Friday, 27 January 2017

LGCM responds to the Bishops

The Board of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has published a press release, and an Open Letter. Both are copied in full below (the press release is below the fold).

OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND FROM THE BOARD OF THE LESBIAN AND GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

Dear brothers and sisters,

A Response to the House of Bishops’ Report to General Synod following the Shared Conversations

When the Pilling report came out you proposed a method, the Shared Conversations, that held the hope of finding a way forward in the Church of England in the controversial area of sexuality by encouraging ‘good disagreement’. We understood that to mean that members of the church were not to expect to see any one perspective dominate, but for them all to acknowledge their part in the Body of Christ, reflecting the relationship in him that they share, whatever their views of human sexuality. They were asked to participate in the process of Shared Conversations in a spirit of Christian openness and trust.

LGBTI+ Anglicans gladly did so, but for those who did so there was a high personal cost of putting themselves and their relationships on the line for public discussion and comment once again, as if to legitimise them. For some that was too much to contemplate. Others committed to the process, in the hope that this would lead, at last, to LGBTI+ people being given some real space in the corporate life of the Church of England. We all looked for an acknowledgement of the potential for holiness and growth in grace that many of us have found, not despite, but through embracing our God-given sexuality and the relationships into which we are convinced God has led us.

When the Conversations came to an end you told the church that you wished to give episcopal leadership to shaping what came next. You announced the timetable, but also made it clear that you were not at that stage inviting representations. You asked your people to trust you. As an ecumenical organisation with many Church of England members, we responded by acceding to that request, as we have all through this process.

It is now clear that the process has almost entirely failed to hear the cries of faithful LGBTI+ people. You are proposing to formalise ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ among clergy in same-sex relationships. This essentially asks clergy to dissemble and keep the nature of their relationships hidden – far from equalising the situation between straight and gay clergy it pushes LGBTI+ clergy back into the closet. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” diminishes everyone’s integrity: where it was used in wider society it was eventually discarded and discredited. Why are you introducing this now?

You write in your report about the need establish “across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people”. You say also that your responsibility is to clarify the issues at stake not find solutions. The issues at stake are principally the lives of these lesbian and gay people. You tell us that the bishops are not going to change an iota of the current teaching of the Church of England. If that is the case, then changes of tone will do nothing to improve the second-class position of the LGBTI+ faithful. Their relationships will be merely tolerated or judged wanting, and LGBTI+ clergy will be vulnerable if their relationships become known.

You have done nothing to acknowledge the goodness or sanctity of the relationships of LGBTI+ people, lay and clerical. Anglican LGBTI+ people are still labouring under the Higton motion and Issues in Human Sexuality as the last word on this matter. You could have made clear that issues of sexuality are not first order theological issues and that same-sex relationships, which the Archbishop described as sometimes being of “stunning quality”, could be a means of grace to those in them. You have done nothing. There is a failure of leadership and theological insight in the Church of England.

This outcome is an almost complete betrayal of the trust that has been placed in you by faithful disciples of Christ. There is no space for good disagreement. The old lines of dishonesty remain intact. Not an inch has been given to support LGBTI+ inclusion.

We have to tell you that this is completely unacceptable. Echoing the words of the late Una Kroll, “We asked for bread, and you gave us a stone”. You make much of starting processes to write more documents, but our observation is that anything written is unlikely to move the situation forwards. LGCM and Changing Attitude, who are shortly to merge, will now begin a series of campaigns to change this situation. We will use the levers of power available to us and will oppose and challenge your stance where it is intransigent at every opportunity. Those of us who are members of the Church of England will remain in communion with you and will insist on making our protests and acting in ways that seek to hold the Church of England together. We will work to help it move to a more diverse and inclusive future, bringing the message of Christ alive in the present day. Like you, we are deeply concerned with the decline of the Church of England not simply numerically, but in the estimation of the English people. Our concern is, therefore, missionary as well as pastoral and political.

Your actions and inactions will not commend your church to ordinary people. We will work to make the Church of England a body of which all Christians can be proud again. We are glad that your proposal for a new report to replace Issues will engage and include LGBTI+ Anglicans in the writing of it, and we remain ready to participate in that. In other initiatives where you allow us we will work with you, but our clear focus is on the changes that need to come.

Yours in the fellowship of Christ,

Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive Officer
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE LESBIAN AND GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT
27 January 2017

We’ll work with you – but we won’t wait for you, LGBTI+ groups tell House of Bishops.

Groups working for the full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the Church of England have responded to Friday’s statement by the House of Bishops by promising support for those who want to change – but saying that they can no longer wait for those who don’t, and that their members and supporters will begin the work of making change happen at the grassroots.

In an open letter to the bishops, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement expressed its disappointment at the report, whilst recognising the bishops’ sincere attempts to draw together those of conflicting conviction. Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of LGCM, said, ‘To echo Una Kroll’s words, we asked for bread and we’ve been given stones. LGBTI+ people who have participated in this process in good faith, at considerable personal cost, will feel angry and disappointed that there appears so little real change. Despite us knowing that many individual bishops favour a move towards a more gracious, compassionate and inclusive church, collectively they’ve failed to deliver – promising only more reflection. We stand ready to engage in the process of changing the tone of the conversation – but this has to lead to tangible change. This is another missed opportunity which further undermines the mission of the established church to convey the gospel promise of good news for everyone.’

Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of LGCM, said, ‘The waiting is over. What we’re saying now to the bishops is that LGBTI+ Christians are here, are part of the church, and are happy to work with those who want change. But LGCM can no longer wait for episcopal leadership. The Spirit is moving in God’s faithful people and we’re seeking to be obedient to that movement. It’s a very exciting time.’

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

1. LGCM’s open letter to the House of Bishops is attached
2. LGCM is a charity which is committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the Christian churches.
3. Further enquiries to Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive on 07497 203635 or Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of Trustees on 07894 906230
4. Further information about the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement can be found at www.lgcm.org.uk

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 12:26pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

No surprise at all, whatsoever from the bishops .... but still people want to waste their time, banging their heads against a wall of Anglican Fudge? No thanks-there's life outside the COfE

Posted by: S Cooper on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 2:23pm GMT

Quoting: "“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” diminishes everyone’s integrity: where it was used in wider society it was eventually discarded and discredited. Why are you introducing this now?"

No doubt in order to ease the Anglican Communion past the next Lambeth Conference.

Once again the pastoral and sacramental interests of faithful parishioners in England are being cast aside in favor of preserving Canterbury's Communion role, and of the bigoted views of other provinces.

Is this not a betrayal of the Church of England by its leaders? To whom, after all, do the bishops' duties run?

Posted by: Jeremy (non P) on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 2:58pm GMT

After all the talk and listening the bishop's offer stale crumbs! nothing more and nothing less.I am not sure why I should feel disappointed, but I do!!!

Posted by: Fr Paul on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 2:59pm GMT

I think the LGCM have called this exactly right. The Bishops had a once in a generation chance to set the tone for the ongoing debate, and after a massive failure of nerve they have done so. Doctrinal change is ruled out and same sex relationships are simply a pastoral problem to be managed.

This inability to positively welcome those Christians who live out same sex relationships within the church community puts them in conflict with the mood within the wider British community, as well as the mood in large parts (and probbaly amongst the majority of people) in the CofE. As the LGCM say, this failure of nerve is a missional crisis which will make it even harder to convince non-Christians that we have anything useful to say about love.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 3:19pm GMT

Who could read such a dollop of bureaucratese? This is not the language in which to discuss human relationships or Christian relationships.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 4:50pm GMT

"But LGCM can no longer wait for episcopal leadership. The Spirit is moving in God’s faithful people and we’re seeking to be obedient to that movement. It’s a very exciting time."

On the ground just what does this mean? The CofE has canon law. The document makes clear that marriage is defined therein. It makes clear that one cannot wink at this or somehow finesse matters otherwise. There is no indication of any bloc of Bishops prepared to dissent from this.

So this "exciting time" will entail what, on the ground? Same sex marriages being undertaken with rites self-generated? That is possible, as anything is possible. But what is anticipated by way of discipline for this?

I ask because of course those who would want to pursue this course would have also to decide that a new kind of church would be created, and one outside of the CofE strictly speaking, as this document articulates its identity. That might be what is desired.

In TEC there was a different dynamic. GC claimed an authority over diocesan canons and individual Bishops, with a three year period of transition. (See the dynamic in the Diocese of TN, e.g., as reported recently). In TEC no one is in serious doubt, I don't think, that in time the only possible resistance to ss marraige would have to be at an individual priest level, and that that will also evaporate as new clergy are raised up in a changed church.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 4:55pm GMT

LGCM did well to get something out quickly, but the response is disappointing. It strongly gives the impression that same sex marriage is the only issue affecting LGBTI people: it isn't. They could have taken the opportunity to suggest that if nothing was being done on same sex marriage, that didn't mean more could be done to welcome trans and intersex people and to welcome and bless a change of gender. They don't even pick up the bishops for making the same mistake.

I picked this up before. Do LGCM not care about trans and intersex people or are they ignorant of the issues?

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 5:11pm GMT

Don't mention the Bible!

Posted by: Anthony on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 5:52pm GMT

Excellent response from the LGCM. If the merged organization's gonna follow this forthright approach, it's to be welcomed.

Kate, have you contacted the leadership of the new organization, and shared your concerns? I cannot see how you hope to further trans rights by this course, but hope that it remains a minority pursuit. The last thing we need ATM is infighting.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 6:33am GMT

It wouldn't be so bad, if they were consistent on divorce and re-marriage. One smells more cultural prejudice than scriptural integrity.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 7:28am GMT

The Blackburn motion, which calls on the Church of England to improve its welcome of trans people, and urges the Bishops to authorise appropriate prayers for transition, was due to be debated at the February Synod, but has been postponed until who knows when, so that the Bishops' Report can be discussed. I think the LGCM document is appropriately focused on the Report. Both LGCM and Changing Attitude, England, with which it is merging, have had an excellent record in terms of of trans people, e.g trans Board members, and intersex people - CAE, and by extension the LGBTI Anglican Mission, are affiliated to the UK Intersex Association. It was only after that affiliation that these organisations considered it appropriate to add the I to LGBT on their banners etc.. Nevertheless I was shocked by the erasure of bisexual, trans and intersex people in the Bishops' Report - yet another retrograde step.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 8:35am GMT

