’ representative on the new coordinating committee. The Church of England quite regularly produces reports, position papers, or makes official comments on any number of issues of international significance (refugees, asylum seekers, international debt, the environment, terrorism), but it’s worth spelling out that it typically does so without seeing the need for consultation with the wider Anglican communion, even where these issues are clearly global in scope. This is true also on substantial matters of church order, such as… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

This last paragraph of Fr. Colin’s report on the latest findings of the ‘new Coordinating Group’ describes how weak and pitiful is their response to the needs of a significant minority in the Church: “I wonder how many members of the new Co-ordinating Group genuinely believe that a lesbian or gay relationship can be as fully human and as satisfactory for a human being as a heterosexual relationship. If the Teaching Document can’t articulate a belief in the absolute equality of all permanent, faithful, stable, loving, marital relationships, then the Group will have wasted three more years and fifty years… Read more »

Nigel Lloyd
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Nigel Lloyd

It is instructive to be reminded of the differences between the 1967 report and the present exercise in producing a teaching document. Yet the two things are very different. There is a tradition in Anglicanism of wrestling with issues in order that truth might emerge. Significant reports are produced which aid the discussion and the process of coming to a common mind. What is new here is that the bishops are going to produce a ‘Teaching Document’, whose purpose will be to tell us what we can believe. It is an exercise in dampening debate, not in enabling it. It… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

Nigel Lloyd, I think you are right that the very concept of a ‘teaching document’ is problematic here. The Church of England has not understand itself historically to possess a teaching magisterium. Unlike Rome, where it is clear that the Vatican 2, papal encyclicals, and other documents like the Catechism can be understood as the official teaching of the church, with varying (albeit disputed) degrees of authority, including infallibility. But the concept of a teaching magisterium in this sense is alien to the Church of England, and inconsistent with its character. It is therefore usually a mistake (typically made by… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

My problem with the coordinating committee is that there is a well established way of producing reports on social and ethical issues in the Church of England, which looks like it’s being set aside. Suppose you want a church report on immigration, for example. So you form a committee or working party of about a dozen or so members, and add some administrative support and a couple of consultants. On your committee you of course put a bishop and archdeacon or two, as well a couple of clergy, preferably with particular experience of issues relating to immigration, or at least… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

I appreciate the comments made in response to my blog by Charles Clapham, Ron Smith and Nigel Lloyd, each raising points about the House of Bishops proposed Teaching Document on human sexuality. They important points of which I was unaware; Charles on the dominance of bishops and clergy on the Co-ordinating group and the absence of any lay people with substantial professional experience; Fr Ron on the impact (or lack of impact for LGBTI people, families and friends) on the “Mother Church’s” failure to propose a generous and loving approach; Nigel on the process proposed, which will dampen and control,… Read more »

Fr John E Harris-White
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Fr John E Harris-White

The Church of England has synodical government, whether Welby likes it or not. This teaching document is simply a way to close down the debate by the people of the church of England. Welby has seen that the members of the synod have a much more generous and caring attitude to the ordinary person by their voting at the synod on transgender, and conversion therapy. Any agreement on sexuality is for the synod of the church of England, not the Anglican Communion . Each province makes its own decisions. As has the American Episcopal Church, Canada and the Episcopal Church… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Strange how the views of the Anglican Communion (which in any case contains multiple different viewpoints) are relevant in the Church of England only on the issue of homosexuality and on nothing else.” Why are you surprised? Welby and his friends have two objectives: continuing to oppress LGBTQ people, whom they openly despise, and maintaining close links with African bishops who are in a better position to oppress LGBTQ people as they have governments to help. By excluding liberal elements of Britain from his tame committee of yes-men, but loading in a few extra bigots from his favoured churches, they… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

