Thursday, 8 September 2016
General Synod members write to College of Bishops
The following press release has been issued. The letter to which it refers is copied below the fold.
For the full list of signatures follow this link.
GENERAL SYNOD MEMBERS URGE BISHOPS TO SEND A POSITIVE MESSAGE TO LGBTI CHRISTIANS.
Over 130 lay and clergy members of Synod from across the Church of England’s traditions have signed an open letter to the College of Bishops urging that the Church is “unequivocal in its acknowledgement” that LGBTI Christians are essential to the health and future of our Church.
The letter has been made public just before the Church of England’s meeting of the College of Bishops following the completion of the Shared Conversations process in July. It comes after an earlier letter from 72 conservatives expressing concern over the discussion of any new proposals, which they stated would lead to a fracture within the Church of England.
Organised by four influential Synod members – Jayne Ozanne, the Revd Canon Giles Goddard, the Very Revd Dr David Ison and Tim Hind – the letter has succeeded in uniting members from across the various Church traditions and from 38 of the 42 dioceses within the Church of England.
Echoing sentiments made by many signatories, long standing synod member John Mason said:
“I am not normally enthusiastic about letters of this type, but I am in complete agreement with publication of this one. I wholeheartedly approve of it both because of the need for a response (to the conservatives’ letter) and because of its particularly inclusive and affirming content.”
The letter recognises the importance of the Shared Conversations, and its role in helping people understand “the common reverence we (synod members) hold for the Word of God as well as the differing ways in which we have come to understand and interpret it. We believe this has formed deeper understanding, trust and respect between those with whom we have differing views.”
Importantly it called for a new “relational approach” to how the Synod engages in such difficult topics, and urged the Bishops to move forward “with the sense of urgency and sensitivity that so many of us expressed within Synod”. This will be aided by the fact that there is now one openly gay and partnered member of the College of Bishops, the Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain.
Jayne Ozanne said the level of support was very encouraging, and an important signal to the bishops of the broad support that exists amongst Synod members:
“The response to the letter has been overwhelming, - it definitely seems that the tide is now finally turning. From conversations I have had it would appear that many synod members were deeply challenged and moved by the discussions in July, and it seems that there is a growing consensus for the Church to take active steps towards ensuring it is welcoming and inclusive of all.”
The Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of the Human Sexuality Group in Synod and the other lead co-ordinator, said that the breadth of support was important:
“The broad consensus across the church traditions is extremely encouraging. We hope it will help the C of E to find ways to heal the deep level of pain felt by many of us within the LGBTI community, by becoming genuinely welcoming and affirming.”
The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, was clear that the status quo is not an option:
“I believe that there’s a growing consciousness across the Church that our response to lay and ordained LGBTI Christians cannot stay as it is. We need far greater honesty and transparency with one another, and to ensure that all LGBTI people are welcomed and affirmed by a Church called to share the redeeming love of Christ with all.”
Other synod members who would like to sign the letter are being encouraged to do so in retrospect by adding their signature at www.synodletter.wordpress.com.
For more information please contact Jayne Ozanne at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The 131 signatories include:
- 69 members of the House of Clergy – including 3 Deans and 8 Archdeacons
- 62 members of the House of Laity
- 70 women
- 61 men
- Representatives from 38 of the 42 dioceses
2. A further 7 synod members indicated that they would have liked to have signed the letter but felt unable to do so as they had not participated in any of the Shared Conversations.
3. 72 conservatives sent an open letter to the College of Bishops on August 11th 2016.
4. A full list of Synod members is available here.
To All Members of the College of Bishops
We write as Members from across the full breadth of General Synod to thank and congratulate you for what we feel were a significant few days within the life of the Synod last July. Whilst the Shared Conversations were difficult, and at times very painful, we are grateful for the care and thought that had gone into creating as safe a space as possible for differing views to be aired, and experiences listened to.
We are particularly grateful for the way that we were encouraged to engage in Scripture together. This enabled us to appreciate the common reverence we hold for the Word of God as well as the differing ways in which we have come to understand and interpret it. We believe this has formed deeper understanding, trust and respect between those with whom we have differing views.
We now look to you and your colleagues within the College of Bishops to help lead us forward.
We hope that this will be with the sense of urgency and sensitivity that so many of us expressed within Synod. In particular, we pray it will continue to develop the new “relational approach” that has enabled us to bridge our sometimes unhelpful “tribal divides”.
Whilst not wishing to pre-empt the work of the College of Bishops, we would ask that the steps that are proposed create greater clarity and consistency in our approach to this complex issue. In particular, we are keen that the College of Bishops is unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world.
We wish you to be assured of our prayers, and know that we are fully committed to the process of encouraging greater inclusion across the Church of England for all.
Please let us know how we might best support you in this important work,
Yours in Christ
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 8:00am BST
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Church of England
Please could I have clarification of what is meant by "the new relational approach" which the bishops are particularly being asked to adopt and promote?
