Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Understanding Same-sex Marriage

DLT Books has issued a press release announcing the publication of More Perfect Union: Understanding Same-sex Marriage by Alan Wilson. The text of this is reproduced below the fold.

John Bingham wrote about this book in the Telegraph under the headline One in 10 Church of England bishops ‘could be secretly gay’ – says bishop.

Alan Wilson has written on his blog about some recent reactions to his book, and about the recent College of Bishops meeting for “shared conversations”: Ins and Outs and Same-Sex Marriage.


‘Alan Wilson is the only bishop in the Church of England who speaks for the full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the Church. In this powerful statement, he sets out the scientific, theological and Biblical reasons which have led him to believe that this is the truly Christian option.’ - Linda Woodhead MBE

‘An extraordinarily valuable contribution to the quest for an open and honest conversation around an issue that the Church can no longer sweep under the ecclesiastical carpet.’ – Steve Chalke

‘The joy of this book is a bishop telling the truth, not least about the way the gay issue has been handled in recent history, and the awful dishonesties in which we are now entrammelled as a result.’ – Jeffrey John

In a recent interview with Pink News Archbishop Justin Welby acknowledged that the Church of England had to accept same-sex marriage is now law in England and Wales, but Welby himself voted against the Same-Sex Marriage Act in the House of Lords in 2013. Indeed, even after having been passed into law on 29 March 2014, when the balloon went up and Messrs. Peter McGraith and David Cabreza made Britain’s first same-sex marriage at Islington Town Hall, many leaders of the Church of England remain strongly opposed. So much so that Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who married his long-term partner in April, was told to stop leading services and then barred from a post as an NHS chaplain.

In this important and timely book Alan Wilson argues that allowing gay people to marry is a moral purpose. Indeed, there is a burgeoning movement within the Church broadly in favour of same-sex marriage, not to mention leaders of the Church already in gay partnerships, who wish for their religion to fully ratify and acknowledge their relationships.

Wilson says: ‘I asked myself “what does God want for gay people?”. After re-revisiting the Bible, and more importantly getting to know gay people of all types and varying backgrounds, he decided the answer was that God wants for them the same as everyone else – flourishing faith, hope and love, involvement and inclusion.

Meanwhile, from a scientific perspective, More Perfect Union? asserts that homosexuality is part of a wide range of human sexual longing and expression, not an anomaly, a sickness, nor merely a lifestyle choice.

The vast majority of people Wilson encountered on his journey toward being in favour of same-sex marriage were not anti-gay, were ‘just trying to love their neighbour as themselves’, even if, in some cases, their heads lagged behind their hearts on the issue of gay marriage.

The ultimate aim of this book is to help Christians unite head and heart in a fully positive response to gay people marrying, and to enable them to wholeheartedly rejoice in such union, in doing so shaking off the hangover of years of stereotyping, fear and discrimination about gay people.

Alan Wilson became Bishop of Buckingham in 2003 after more than 20 years as an urban and suburban parish priest, and some prison ministry, and has a doctorate in Church History. He has been married for over 30 years, and has 5 children.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 at 3:15pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Oh, dear God!
Four "professional" gays entertain the bishops.

There really must be an end to this.
I thought after the humiliations of Pilling no gay person would see themselves put on show like this.
Who submitted themselves (and thereby us all) to this indignity?

Does anybody know?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 at 10:41pm BST

May God prosper Bishop Alan's effort!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 at 5:13am BST

I notice how Bishop Alan has been subjected to Peter Ould's ire. Why should the Bishop of Buckingham justify his position to a clergyman not even employed by the Church? He accuses Bishop Alan of breaking collegiality by identifying gay bishops, and then demands Bishop Alan names them! Ould states "Collegiality exists to... allow different points of view to be put forward with the understanding that no-one will be identified individually". And then demands Bishop Alan sends him their names. I fear Mr Ould's anger has left him terribly confused with a misplaced sense of his own self-importance.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 at 10:22am BST

I had to read this several times before I took it in: It's part of Peter Ould's comments on Bishop Alan's blog...

'How can the Bishops move forward in a collective manner when some of them feel pressurised by you to reveal intimate details of their personal lives which actually may have no bearing on the ethical decisions they need to make...'

Breathtaking really! Presumably one of the most important 'ethical decisions' these covertly gay bishops have had to make recently was signing up to the infamous February Pastoral Statement?

