Sunday, 10 January 2016

Open letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York

An open letter has been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, signed by 105 Church of England members including many senior figures.

More information, and the full list of signatories, is at this website including a press release which is also copied below the fold.

The website also provides an opportunity for anybody who wishes to do so to add their signature to the letter.

The full text of the letter is as follows.

The Rt Hon and Most Revd Justin Welby
The Rt Hon and Most Revd Dr John Sentamu

January 7th 2016

Your Graces

We the undersigned ask you, our Archbishops, to take an unequivocal message to your meeting of fellow Primates next week that the time has now come for:

  • Acknowledgement that we, the Church, have failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world. We have not loved them as we should, and have treated them as a problem to be solved rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ to be embraced and celebrated. We have made them feel second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God, often abandoned and alone.
  • Repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and for the pain and rejection that this has caused. We, the Church, need to apologise for our part in perpetuating rather than challenging ill-informed beliefs about LGBTI people, such as the slanderous view that homosexuals have a predisposition to prey on the young.

We understand that the Primates come from a variety of contexts with differing ways of interpreting the Scriptures, but we urge you to be prophetic in your action and Christ-like in your love towards our LGBTI sisters and brothers who have been ignored and even vilified for too long.

Please be assured of our prayers for you at this time, and that the world will know by our words and actions that everyone who is baptised into the faith is of equal value in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yours sincerely

PRESS RELEASE – January 10th 2016

Over 100 Senior Anglicans, including the Dean of St Paul’s, have signed an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York calling on the Church of England to repent of its ‘second class citizen’ treatment of Christians over issues of sexuality.

The letter, signed by a range of senior church figures including Cathedral Deans, retired bishops and well-known lay figures (including leading parliamentary figures and university academics), has been sent to the Archbishops ahead of a pivotal meeting of worldwide Anglican Leaders which begins in Canterbury on Monday.

In the letter, the 105 signatories call on the Church to acknowledge its failure to care for LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world, and to repent of its acceptance and promotion of discrimination - especially its failure to challenge harmful beliefs about sexuality. It goes on to ask the Primates to act in Christ-like love ‘towards those who have been ignored and vilified for too long’.

The signatories include eight retired bishops and a serving bishop, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham. Another prominent signatory is the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd David Ison, who says that, in all the debate, the personal cost has often been forgotten:

‘I believe that it’s imperative for us to remember that whilst we seek to engage honestly, lovingly and respectfully with our differences of context and scriptural interpretation, our discussions are actually about the lives of sisters and brothers who have often been rejected and victimised on the grounds of their sexuality. The Church should be the first place that they feel they can come to, to find love and acceptance rather than judgement.’

The signatories include both clergy and lay people. Prominent gay Christian, Vicky Beeching, who came out in 2014 and faced significant discrimination from Christians across the world, urges the Church to think of its younger members:

‘Social and religious attitudes are shifting among young people. Many cannot morally align themselves with a Church that perpetuates LGBT discrimination. If we want to ensure the future life of our Church this issue needs urgent attention and great pastoral sensitivity. To see the Church repent of damaging attitudes would help many young people feel a reconnection with it.’

The letter, which goes on to assure the Archbishops of prayers for the Canterbury meeting, has been coordinated by Jayne Ozanne, a member of General Synod, who is keen to stress that support has come from a broad range of individuals across the church.

‘The signatories come from across the full breadth of the Anglican traditions, and from right across the country. From the Dean of Truro to the Dean of Carlisle, and from the MP for Exeter to the Master of Trinity Hall at Cambridge University and the Dean of Christ Church at Oxford University. It is so encouraging to see so many senior Anglicans now standing alongside their LGBTI brothers and sisters, recognising their woeful treatment by the Church to date.’

She added that the church had no excuse for its failure to care:

‘In 1998 the worldwide Anglican Church committed itself to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals. Despite this commitment the plight of many LGBTI Christians around the world has got worse. The consequence is that we are now increasingly perceived as irredeemably “anti-gay” by an increasing number of people who simply don’t understand why the church continues to discriminate, nor why it is allowed to do so. Until we repent of our treatment of our LGBTI brothers and sisters, attempts by those within the worldwide Church to conduct meaningful “conversations” will risk appearing hollow and insincere’.


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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

OMG! This is awesome! Fantastic!

