Wednesday, 13 July 2016

LGBTI Mission responds to shared conversations

This press release was issued yesterday by LGBTI Mission:

LGBTI Mission calls on Church of England to move forward following completion of Shared Conversations

The LGBTI Mission rejoices that almost all General Synod members were willing and able to engage in conversation and listening about human sexuality. We commend David Porter and his team for their excellent work in bringing this about. It is also clear that very many throughout the Church of England want to see change soon, as a priority for mission.

We call on the House of Bishops to bring forward bold proposals that enable the Church of England to move towards LGBTI equality, of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes.

Same-sex marriage is only one item on the table. There are other important issues, which could be resolved sooner and more easily. Some do not need synodical approval. We urge the bishops to review urgently all the areas listed in our LGBTI Mission launch document.

We also ask bishops to consult fully with their own LGBTI laity and clergy who are directly and personally affected by current discriminatory policies.

Simon Sarmiento, Chair of the LGBTI Mission said: “Now is the time to move forward and take action. Church leaders and LGBTI church members, of all convictions, need to work together to devise answers to these problems. We now have an opportunity to change the way that LGBTI people are treated in the Church. A good start would be to have a staff member funded to co-ordinate work in this area and show that the national Church is serious about change.”

Two specific examples of other urgent issues are:

There is a Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion (see text below) awaiting General Synod debate, which asks the Church to improve its welcome to Transgender people and for the House of Bishops to recommend suitable rites and prayers to mark their transition journeys. Debate on this was recently deferred a second time. We urge the bishops to endorse that motion and to ensure it is debated without further delay.

An issue not requiring synodical action is the current ban on clergy entering same-sex civil marriage, contained in paragraph 27 of the House’s February 2014 Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The widely inconsistent application of this has brought the Church into serious disrepute. It must be reconsidered urgently.

Media reports suggest the bishops may revive the 2013 Pilling Report recommendation (see Recommendations 16 and 17 on page 118) to allow clergy who wish to do so to “mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service” but only as a “pastoral accommodation” without authorizing any formal liturgy. This would be welcome as an interim step towards the long-term goal of enabling same-sex marriages in the Church of England. But the addition of approved liturgical forms would improve clarity and give clergy protection against unwanted disciplinary complaints.


The Blackburn Diocesan Synod motion is as follows:


…to move on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod:

‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 7:45am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

"of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes..."

This is essential, and it is admirable that the LGBTI mission has enshrined it as a principle in its message here.

If we on the progressive side want our consciences respected, with the right to affirm and practice equality regardless of sexual orientation... then we should also champion and defend the sincere consciences of those who take the opposite view on human sexuality.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 9:02am BST

The Blackburn motion is a really decent and precious proposal.

When a person steps out on the extremely vulnerable path of gender transition... they desperately need community that welcomes and affirms them.

They are likely to face significant social pressures: employers may shun them (even if it's the informal shunning of somehow not quite shortlisting them); family may reject them and psychologically abuse them; they may be rejected again and again when they try to rent accommodation; they face verbal abuse on the street almost for sure, and the day by day threat of physical abuse; and in addition, the combination of these pressures and the hormonal volatility of the early stages of a new hormone regime may induce depression or suicidal ideation.

In these circumstances, if the Church really is 'for all', then strong and affirming welcome for this marginalised and extremely vulnerable group is a huge lifeline, grace, and act of kindness and generosity.

In a life and world that seems to be falling apart, to have one place that is still 'community', and one place where you are accepted and enfolded, is a huge grace and expression of the Love of God and the nature of God.

A liturgy or service to celebrate the start of transition (and even more importantly a commitment to support the trans person through the years that lie ahead) is very very much needed.

So I am glad this is being flagged up and endorsed by the LGBTI mission.

The situation in early transition can be absolutely desperate. It almost cost me my life.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 9:13am BST


One thing that needs to be on the LGBTI Mission list is a process for changing baptismal records for people who get a Gender Recognition Certificate. It's probably as contentious as same sex marriage but it is a barrier to some who might otherwise enter ministry.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 11:42am BST

When there are so many churches, and such a wide swath of religious communities who share the right-wing view of sexuality, mission and authority, how are they *not* being given adequate provision? Simply because they might have to leave to be themselves? As I recall, they weren't keen on offering adequate provision when the liberal view was the minority, but told us to go to the MCC or lie about who we are, and those were the options. It isn't about revenge, but they should be willing to extend the same patience and good grace we've extended for the 30 years I've been an Episcopalian. There are Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox all waiting to welcome you if you just can't bear us.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 12:03pm BST

David Cameron had a desire for the Conservative Party to stop "Banging on about Europe" - some hope.
Similarly I feel that Justin Welby may have had a desire that as a result of the "Shared Conversations" the Church of England would stop "Banging on about Homosexuality"

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 4:28pm BST

No Susannah:

"If we on the progressive side want our consciences respected, with the right to affirm and practice equality regardless of sexual orientation... then we should also champion and defend the sincere consciences of those who take the opposite view on human sexuality."