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 at 11:26am BST

Hello Martin. I was one of the 'gang of four' who spoke at the College of Bishops meeting - standing in for another Trans member of the the LGBTI Coalition who was unable to attend on that date. We represented a range of views, identities and gender and I think that all of us had huge reservations about being part of this particular conversation in this particular format. Some of us certainly argued beforehand for greater participation in the event, but without success. We each spoke for about ten minutes and some of it was pretty trenchant - one speaker compared the bishops to the gospel scribes & pharisees who lay heavy burdens on others while not lifting a finger to help them! Of course it was unsatisfactory but the alternative was that our views were not heard at all (since it could not be guaranteed that the gay bishops would feel safe to be more open even in that facilitated setting). I have messaged Bishop Alan and commented on the CA England Facebook page about his use of the term 'professional gays' which makes sense in the context of his post but could also be misleading since two of us do not identify as gay (though I did at one time and was able to speak from that experience as well) and none of us earn our living from being LGBTI - not that there's anything wrong with doing that; it's just that none of the 'gang of four' actually do!

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 at 12:36pm BST

What a gracious response, Christina!

It seems you all shared my horror at this indignity but submitted nonetheless hoping that it just might have some influence ..........
As you see, while understanding your generous motives, I find this expectation monstrous and something we should now resist because it does such harm and perpetuates the "elephant man" mentality that turns us into objects for spiritual dissection.

We do have a message, we are compelled to call them to repent for their evil and atone for the mutilation, murder and deprivation of liberty their message of hate and rejection has inspired.
It sounds as if one of you had that more than just in mind!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 at 6:15pm BST

Who else?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 5:33pm BST

Thanks Martin. The LGBTI Coalition & Changing Attitude, England, with which I've been associated, do not (yet?)take the very clear view that you do, so we continue to occupy an awkward, sometimes uncomfortable space. I wish that were not so, but this is where we are at the moment and the Coalition needs to be really focused about the next step: I felt that the panel was something that we (& there were two of us from the Coalition) drifted into because other, fuller, engagement had not emerged as promised - that must not happen again. Maybe I'm getting old, or perhaps it's a result of working in a hospital, but I don't worry to much these days about my own dignity (though I do care very much about the dignity of patients). I appreciate your concern for the panel and I felt protective too, but we follow a Christ who was willing to be humiliated and (without being too masochistic about it)this occasion was just about acceptable. I am though still processing my feelings. In any case, as I say, the panel members were fairly robust in what they said.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 6:45pm BST

Martin, thank you for stating so clearly what I also have said on another site, that I cannot see how any self-respecting gay person can co-operate with Church "conversations" which would involve them being treated like laboratory specimens and discussed by those hostile to them.

However we must remember that the underlying problem is not sex, but (as I have said on Bishop Alan's blog) our understanding of the scriptures. When those who have long accepted historical criticism are faced with pre-critical literalists it is almost impossible to see what dialogue can take place. We are inhabiting different mental worlds, and too many bishops are prepared to indulge such fundamentalism.

Posted by: Barry on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 6:55pm BST

There were three more ..........

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 7:26pm BST

Martin and Barry, I am one of the those whom you accuse of putting myself on show, submitting all LGBT people to indignity, being treated like a laboratory specimen and lacking self-respect! This is not how I perceive what happened: I believe there was some value in bishops hearing from laypeople and parish/chaplaincy clergy who are part of a C of E which, at grassroots level, has changed radically over the past half-century, though the bishops have by and large buried their heads in the sand. The Coalition will continue to keep up the pressure for greater inclusion and I hope that - as happened with women bishops - the conversations will lead to change at policy level.

Barry, I would add that I do not think all church members not yet convinced of the case for equal marriage can be written off as pre-critical literalists - there has been a sizeable shift in opinion in the pews, accelerated by developments such as Vicky Beeching coming out, and changing views among evangelicals in particular may be a critical factor in achieving institutional change.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at 11:33pm BST

Savi, I appreciate your comments. It was not my intention to accuse anybody of anything, and I hope I would never use language describing people as putting themselves on show. If you felt that you could with integrity speak to the bishops then I thank you for doing so, and I hope that your honesty - costly, I am sure - will bear fruit, whatever my personal reservations about this process.

I did not mention equal marriage, an issue on which I am still forming my own mind. I am aware of the change of outlook among open-minded Evangelicals and others. I recognize its importance and I thank God for it. But I feel that in discussion of Christian concerns there is still too much easy recourse to "the Bible says", as though saying this settled matters. Until we, as Anglicans, affirm what we mean by the origin, authority and inspiration of the scriptures all other discussions will be thwarted by conflicting assumptions on the interpretation and proper use of those scriptures, even though "sola scriptura" has never been an accepted Anglican position.

Posted by: Barry on Friday, 3 October 2014 at 10:51am BST

Only a quarter of a century ago - catch up C of E !

Bishop Alan is one you need !


Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 3 October 2014 at 12:15pm BST

Interesting isn't it? Savi and I both wrote long, hard-hitting critiques of the Pilling Report but are also well-known for being incredibly kind and patient with those who disagree with us (no matter what the topic) so no surprise that we are still happy to have a conversation ... with anyone ... in the hope that things really are going to get better, and I think that they could. David Porter has made it very clear that decisions will have to be made at the end of the two years of conversations (though they are not bound to go in our favour of course) and I know that the shared conversations are being very professionally set up. They are not perfect, need monitoring, and could easily be de-railed but, ever hopeful, I think they're worth engaging with at this stage. A few years ago a friend of mine noted that one bishop's attitude to trans people resembled the detachment and curiosity of an entomologist - but this was most definitely NOT my experience of the College of Bishops meeting. The problem is that there is 'fear on every side' at the moment and it is love rather than posturing that will overcome that.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 3 October 2014 at 9:09pm BST

Christina, I perfectly understand your generous motives and share the hope that one day things will change.

My issue isn't with the genuine aspirations of those who participated in this event .... that is clear already from our exchange.
My concern is with how we engage with this process and note that you acknowledge that the engagement took place as a "drift" and should not happen again. As I recall there was universal agreement post Pilling that we should not put ourselves in the position the bishop of Buckingham describes as having taken place.
It's hard to take a stance against this without seemingly attacking those who volunteered themselves and even more so when there is no information about who went and no publication of their speeches. I made a point on an earlier thread of the need for light in these conversations, we should do all we can to make at least what WE say transparent and available to all. You clearly understand and seemingly share my concern over the process.
If we do not resist these formats then we really do allow the abuse to continue.
I welcome your openness to this.

Again, we do not know who else was on this panel and what their story was and what they wanted the conversation to conclude. We now know the two who came from the coalition - and I would say that you went, at least in part,in a representative role and so those whom you might be seen to represent have now an opportunity to comment, particularly as there is no release of what you said.
I would say that there is no real need for gay people to be so empaneled when there are quite a few gay men within the college, but I am convinced by those who know that these gay bishops would not be good spokesmen for us and in fact would be amongst our fiercest critics. I recall an English bishop telling me that a statement which followed a meeting didn't reflect 99% of their actual conversation, had been written almost entirely beforehand and only reflected the political position the Church found itself within the Anglican Communion.
So, Christina, you will forgive my suspicion that despite the hopes for the next two years, its not unreasonable to suspect that somewhere in Lambeth Palace, in a locked drawer, the final statement lies waiting!
Elsewhere on these threads in an exchange with Erica, I started to outline what I think we must do over the next couple of years. My view remains that we must model a REAL conversation and put these churchmen to flight when faced with real Christian dialogue! Then, I would say, the skills and openness you mention and clearly display would find a proper environment to flourish.

Savi, you mistook the "see themselves put on show"
"putting myself on show"
....... a big difference ....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 4 October 2014 at 6:00pm BST

I had not been aware that LGBTI people had been asked to appear before groups of Bishops for interrogation/conversation, like specimens under a microscope!

This brings me back to the question I ask again and again of people who are homophobic, or very cautious around homosexuals: how many gay (LBTI) people can you count among your friends?

I sometimes think that some form of immersion therapy, whereby homophobics were made to spend a day/weekend with LBGTI people, with none of them having any outward form of identification, could be enormously productive!!

Many thanks to Savi, Barry, Tina, Martin and all the others who have so far participated in this.

Posted by: Sue Whitlock on Saturday, 4 October 2014 at 6:45pm BST

"I sometimes think that some form of immersion therapy, whereby homophobics were made to spend a day/weekend with LBGTI people, with none of them having any outward form of identification, could be enormously productive!!"

Chances are that they are surrounded by LGBT people. The problem is that a sense of safety is part of what's needed. If someone is coming from an anti-gay bias, it's pretty hard to feel safe. It's asking a lot of LGBT people to graciously interact with our persecutors, especially now, that's so 1980's.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 4 October 2014 at 9:47pm BST

