Tuesday, 12 October 2010

LGBT Anglican Coalition writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury

The LGBT Anglican Coalition has issued an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their press release is below, and the full text of the letter is below the fold.

LGBT Anglican Coalition Press Release 11 October 2010

Time to accept gay bishops, says Anglican Coalition

In a recent interview with The Times the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was unclear whether celibate but partnered gay clergy are acceptable as bishops in the Church of England. The archbishop stated his unwillingness to consider partnered gay men and lesbians as bishops because of their ‘particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the Church has to say about that.’

The LGBT Anglican Coalition believes that acceptance should be extended beyond those who are celibate, but says:

‘Your statement has also left ambiguity regarding those in loving life-long but celibate relationships. Such people would appear to be complying fully with the requirements of “Issues in Human Sexuality” and yet still seem to be excluded simply on the grounds of some other people’s disapproval. If this is not your intention, we ask you to clarify what you meant. Given that you said that you “have no problem” with gay bishops who are celibate, we would ask you to make clear your position on the acceptability for higher office of celibate gay clergy who are in civil partnerships.’

In a letter sent to the Archbishop, the Coalition criticizes the Archbishop’s remarks as ‘hurtful and undermining to the many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people who have been called to ordained ministry but not to celibacy’. The Coalition calls the Church of England to a renewed study of sexuality in the light of modern scientific and theological understanding.

The letter is also highly critical of the culture of secrecy, fear and dishonesty around human sexuality which is blighting the Church of England, and damaging our witness to society, and which urgently needs to be dispelled. It says that, ‘in numerous Church of England parishes, worshippers fully accept LGBT people, whether single or partnered, and believe that all forms of ministry should be open to God’s children regardless of sexual orientation.’

ENDS

Notes for Editors

1. The Anglican Coalition is here to provide UK-based Christian LGBT organisations with opportunities to create resources for the Anglican community and to develop a shared voice for the full acceptance of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion.

2. The Coalition members are:

Accepting Evangelicals www.acceptingevangelicals.org
Changing Attitude www.changingattitude.org.uk
The Clergy Consultation www.clergyconsultation.org
Courage www.courage.org.uk
The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians www.eflgc.org.uk
Inclusive Church www.inclusivechurch2.net
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement www.lgcm.org.uk
The Sibyls www.sibyls.co.uk

Full Text of Letter to the Archbishop

Dear Archbishop Rowan

We are deeply dismayed that, in an interview with The Times, you stated your unwillingness to consider partnered gay men and lesbians as bishops because of their ‘particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the Church has to say about that.’ This is not only hurtful and undermining to the many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people who have been called to ordained ministry but not to celibacy – a valued but rare vocation among people of any sexual orientation – but also to the life and witness of the Church of England.

Your statement has also left ambiguity regarding those in loving life-long but celibate relationships. Such people would appear to be complying fully with the requirements of ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ and yet still seem to be excluded simply on the grounds of some other people’s disapproval. If this is not your intention, we ask you to clarify what you meant. Given that you said that you ‘have no problem’ with gay bishops who are celibate, we would ask you to make clear your position on the acceptability for higher office of celibate gay clergy who are in civil partnerships.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, we expect you to encourage the Church of England to continue to strive thoughtfully and prayerfully to discern God’s will on human sexuality, taking account of the findings of theologians and scientists and in conversation with other Anglicans and the wider church. It is regrettable that some bishops elsewhere in the Anglican Communion remain unwilling to enter into dialogue with those in their own dioceses who are lesbian or gay, or to take note of the diligent work of scholars through which Christians can develop an ever-richer understanding of God’s creation, our place within it and where the Holy Spirit is leading us. However this must not deter us from acting justly and lovingly in the context of our own mission and ministry.

Increasingly, eminent theologians have come to accept that Christians who are neither heterosexual nor called to celibacy may acceptably enter into committed relationships with members of the same sex, in which they can grow more responsive to God’s love and be more faithful in following Christ. Likewise, in numerous Church of England parishes, worshippers fully accept LGBT people, whether single or partnered, and believe that all forms of ministry should be open to God’s children regardless of sexual orientation. Meanwhile, social and natural scientists have helped to throw fresh light on the complexity and diversity of life on earth and the role of same-sex as well as opposite-sex attraction.