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 12:32am GMT

Awesome! Brilliant! Wonderful! Praise be to God! Hallelujah!

I hope more people sign, especially lay people to back the clergy, some of whom may be at risk.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 12:40am GMT

Every author and signatory must know full and well that Welby will ignore the letter, so it's wholly symbolic. That being so, while it covered a lot of necessary bases, it's a shame that it didn't unequivocally condemn Lambeth 1.10, demand its repeal, and demand that the homophobic provinces be expelled before they have a chance to jump.

If you're gonna make a gesture, may as well go for the home run.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 12:56am GMT

It's an open letter. Everybody sign!

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 2:31am GMT

95% excellent. It would be 100% but they associate LGBTI only with sexual orientation not sexual orientation and gender presentation.

(I know some would say gender identity but that doesn't cover intersex individuals very well and it needs to be something pithy)

I & T - groups so marginalised even those on their side overlook them.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 2:56am GMT

Your Graces I implore you and your primates to prayerfully consider this letter.As Christians we should not cross over to the other side of the road because of our brother/sisters sexuality. In Jesus name Amen

Posted by: Gillian Parnell on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 6:57am GMT

🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽
"we urge you to be prophetic in your action and Christ-like in your love towards our LGBTI sisters and brothers who have been ignored and even vilified for too long."

I find this letter to be healing already. To be re-affirmed that I'm a sister in Christ to be embraced and celebrated is balm for the soul.

"Acknowledgement that we, the Church, have failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world."

This concern for LGBTI members around the world is even more bold than TEC. Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 7:08am GMT

"Repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and for the pain and rejection that this has caused."

Speaking strategically only, one wonders what effect this will have on the 38-40 primates gathered from throughout the world? If I were the primate of SE Asia, or Sudan, e.g., what would I make of this call to repent by leaders in England?

My reaction would likely be to see the serious challenge faced by the Archbishop of Canterbury within sections of his own church, and to increase my sympathy for him in his effort to keep things together in accordance with present CofE teaching. If I were disposed to distrust his conservative bearing and leadership, I might well reconsider in the light of a very demanding local context.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 8:15am GMT

Very disappointing to see that with one exception the letter was not signed by a representative of any Anglican religious communities. Are they not considered 'important' or 'leaders'? I had believed that in general the communities were accepting and supportive of LGBTI people. Perhaps this is not the case.

Posted by: WM on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 9:45am GMT

Praying for you and our church.

Posted by: Erin Rutherford on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 9:53am GMT

Cseitz, that's 'cause, while you may hold to conservative theology, as shown by your reasonable and moderate posts, your position's a world away from the Gafcon bossmen.

They'll likely see this as evidence of Welby's craven weakness in the face of Western decadence at its most squalid. They'll be baffled why he tolerates this level of dissent from what they take to be the clear-cut teaching of scripture. They sure wouldn't.

If anything, it'll enrage them further, and steel their resolve to demand our way, or the highway. These aren't mere primates, they're prince bishops of the old school, dukes of battle, and Welby will be told in no uncertain terms to submit, or be cast aside. A company man who takes this ain't no boss to bossmen. He can thank his lucky stars that, for all that, his opponents are still Christians. Absent that restraint, they'd really get medieval on his mitre.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 9:58am GMT

James Byron as a signatory I do not assume ++ Justin will ignore this. It is already becoming too big for that in any case. And as a Christian I believe people can change.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 10:34am GMT

"And blessed are you, when you are persecuted for my sake, and the sake of the 'very demanding local context'".

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 11:11am GMT

It would be inspiring and refreshing if Christian hierarchs treated LGBTQ Christians (and non-Christians) as they would wish to be treated themselves.

Posted by: F. D. Blanchard on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 2:19pm GMT

I feel better in myself, for seeing this.

Dean David Ison was awesome on the Sunday programme - my kind of Evangelical ! But this is where I am, too, myself.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 2:37pm GMT

Dean of St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

Posted by: Michael Weeder on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 2:39pm GMT

"Every author and signatory must know full and well that Welby will ignore the letter, so it's wholly symbolic."

Strongly disagree.

Cantuar and Ebor will not ignore it. Rather, they will appreciate it.

At the very least, it will help prove to the six "I'm leaving on the first day" primates that (i) Cantuar is in no position to do what they demand; (ii) the pro-LGBTI-equality wing includes some extremely eminent CofE figures; and (iii) these eminent Anglicans couch their argument in moral-theological terms, as a "call to repentance".