Once more to Sue: I was not aware of any entomologists at Market Bosworth! Now Martin. Yes, I loved your ambitious programme in dialogue with Erika, but who is going to plan, organise and manage it? If you feel strongly that these events should happen will you be proposing them to LGCM, Inclusive Church (which held a day conference on the theology of marriage last week where I co-led a trans workshop), the Coalition, Changing Attitude, England, the Academy? I've explained why I think the Coalition drifted into the the panel event - because the promised fuller engagement did not transpire. My own personal sense of drift was because I had recently retired as a Changing Attitude, England Trustee, as well as from the Coalition and the Sibyls committee, so I was surprised to be asked to replace a Coalition member who was unable to attend on that date. I will try to attend the next Coalition meeting, if I can, as I do feel obliged to report back to that body, but in any case I kept in close touch with its Co-Chairs and the CAE Director prior to and after the meeting in terms of navigating a potentially awkward occasion. I probably will publish my 10 minutes worth to the bishops at some point, but it won't contain any surprises. Savi and I both have articles in the recent edition of 'Modern Believing' on Equal Marriage, which Savi edited, and we spoke to them at a launch earlier this year; our views are also well-known from our published writings and posts. Before we left the meeting I did ask the other participants for permission to name them and share what they said, but in this very public forum I would rather they came out here themselves, as Savi did, or elsewhere. I felt protective towards the other participants even though one of them held views very different to mine, mainly due to the vulnerability attached to this experience which was also an important bond between us.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Saturday, 4 October 2014 at 10:51pm BST

I should maybe add that Christina and I were not there to make a formal presentation of the Coalition’s perspective to the bishops, who have already been written to on various occasions. These letters, and Coalition news releases, are published on the website http://www.lgbtac.org.uk/ and often discussed on Thinking Anglicans, e.g. http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006358.html , http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006453.html , http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006470.html , http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006723.html .

The principle that there should be ‘nothing about us without us’ has frequently been put forward, and the regional conversations are designed always to include several openly LGBTI people. However this posed an obvious challenge for the College of Bishops, which is not exactly full of self-affirming ‘out’ members. The four panellists were invited to share something of our stories, including views arising from our experiences, and were listened to attentively and respectfully when we did so. I hope that our input may have encouraged some bishops to be more open about their own experience, at least in small groups, and to be clearer about the need for the church to become more inclusive.

Certainly the conversation process will have failed if it does not move the church forward towards making decisions, as happened with discussions around women bishops. But such discussions should be rooted in the reality of mission and ministry in today’s church and society, including lived experience.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Sunday, 5 October 2014 at 3:37pm BST

Only one of the links Savi provides works.

But, as one suspected and Christina confirms' no links promised by the Church of England work despite their assurances - as she writes "the promised fuller engagement did not transpire"!

On an earlier thread I warned those who allowed the CofE to use them for their purpose ..... It is heartbreaking to repeat, you are not dealing with honest men. Again , on an earlier thread I recalled how the liberals had been suckered into colluding with the ACO in the production of material for the last Lambeth conference. There was genuine hope that the building of close personal relationships with those working on Lambeth papers would pay dividends. The outcome was a complete sell out.

Christina is willing to have a conversation with anyone and she suggest Savi is too. That may be fine on a personal level though my mother would still advise extreme caution on talking to strangers, but at a representative level there has to be a very serious question as to the bona fides of the CofE as a reputable partner for these conversations. They are skilled at manipulating others and will promise practically anything to get what they want and happily renege on their solemn undertakings, they are the masters of duplicity. There is a real choice for us to absent ourselves from abusive processes, in fact we have an obligation to stand aside and to make our presence felt from outside.
I am a long way from knowing who is able to achieve any of the proposals I made, Christina, even if others think them worth pursuing. For the last several years my only engagement with this has also been my scrawling and challenges to the powers that be here In Wales .... But I have done my bit .........
There seems to be a complete lack of interest in the Church at present ..... People just couldn't give a **** what these Christians say ....... So desperately sad.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 6 October 2014 at 6:56pm BST

I've reformatted Savi's comment, and all the links should now work.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 6 October 2014 at 8:55pm BST

I've found this exchange here with Martin extremely helpful in processing the experience of being recruited to present at the recent College of Bishops meeting. I have focused on vulnerability and humiliation but this dialogue has helped me to realise the real power that LGBTI Christians have and that we are not using to full effect. Thank you. Just to clarify: my remark that the 'promised fuller engagement did not transpire' referred to the Coalition's (lack of) involvement in the early and recent stages of the process (which came as a shock to me) rather than to outcomes from the College meeting. The Church of England is not monolithic, though it is attempting to be, and the duplicitous are matched by the transparent. As you say Martin, it's important to know who you're talking with, but its often only in retrospect that becomes clear and it can be devastating. I felt extremely safe with the facilitator who was looking after me and my colleagues but it's apparent that the process is being tightly controlled. We can stand apart from that. My suspicion is that people with our views will not be recruited anyway even if we would like to be. At this stage we can try to influence the process and that's what I think we should try to do.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Monday, 6 October 2014 at 10:13pm BST

Christina's comment is very encouraging.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 7 October 2014 at 2:20pm BST
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