What is the opposite view on human sexuality held by those whose consciences we should champion and defend?

Maybe those of us who want to live in a free society should champion and defend the consciences of those who want to engage in the slave trade?

Never! This is not how social progress is made, it is not how we got as far as we have in the field of LGBTI rights or any other rights. I will not defend or champion the consciences of those who want to treat me with less respect than they expect for themselves.

Posted by: Disgraceful on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 6:34pm BST

"I will not defend or champion the consciences of those who want to treat me with less respect than they expect for themselves." - Disgraceful

I occupy an halfway house position. As a church we MUST avoid discrimination and SHOULD accommodate individual consciences. That shows how the two need to be reconciled.

One possible way forwards is to move entirely to team parishes and be very clear to all parishioners who will and won't conduct same sex marriages, with the condition that those who won't MUST be in the numerical minority.

It would take some time to organise which is why we should be establishing the right structure now.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 9:34pm BST

"Never! This is not how social progress is made, it is not how we got as far as we have in the field of LGBTI rights or any other rights. I will not defend or champion the consciences of those who want to treat me with less respect than they expect for themselves."

This is the problem. I don't have the answer. TEC lets priests and congregations opt out of SSM. It is a detente, and at this point the anti-marriage crowd is a small minority in TEC.

I'm married, as are plenty of other LGBTQI people. I'm sure none of us appreciate having our marriages disparaged, and why should we have to put up with that? Anti-gay rhetoric contributes to bullying and various sad abuses of LGBTQI people, especially teens.

Safeguarding a place for conservatives... OK. But the major story has to be "LGBTQI people loved, affirmed, and fully included in the life of the church." That is the Good News. Not "conservatives get to keep espousing their hurtful rhetoric." Essentially, the power structure has to favor inclusion with an opt out for conservatives. Because the use of power to exclude LGBTQI people is oppression, and the bad news of humans.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 10:51pm BST

@ Disgraceful. I support the full inclusion of LBGTI people in the life of the church. And I agree with Susannah's comment. That's the way to progress on this issue for the church.

Posted by: Pam on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at 11:14pm BST

Pam, I disagree with you because I don't think this is about the church any more than I think it is about individuals' consciences which is why I disagree with Susannah.

Even a month ago I might have agreed with you both but I don't even any longer think it is about same sex marriage. For me it is that we owe Jesus a church where everyone is equal. It shouldn't matter what people earn, whether they come to church regularly or just occasionally, what they have done no matter how heinous it might seem to secular society, or whom they have married or wish to marry. People should be entirely equal and unhesitatingly accepted without any judgement, without any discrimination. That should be our vision for the church.

So for me it isn't about accommodating gay couples or conservatives but choosing a church based on joy, love and acceptance rather than on judgement.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 2:59am BST

"That's the way to progress on this issue for the church."

That isn't progress. It's politics. It's dishonest. It is the very same "house divided against itself" we were warned of, and the reason no one wants much to do with religion any longer. You can't claim support if you're busy creating a place and a platform for the right-wing to launch attacks on us.

You have to stand for something, or you'll stand for anything.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 4:51am BST

"Essentially, the power structure has to favor inclusion with an opt out for conservatives."

Agreed. I don't support the idea that there will be "no marriage equality in PERPETUITY" dioceses and/or approved seminaries (w/ ordination tracks). Grace periods for specific persons' consciences, Yes. Church-within-a-Church, No.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 5:42am BST

Thank you for your comments.

My own position has shifted somewhat from instinctively sensing that a compromise based on individual conscience is wrong, to understanding why it is wrong. I think your comments on various threads over several weeks have really informed that advancement. I know change in one, irrelevant person who already supported same sex marriage is a tiny thing for you, other than perhaps knowing that words online can change minds, but still thank you.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 1:05pm BST

Kate & Mark: Are we one church or different denominations? Are we grateful to those who work ecumenically?