Conservatives might try a counter-letter, but within a day or two they will be sharing an ideological corner with six primates who engaged in schism in order to perpetuate discrimination.

That's a bad, even awful, position.

The anti-LGBTI wing will have played their "best" card, but it won't have had much effect on others. And indeed it will have tarred all conservatives with a very nasty brush.

Meanwhile, the supplemental signers of today's letter appear to include retired Bishop of Argyll Martin Shaw (now in Exeter), two baronesses, several archdeacons, dozens of rectors and vicars, and more academics, church musicians, and theologians, plus a lot of laypeople.

Archbishops need to be led. May the list of supplemental signers grow further.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 3:22pm GMT

Praise God we must be all inclusive. Love one another.

Posted by: Isabel on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 3:33pm GMT

David and Jeremy, I stand corrected, and would be overjoyed to be wrong about the letter's impact. I hope I am. We shall soon see.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 3:44pm GMT

Only disappointed that there is not a single current Diocesan in this list of signatories. It seems that the Deans are the prophetic voices of hope in the Church of England.

Posted by: Fr Paul on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 3:45pm GMT

Fr. Paul, absolutely.

If anyone here knows Nicholas Holtam, it'd be excellent if they could get in touch, and invite him to add his name. Given his previous statements, he could, surely, have no objection.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 4:08pm GMT


I sent Ebor a similar email six months ago. His reply makes me feel His Grace will not appreciate the open letter one jot,

(My email was of course much less refined than the brilliantly written open letter. Our emails were private so I have not, and will not, publish it.)

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 4:09pm GMT

"Only disappointed that there is not a single current Diocesan in this list of signatories."

Presumably, after the six primates leave, Cantuar will try to get Lambeth 2018 back on track.

To that end, he has doubtless asked the English House of Bishops to refrain from controversy.

It's the same old unity-over-justice thinking.

Of course by the end of this week, the House of Bishops should realise that it isn't getting unity.

You might think that the bishops would start to draw the obvious conclusion.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 4:13pm GMT

What this shows, Christopher, is an object lesson and a reality check. No one can dictate conscience. Because the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice (justice being the public expression of love, according to Cornel West). Because the Incarnation is the Good News of Great Joy for All People, everywhere. This is what the signers just affirmed.

The culture wars are doomed to failure because oppression and repression are not sustainable and it's unseemly for the church to be on the oppressive side.

I am deeply, deeply grateful to the leaders who composed and signed this letter. As a gay person in the world I've suffered workplace discrimination, several severe depressions because of that and the awful rhetoric of hate, and though my immediate family was accepting and loving, an in-law just couldn't refrain from making her last verbal attack at my mothers funeral in November. I'm sure she feels justified by her conservative church. Fortunately, I'm privileged enough to have a roof overhead, food on the table, I'm not in jail, and I can afford therapy. But what about those more vulnerable sisters and brothers? They really need the message delivered by the signers of the letter. They needed it badly.

Well done. Thank you. And now I hope that the primates can work out how to get along together knowing that no dictates are going to work, and they were never godly in the first place.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 4:30pm GMT

Dear Mr Byron,

Thank you for the compliment.

I feel I have a fairly good sense of the permutations that bring together and also differentiate Primates like +Indian Ocean, +Nigeria, +Burundi, +Sudan, +Middle East, +SE Asia, +Uganda.

It was in the light of that that I wrote as I did.

Gafcon has its own internal nuances, and the wider GS even more so.

As hard as it may be to believe, the internal dynamics of the CofE are not as obvious to outsiders as insiders may believe. Whilst 105 'leaders' is what it is--and equally what it isn't--a pressure statement like this will catch the attention of many Primates wondering just how to face into the meeting.

Sunday blessings.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 5:46pm GMT

Kate, that is disappointing to hear.

Yet later this week, if he thinks about it, Ebor should be quite happy to have some evidence that indicates, and indicates strongly, that the Church of England does not share the views that the departing Primates will surely express, as they leave.

Later this week official CofE thinking may finally turn from the strategy of keeping Nigeria, etc., in the Communion, because they will have left, and turn back to England, where quite frankly that same strategy has done untold damage.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 7:00pm GMT

Change needs to happen.