Charles, thanks for your description of how the Church of England has a well established way of producing reports on social and ethical issues, usually under the aegis of the Board of Social Responsibility. The norm has been set aside by the Archbishops and House of Bishops in taking the unusual and almost unprecedented step by the bishops to issue teaching document (I’m told it has happened just once before). So yes indeed, the very concept of a teaching document is problematic if the concept of a teaching magisterium is alien to the Church of England and inconsistent with its… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The recent conversion therapy and transgender motions in General Synod do not represent a sudden change of mind within the Church of England, but merely demonstrate what inevitably happens when people are allowed to openly debate such issues, rather than be reined in to support an what is an unsustainable and deeply unbiblical position.” I appreciate, Nigel (Lloyd) what you are trying to convey here – in terms of the public image of the C. of E. as homophobic. However, I don’t think it is the Church of England, in toto, that embraces this deadly prejudice. The very fact that… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

Thanks for the comments, Colin. I take your point also regarding the lack of direct representation of the full spectrum LGBTQI voices on the committee (“nothing about us without us”) – understanding of course how difficult it may be for some to participate. It would be helpful to hear a group of lay and ordained Anglicans who identify as LGBTI, spell out in detail what changes are needed in the Church of England: in terms of canon law, liturgy, good practice guides, ordination selection criteria, theological training, etc. (That is, to produce a kind of ‘ideal’ version of the bishops’… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Interested Observer, I see no evidence that Welby “openly despise[s]” gay people, and he certainly doesn’t openly despise transgender people (who the church has undertaken to welcome). He uses more PC language than I do, has empathized with what LGBT people go through, and appears torn between his belief in biblical authority, and his personal desire to include all regardless of sexuality. Before you think I’ve gone soft, none of that excuses his realpolitik, nor makes this “teaching document” anything but a forgone conclusion. It’d take a miracle for it not to say that all sexual relations outside marriage are… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

“If the teaching document fails to respond to the expectations of the majority of LGBTI members of the Church of England, our families, friends and congregations… the teaching of the bishops will be ignored by those most affected and the bishops will lose even more of their increasingly fragile authority.” Absolutely, as of course already happens in the Roman Catholic church, where ‘official teaching’ on contraception (for example) is not merely ignored, but not even regarded as worthy of consideration or debate by the vast majority of practicing Catholics, let alone those outside the church – all of which undermines… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“No talk about us without us.”

This co-ordinating group is a sham.

Great point about Anglican Communion presence even though the Anglican Covenant was rejected. The disrespect CoE leadership shows the members and processes of CoE is shameful. And arrogant.

Colin Coward
Guest

James Byron, thanks for your comment. I agree with you – neither do I see evidence that Justin Welby openly despises gay or transgender people of LGBTI people in general. I think he may be torn between a compassionate desire to welcome all, a genuine appreciation of the identities and gifts of LGBTI people, and conflicted feelings arising from his HTB evangelical background and his version of biblical authority (I don’t what the Archbishop’s particular version is) and the final, potent ingredient, the strongly homophobic views held by abusive, aggressive elements in the Anglican Communion. I’ve no doubt they exert… Read more »

Barry
Guest
Barry

I wonder whether somebody on General Synod would care to table a question to the bishops, asking whether they genuinely believe that the Church’s continuing discrimination against same-sex relationships contributes nothing at all to the frightening rise in gay-hate crimes which has been reported in the media in the past couple of days?

Susannah Clark
Guest

I appreciate the way James Byron and Colin Coward hold back from demonising groups and individuals with whom they disagree. In my opinion, facts are more powerful than polemics. Fact – Justin Welby refuses to say that gay sex is alright for a Christian. He simply hasn’t said that – either for political reasons or because he personally thinks gay sex is sin. Polemics – Justin despises gay people. I just don’t believe that. That dehumanises him. I think he’s more than that. Same with evangelical Christians – many of them believe gay sex is wrong (even though they wish… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I see no evidence that Welby “openly despise[s]” gay people, …

James, you might want to ask Jeremy Pemberton about that, as well as numerous others who’ve suffered discrimination at the hands of the church, led by Welby. Or ask random TEC LGBTQI people. It’s possible to spite people in action but not in word. And to me, that sums up Welby.

David Runcorn
Guest

Suzanne ‘evangelical Christians hold a legitimate interpretation of the bible, and think the bible is inerrant.’
Actually not all hold to ‘inerrancy’ – and the word tends to come with assumptions of a particularly inflexible conservatism that misrepresents the wider evangelical approach to scripture. I think it is more helpful to focus on the challenge of interpretation at this point.