Posted by: Pam on Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 11:44pm BST

We are different families within one church. The claim that we are EITHER one church OR different denominations is a false dichotomy. Ecumenical work is useful for service, but nonsense for trying to make one household out of many very different families.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 15 July 2016 at 4:54am BST


I don't consider *anyone* irrelevant - which is part of the reason I don't think it right or fair to *any* of us to try to create some Frankenstein's Church of views that each side considers insupportable. If I live in a house with someone, and they are tearing at my personhood, denying my faith, assaulting my will to live, then that is not a house to remain in. They are relevant. I move to another house, and those people are still relevant, but no longer in a position to do harm to me. In fact, having the distance of two separate houses gives us a place to retreat, reflect, and perhaps come to a better understanding of one another and the ability to truly live together.

YOU are relevant, and I love you. The thing is, we can live together in the same "house" without destroying each other, and in actual trust, which cannot happen when the issue is one of fundamental personhood and worth of those involved.

I'm glad you brought up relevance, because that actually crystallized for me what I've tried to express, with my poor vocabulary and lack of education - to keep hammering away at this sort of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell sort of ecclesial structure is the same as saying the other side is irrelevant, and that cannot be a Christian position! We can do that with things like Trinitarian understanding, Real Presence, High-Church vs. Low-Church, because those are theoretical, and - frankly - largely irrelevant to the average parishioner. You can't do that when you are talking about something that is an inherent aspect of the human being. It just won't work, because human beings aren't built that way. It goes beyond theology and philosophy, to an attack on the person, however we may try to avoid it. I don't feel safe in a church with people who believe I am unclean, disordered, perverted because of my sexual orientation. I'm NOT safe in a church with them. I imagine they feel the same way with us.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 15 July 2016 at 5:18am BST


Far better instead to articulate what principles we believe in.

For me it is very simple, it is not for the church to come between anyone and Jesus in *any* temple (church building) to limit their participation in any worship or rite. I suspect that instinctively most conservatives understand that principle which is why they tend to argue about the definition of marriage.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 15 July 2016 at 4:15pm BST

Thanks for your answer to my question Mark. The church can be described in many ways: the people of God, a servant people, the body of Christ, and the community of the Spirit. None of that implies separation from each other. We all fall short in love for each other but we can keep trying.

Posted by: Pam on Friday, 15 July 2016 at 11:31pm BST

Pam, are you "seperate" from your extended family because you live in separate dwellings? Are Roman Catholics "separate" from the God which is *our* Father because their household is separate and differently-ordered than ours?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Saturday, 16 July 2016 at 10:55am BST

I am separated from my extended family by distance, not emotional ties. If believers distance themselves from each other by not trying to work together, by making their 'issues' more important than solidarity, then we do separate ourselves from God. We're all in the same boat. :)

Posted by: Pam on Saturday, 16 July 2016 at 10:46pm BST

I think your understanding of Church is far too parochial and your understanding of human ability in a fallen world rather sanguine! We cooperate with others outside our churches - outside our faith - to bring Christ's kingdom. The only ones promoting an issue over that task focus on the issue of binding those of different function into one artificial ecclesial structure, rather than letting go to their own home and cooperating where vocations intersect. This death-grip destroys Peace, undermines faith, hope, and charity, and obstructs vocation, focusing on a narrow issue!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Sunday, 17 July 2016 at 11:03am BST

Thanks for the discussion Mark. I hope you mean sanguine in the "cheerfully optimistic" sense rather than the more archaic "bloody or blood thirsty". May I recommend Paul Tillich's great sermon "You Are Accepted" - he explores the themes of sin and grace. Shalom.

Posted by: Pam on Sunday, 17 July 2016 at 10:22pm BST

Thank you, Pam.

Yes, sanguine in the sense of cheerfully optimistic.

Tillich is valuable in helping us to relate to God, but that's not what I mean about a fallen world. In this dream of One Church, one focuses on human ability. God has already made Church, and it is one, though in different homes and disciplines. To try to hold people in one structure when they are fundamentally different in their faith, to deny the rightness of separation to pursue God's calling to us individually, is vanity, an insistence on human effort over divine grace.

It is also impossible. Already, by making the provisions that are supposed to keep all in one structure, the separation becomes fact. There are now two churches. Calling it "provision" within one denomination is simply to assuage human fear of change and God's working, and is ineffective, because change will come, as will separation and growth.

The denominations aren't divisions, but different charisms within One Church universal - the rest is the vanity of humans wanting power and security.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 at 9:04am BST
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