Posted by: Jenny Brady on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 8:50pm GMT

I think all those retired bishops should have been asked if they would have signed it if they had still been in post, and when they had answered "no" - with probably very few honourable exceptions - should have been told where to shove it.

We all know craven bishops who only find their conscience when it can't harm their careers

Posted by: Chris A on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 9:17pm GMT

As others have commented, the absence of support for this statement from serving English Bishops (Buckingham the honourable exception) is striking. All this talk about 'leadership' in the Church of England, but when it counts, we get silence and fence-sitting. An indictment of the lack of moral fibre amongst our current Bishops.

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 11:09pm GMT

At the time I copied and pasted the list of supplementary signatures just after midnight on Sunday night, it had 2858 people on it - a fantastic response and a wonderful cross-section of Christians, from across the whole spectrum, many of obvious experience and responsibility.

In many ways, this list sends a very strong signal to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York that their attempt to impose a dogmatic uniformity on the Church of England cannot be achieved by picking off a few sacrificial lambs.

This list is a wake up call to the reality that there are large numbers of people of good conscience who do not agree with the 'supposed' position of the Church on human sexuality. It also in many ways outflanks the English Archbishops, because what can they do? Fire all the people on this list who hold positions and roles in our Church? And it also sends a message to Archbishops from overseas who might try to browbeat the Church of England into enforcing a uniformity (as the Covenant tried to do).

It isn't possible. The 'inclusive' horse has bolted. This list demonstrates that Christians at large have no inclination to turn back, and are ashamed of the Church leadership, and the harm done to LGBT lives - not to mention the damage done to the Church as a whole, and its haemorrhaging reputation.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 12:53am GMT

I agree with the letter supporting LGBTQ people.

Posted by: Margaret Seiler on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 1:56am GMT

Consciences and careers? Currently I am a retired priest of the Anglican Church of Australia. The hierarchy seem totally oblivious to the pain they choose to cause by omission. Six months ago my partner of ten years, David, died unexpectedly. I informed the local bishop by leaving a message (he was not available). There was total silence.
David was buried from the parish church by a friend. The vicar attended and read a collect. Afterwards he said, "Give me a call if you need me." If it had not been for the laity in the parish I fear I might have been overwhelmed by grief.
Since then I have had to move cities and now I am asking myself whether I should even bother to approach the diocesan in the new area for permission to officiate. The bishop's attitude could be interesting, having already had a career in the real world. This bishop is female.

Posted by: Dan Octigan on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 4:35am GMT

It would be mildly interesting to know the process by which the original signatories were obtained. The large number of Deans might suggest all Deans were approached, so can we assume that Deans not included specifically declined? Were all bishops actually approached, or only selected bishops?

Posted by: John Swanson on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 6:21am GMT

I believe Jayne Ozanne has approached a very large number of high profile Christians and offered them the opportunity to sign the letter. I would be extremely surprised if she had not offered it to Nick Holtam and David Walker.

Someone here bemoaned the fact that it doesn't mention sex. That is precisely its strength, because as David Runcorn pointed out somewhere, there is nothing in this letter even a conservative person could not sign.

The big question is why they don't, and the even bigger question is why supposedly liberal bishops don't.

It's not for a lack of opportunity.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 9:36am GMT

What a shame that, judging by the distinguished signatories, tolerance doesn't seem to have spread to the south west's biggest city - Plymouth.

Posted by: Colin Damp on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 9:56am GMT

So where are the other bishops . Current bishop of Salisbury ?
This is pathetic . Stand up and be counted. Be prophetic. Jesus was

Posted by: Tessa Reid on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 1:04pm GMT

Erika, I agree that its strength is that it doesn't mention sex. I was one of those who have signed it on the website but I would probably not have supported it had it mentioned sex.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 4:05pm GMT

Discussing homosexuality on many African visits, I realise that the view held by most is that homosexuality is unnatural and therefore, as God's people, banning it is doing God's work, and saving these people from their sin! Can the Archbishop not get along some scientists - biologists, psychologists etc to explain incontrovertibly that this is not the case - some people are born gay?! This is not about protecting different cultural attitudes - it is about fact, and adhering to the belief that Christ would have done everything, in his context, to protect innocent discriminated minorities. This is the evidence they need to show to their folk back home.