As Sister Rosemary CHN, representing Religious Communities, explained in a debate in General Synod in 2004:

‘For those of us under religious vows, who treasure celibacy as call and gift, the idea of forced celibacy is as abhorrent as the idea of forced marriage…

‘Some gay clergy have reluctantly accepted celibacy as an imposed discipline. Some of these, I feel sure, have found that through their struggles they have been given grace… For others, however, misery remains just misery, and they are exposed to the danger of a kind of withering of the heart, which makes them less able to love anybody.

‘Christians who are happily married can bear witness to the way in which a partner’s love can be both a means of grace and a school of the Lord’s service: a channel of God’s love to them and through them. Gay Christians in committed relationships say that it is the same for them. When I observe the quality of their lives, and feel warmed and healed by their friendship, I know that it is true.’

We regret that any senior clergy in the Church of England should seem to be moving in the opposite direction from ordinary members in order to placate the small minority among us who are fiercely opposed to greater inclusion and even some in other churches who also object. It is important that they, like the rest of us, be challenged to understand that the church is not the possession of one faction and that theological diversity is part of our inheritance as Anglicans. There is a culture of secrecy, fear and dishonesty around human sexuality which is blighting the Church of England, and damaging our witness to society, and which urgently needs to be dispelled.

We urge you to acknowledge the contribution of so many LGBT people, often partnered, to the ministry of the church and to promote rigorous and prayerful study of the issues involved in the light of present knowledge.
Yours sincerely

Jeremy Timm, Changing Attitude
On behalf of the LGBT Anglican Coalition

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 at 10:26am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

This is a fine and thoughtful letter. I hope that the ABC will reply in kind. I am not holding my breath, however.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 at 12:59pm BST

Oh yeah, I'm sure Rowan is listening ... as if ... alas. And what exactly, Rowan, is the holy believer beef with committed relationships?

I dare you to publish an explanation that does not presume/rely on flat earth assumptions about queer folks while neatly sidestepping the empirical research since, say, World War II.

Go ahead,Rowan, we're waiting....

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 at 5:14pm BST

Hear what the spirit says to the churches.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 October 2010 at 6:13pm BST

The LGBT Anglican Coalition's letter to the ABC is nothing other than might be expected in the light of Rowan's admission that, for him, he has no problem with gay priests or bishops.

The real problem would seem to be the implication of loving sexual monogamous relationship which might be involved within a civil partnership involving the clergy. This, for the ABC, is at the heart of his personal difficulty with such relationships.

Surely it is now time for, not only the ABC but the whole Church, to recognise the fact that such a phenomenon as homosexuality - and other natural features of sexuality, per se - are within the parameters of acceptable expressions of human
being and therefore, human behaviour.

As with heterosexuals amongst us; there are some clergy - at least within the Anglican Communion (and, of course, this is a reality for all human beings) who have an entirely natural and laudable desire to love another human being of their own gender, in the deepest way possible - and that includes the exercise of one's sexuality.

This does not, of course, rule out the obvious possibility that there will be some clergy - as there are some other classes in society - who wish, voluntarily, to live the celibate life - and this may well be within the bonds of a life-long committed relationship; whether between two persons of the opposite, or of the same, gender.

John Henry Newman may well have been an example of one such relationship with his life-long male partner. The dynamics of such a relationship, and the pattern of behaviour within it, ought never to be judged as 'illicit' by anyone one - much less by the Church. The only difference, perhaps, between the raltionship of JHN with Fr.St.John, and that of Jeffrey John with his partner, is that JHN's relationship could never have been recognised by either Church or State as what we now are plaesed to call a Civil Partnership.

It is time our Church became outwardly honest about such relationships - either open or hidden -that already persist in the Church, and simply will not go away. 'Honesty if the best policy!'

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 12:54am BST

Meanwhile the Archbishop addresses other issues very helpfully: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/mpd/permalink/m187ZUMXL9YWMZ

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 7:03am BST

They should ask , if the Church of England can change on divorce and contraception..why not this?

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 8:07pm BST

Thank you, Spirit of Vatican II, for this link with the ABC's talk about world economics. This is just one more indication that we have an Archbishop of Canterbury of some substance. His deep intelligence and understanding of world issues is refreshing - especially when we are wont to criticise his public utterances about gender and sexuality. However, as an intellect of world-class politico-religious standard, Rowan has much to contribute on the world stage.