Is it the same as 'unity in diversity' or what is it?
Does it take things further than the 'listening process' of the Shared Conversations?
Does it include respect and inclusion for those who conscientiously cannot agree with gay sex?
I'm just trying to get some handle on what "the new relational approach" actually means.
Which diocese didn't have any who signed?
Simply brilliant. I especially like the call for "consistency" - presumably consistency between dioceses and between parishes. One suspects Dr Sanlon has provoked Synod members to react like this.
What now for the bishops? If they don't come up with a proposal to treat LGBTI people with respect and consistently in all parishes and by all ministers and bishops, then IMO they risk it being said they are failing in their Christian duty to LGBTI people. The letter doesn't say what that proposal has to look like but it is clear that a firm proposal is expected and that parishes should not be allowed to opt out. Real pressure on the bishops now.
Then there's this
"In particular, we are keen that the College of Bishops is unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world."
Quite apart from any proposal, any imposition of consistency, if the House of Bishops issues a statement on those terms then I think the conservatives within the Church of England will break away and, if, as suggested, that statement did say that LGBTI people are essential to mission globally then GAFCON nations will pull out of the Anglican Communion.
The letter is seemingly mild and conciliatory but it is truly incendiary. It is simply brilliant. I am truly amazed so many signatories could be gathered for a letter which so clearly calls for a radical change in attitude and which suggests that LGBTI people need to be treated consistently no matter in which parish they worship or in which dioceses they minister.
I am repeating myself. It is brilliant.
Sara McVane at 11:06 "Which diocese didn't have any who signed?"
Coventry, Europe, Sodor & Man and Truro.
Peter, what you don't mention, but which I think is highly significant, is that the Revd Dr Rowan Williams is a signatory (York).
"Which diocese didn't have any who signed?"
There are currently 42 dioceses (the Channel Islands, which did provide a signatory, being part of Winchester, sort of). Of the original signatories, there were no representatives of the Diocese in Europe, and the Dioceses of Coventry, Sodor & Man (only two GS representives) and Truro. Additional signatories now include a member from Coventry. In addition to the dioceses, a number of other groupings produced signatories, including the deans and religious communities. Those which did not include the universities and theological training institutions, and forces synodical council. One ex-officio member signed, being an appointed member of the archbishops' council. In summary, the coverage was comprehensive and may be extended further through the facility to add signatories.
Kate - I don't know which Peter you are addressing since neither the original article nor any of the comments so far are by anybody of that name. But it's my name so I'll reply to your comment about Rowan Williams. I do wonder why you find the signature of the Anglican chaplain to the University of York in particular to be highly significant. You couldn't possibly be confusing her with somebody else could you?
Anthony, the two Channel Island deaneries remain 'annexed' to the Diocese of Winchester, but episcopal care is provided by the Bishop of Dover (technically acting as an assistant bishop on the Diocese of Winchester for these purposes) and the deaneries rely on the Diocese of Canterbury for a number of support services (safeguarding, etc).
What a wonderful counter response to the former Letter from the enmbattled '72'.
This is a wonderful sign of the effect on the Church of England of Bishop Nicholas being open and honest about his situation of bei9ng in a partnered, loving, same-sex relationship,
I pray that many more of the beneficed clergy will be encouraged to 'come out' of the closet, and admit to their relationships of like kind.
This would enable the house of Bishops to, themselves, avoid hypocrisy and doubt about the holiness of committed monogamous relationship; which are a bless to both the Church and world
"I'm just trying to get some handle on what "the new relational approach" actually means."
I realise no-one has responded to Susannah's comment. The 'new relational approach' was most recently tried following the failure in November 2012 of the Final Measure on women bishops, although I was not part of that General Synod. However, in Anglican Communion terms it has parallels with the Continuing Indaba process on conflict resolution. Some of the material for the Shared Conversations in York in July noted:
"In the Christian context .... we are not just concerned about winning arguments. We also have to build the Church, the body of Christ, and we cannot do this by using methods that are liable to damage the relationships that define us. It is for these reasons that [this process] advocate[s] the use of dialogue rather than debate to discuss important issues about which we disagree."
'Unity in diversity' is not unhelpful in this context and clearly by definition all views and opinions must be respected and space found for people to hold them in the tent which is the Church of England. How the process will move forward is not yet clear, but what we can be clear on is that no-one will be required to do anything they feel in conscience they cannot or should not do, rather akin to a priest not being required to marry someone during the lifetime of a previous spouse. But that is not of course a license for behaving in an unChristian way towards those you have a problem with. It does not permit pejorative comment about those who identify as LGBT, such as we have seen this week, referring to them as 'those who struggle with same sex attraction', as if this was some kind of condition (sin?) and that their gayness in some way does not define a key part of who they are.
There will be ongoing debate, but the prayer of many is that change will be the result of dialogue rather than parliamentary-style encounter.
The Channel Island situation remains somewhat mysterious ..any more names added?
At least one rep from Europe has now signed.