Posted by: Phillida Purvis on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 4:24pm GMT

Where is it possible to see all the signatures? Isigned but can't find the list oflater signers? Thanks.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 6:08pm GMT

Sara, I found the list (and signed it) via the BBC website and its report on the letter.

The list needs some checking. I have already noticed one name appearing twice, and early on some malicious idiot has thought it amusing to sign him/herself as "Rev. Politically Correct, Bishop".

Posted by: Barry on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 8:17pm GMT


The list of signatures is on the "Add Your Signature" page below the form.

The list is in a frame, and some browsers allow you to open this on its own in a new tab - right click anywhere in the list and see what comes up in the menu that this opens up.

I've had a look myself and your name is there.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 8:51pm GMT

"Please be assured of our prayers for you at this time, and that the world will know by our words and actions that everyone who is baptised into the faith is of equal value in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Does this include the majority of African Christians, who seem to be treated as not-quite-up-to-date by 'progressives'?

Posted by: Andy on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 11:06pm GMT

"Does this include the majority of African Christians, who seem to be treated as not-quite-up-to-date by 'progressives'?"

Everyone is equal in the Lord. But I'm curious, are you saying that there is an equivalency between human rights violations (and hate speech) and victimized LGBTQ people?

Is the charge here that because "progressives" speak up about human rights violations, hate crimes, and hate speech we are being racist towards some African Christians?

Right. The progressive response to human suffering being inflicted by people in Christ's name ought to be silence?

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 2:42am GMT


May your partner rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 3:14am GMT

Here's hope for us in the TEC (it's likely to be longer than 400 words, but I hope you'll publish)-

I come from one of the most backward, bible-thumping, right-wing parts of an otherwise wonderful nation. I am in a liberal church, in an economically-depressed region. We have a young, gay-affirming priest, given to a rather high liturgy. We have people in our parish that express admiration for Trump, others who support Sanders. I have actually heard us referred to as the "gay church" in our sadly ignorant little city/town.

A recipe for disaster.

Absolutely impossible.

In the past ten years, we have acquired a prime piece of property, built a new parish hall *and* a new church building. We have paid it off fully. We have grown by at least 30%, and I expect more, as of recent, and most all of these are young, dedicated, with family. We formed a unique structure - thanks to the Concordat - and are actually both TEC and the ELCA church in town - St. Patrick's and Our Savior. When I speak of growth, I speak of our TEC congregation, but the Lutheran congregation has had additions, as well. We have two services - Lutheran and Episcopal - on Sundays, and the movement of parishioners between the two is fairly fluid. We have formed a family.

In this part of Georgia, there are organizations in the conservative churches for "Jewish outreach" and the infamous "Jews for Jesus" ministries. We, being TEC, deplore that and do not engage in those ministries. We have maintained strong ties with the Reform Synagogue in town. I hope, and believe, that we are friends across faiths.

This Sunday, we welcomed an adult female convert from the Jewish faith. Not because we proselytized, not because she was getting married, not because of political considerations, but because she saw something in us. Her sister has not converted, nor do we seek her doing so, but she and her husband came to see her baptized. Of all the churches with a "Jewish outreach," she chose the one that simply loved her, however she was.

So, tell me we're dying, that God punishes us for our stance, that we are apostates, heretics, in gross error, and I will point back to this, because, in Christianity, anecdotal evidence DOES count. God blesses us, still.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 5:51am GMT

Mark, your parish sounds wonderful! Our parish, in Denver, is also growing with young families. We've been gay friendly for decades, but in Denver that's not really a stand out. The latest parish statistics indicate that 30 percent of parishes and dioceses are growing, and that the ones that are growing are inevitably liberal. Our situation, and the ones I visit, are thriving.

CoE runs regular schools and terrific choir schools. I'm sure that more families would participate in the life of the church if their children wouldn't be exposed to homophobia, and remaining pockets of misogyny.

Liberation is liberating.

This letter is cosmic. It helps bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice and it reaffirms the Incarnation, that brings Great News of Great Joy to All People, everywhere ("everywhere" is the literal Greek).

🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 5:24pm GMT

All the women bishops were well chosen...all safe pairs of I previously stated when commentators were falling over themselves praising individuals.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 5:48pm GMT

I am glad your parish is doing well, too, Cynthia! Indeed, Christ came to set the prisoners free, not to put in a new group of guards.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 6:01am GMT
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