One might hope that he now might comment on the newly-advertised 'Singularity' school of research in the U.S., whose agenda includes finding a method of delivering virtually 'eternal life' in the sphere of eugenics, which allows of a plan to develop nano organisms which will help in the process of human biology accessing technological means to replace body organs - such as the brain, heart, etc.

It would seem that such research might just be going beyond the limits of our creaturely status, giving us, virtually, the power of the Creator.
While applauding the scientific advances made, which have extended supportable life to it's present longevity, one might ask 'Who actually weould want to live for ever? And what would we do about over-population - except, perhaps to occupy other celestial spheres'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 11:21pm BST

"They should ask, if the Church of England can change on divorce and contraception..why not this?"

Indeed, RIW. Changed---away from the Pope and *towards Christ and Christ's Gospel*---before. Why not follow Christ, and preach (actually!) GOOD News again?

For Christ's (Queer) Kingdom: HALLELUJAH! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 3:25am BST

"research in the U.S., whose agenda includes finding a method of delivering virtually 'eternal life' in the sphere of eugenics, which allows of a plan to develop nano organisms which will help in the process of human biology accessing technological means to replace body organs - such as the brain, heart, etc."

Newly 'advertised' where? This sounds like an internet hoax or a Glenn Beck 'discovery.'

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 4:47am BST

Fr Ron Smith, glad you agree -- I don't remember any Archbishop who has made such a huge impact in the English-speaking world and become so accepted as a beloved father-figure; disagreement about the Covenant or gay-related issues should not overshadow this. It is really hard to think of anyone who would grace the throne of Augustine so well.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 8:48am BST

They should ask , if the Church of England can change on divorce and contraception..why not this?

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 8:07pm BST

Very good point, Robert.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 2:59pm BST

In short. This is bad governance.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 15 October 2010 at 6:12am BST

"They should ask , if the Church of England can change on divorce and contraception..why not this?"

I think RW already answered that question in "the body's grace". The RCC has always been very liberal in granting divorces and annulments and is possibly more liberal than Anglicanism at this time. As to contraception, I doubt it there is any substantial difference between the two churches in the thinking and practice of the faithful. So really, the above question is best addressed to Roman Catholicism.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 15 October 2010 at 7:36am BST

'Newly 'advertised' where? This sounds like an internet hoax or a Glenn Beck 'discovery.'

- Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday -

In a N.Z. television programme a few nights ago, we were treated to an interview with several shcolarly persons whose background has fitted them for research into the amazing field of a new biological/technological breakthrough into the future of the interface between new technology and the replication of human body organs. This might have seemed unreal, except that there were two N.Z. brothers interviewecd who were involved in the research in the USA.

Perhaps, Cynthia, you could take the trouble to look up the word 'Singularity' on your browser. The scientific world really is amazing to those willing and able to access the details.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 15 October 2010 at 9:07am BST

Father Ron Smith

I hate to burst the bubble, but the considered opinion of microbiologists and infectious disease experts is that the antibiotic era is almost over, and that as a direct result human mortality and morbidity will rapidly increase to very high levels. Since antibiotic usage is the prerequisite for intensive livestock rearing the era of cheap protein will end, and that too will greatly increase human mortality and morbidity.

In more specific terms, transplant surgery will come to a rapid halt, since safe surgery itself depends on effective antibiotics being available. Furthermore, successful transplants require immune suppression, which rapidly results in patients acquiring a wide variety of infections; without effective antibiotics the result is likely to be swiftly fatal.

It is for this reason that yet more money is being poured into research on gene therapy for such conditions as cystic fibrosis; without effective antibiotics to counter the infections in the lung, and without transplants to replace the damaged lungs, life expectancy will once more revert to a short period.

The Utopian, or possibly dystopian, fantasy of the Singularity depends on obdurately ignoring the scientific evidence; oddly enough, Rowan Williams' approach to LGBT people suffers from the same flaw...

Posted by: chenier1 on Saturday, 16 October 2010 at 3:53pm BST

Chenier1. One inevitably has the need to bow to superior evidence. Perhaps you, chenier, will inform the singularity crowd of your rightness.
Best of Luck!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 17 October 2010 at 3:02am BST
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