Once again the CofE has exposed the moral, spiritual and social paralysis that inhibits leadership and erodes its capacity to envisage, follow and share an authentic vision of the love of God and people at work in the world. This paralysis has replaced the energy and fervour that marked our birth in the Reformation. Instead we now have a dysfunctional, lacklustre and pompously self-justifying institution hat denies our past, stultifies our future and quenches the flame of love, hope and compassion that marked our founder as none less than the Son of God. Christ condemned the Scripes and Pharisees for just these failings. He called for love-based revolution. Our system and its leadership needs nothing less.

Posted by: John Potter on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 11:40am GMT

"Kate, have you contacted the leadership of the new organization, and shared your concerns? I cannot see how you hope to further trans rights by this course, but hope that it remains a minority pursuit. The last thing we need ATM is infighting."

So the bishops are criticised because they do not understand or promote the needs of lesbian and gay people, and you talk of direct action to oppose that, but when the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement fails to understand and promote the needs of trans people we should unite behind them and avoid infighting.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 12:39pm GMT

Thank God they have not said anything about btq+ issues. I was involved in the shared conversations and the bishops' response to all that time and money is inadequate and sad. It would see that there is greater interest in appeasement of fundamentalists than the teaching that through baptism we are all equal in Christ.

Posted by: Clairejxx on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 4:37pm GMT

GAFCON UK nails it: "The Bishops have taken seriously the views of the global Anglican Communion"

But not the views of the Church of England....

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 6:46pm GMT

Kate, which needs, specifically, do you believe are being ignored? The response to the shared conversations wasn't directed at trans people (unless they're also LGB). The CoE hasn't, to my knowledge, taken a position.

If an organization failing to introduce trans rights in response to a distinct (if linked) issue is grounds to say they're failing trans people, it's a mighty low bar.

If, by contrast, the church discriminated against trans people, there should absolutely be collective action, and I have no doubt that the LGBT community, including the new organization, would lend its support.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 5:03pm GMT

James
Have you tried getting your baptism records corrected recently? Or your marriage record? Or maybe a service or blessing to recognise your change of gender? No? It's all the things needed by lesbian and gay people... And then some.

And now was THE time to ask. When the bishops are claiming they want to be welcoming and helpful but can't support same sex marriage, now is the time to call their bluff and ask for the things that the LGBT+ community needs other than same sex marriage.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 11:18pm GMT

As a Thinking Anglican from Down Under I am afraid that these reports and so many others have played into the hands of those Evangelicals who call themselves Anglican but who really stand at odds with so much of the evolving tradition of the Anglican Church globally.

They have delayed and obfuscated. They have refused to concede any ground and they are simply holding the Church back. There comes a time when separate pathways are the only possible way forward. Yes, such schism may be a tragedy for the church, but I dare to suggest that this is the only way those of us who would fully welcome our LGBT brothers and sisters into the church will ever be free to live out the Kingdom of God as we see it.

Posted by: John Clapton on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 3:46am GMT

Thank you Kate for the specific example. No, I've not pursued any English churches over baptismal records. Have you contacted the leadership of the new organization to raise your concerns?

As for this being the right time to raise it, we will simply have to disagree on that. Introducing a new issue would've both distracted from the subject of the bishops' report, and by association, ended up making the bishops intransigent. It could've undermined the very thing you care about.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 4:54pm GMT

I repeat, the Blackburn Diocesan motion on improving the welcome for trans people and providing authorised rites/prayers will have to be discussed by General Synod at some point - sadly it has been displaced at this session by the Bishops report. LGCM has had a good track record on trans inclusion. The previous CEO, who identified as gender queer, supported several trans people, and there has been at least one trans person on the Board. There have also been presentations by trans people at several LGCM AGMs. The present CEO is equally committed to trans inclusion and there are always trans people present at meetings she convenes. Changing Attitude, England with which LGCM is merging has a proud record on trans inclusion, having had three trans trustees at one point and there is a determination that this focus should continue in the newly merged organisation. The LGCM statement was a response to the HoB's document whose subject was equal marriage. Unlike the Bishops the LGCM statement referred to LGBTI people, as does the Mission statement of the LGBTI Anglican Mission which was thoroughly scrutinised by trans people to ensure that trans perspectives were fully represented. The Church of England HoB has taken a position on trans people and said that it is acceptable to say that transition is genuine or fantasy, just as in the CofE you can believe that women can be ordained or can't be ordained. In the CofE it seems that we can believe contradictory things about gender but not yet about sexuality which is why this is the hot topic at the moment.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 12:08am GMT

Having noted the excellent record of CAE, LGCM & the Mission on trans inclusion, it is essential that BTI people are members of the boards of these and other organisations that claim to be representing LGBTI people, and many of us - including the Sibyls Committee in the case of trans people - will be lobbying to ensure that is so in the case of these particular LGBTI Christian groups.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 7:29am GMT
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