Sunday, 5 February 2017

Letter writing campaign against GS 2055

This letter has been sent to all LGCM, Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church supporters:

Like very many people, we were shocked and dismayed at the report published last week by a working party of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. You can read the report here. Despite a wish to create “maximal freedom” for LGBTI+ people, and a desire to have a “change of tone” in the way we are spoken about and to, there was essentially a recommendation of no change at all in the official position of the Church of England.

For too many of our members, who had taken part in all good faith in the Shared Conversations, this was a very significant betrayal of trust. LGCM is also concerned that the established church, in which the country as a whole has a stake, is proposing to retain unchanged a theology and pastoral practice and discipline that is significantly out of kilter with the nation’s understanding of equality and justice in matters of sexuality and gender. This is an issue which affects all those of us who believe our sexuality to be a gift from God. The Church of England seeks to engage with all the communities of England, and yet it does so in a way which diminishes the gospel message that God’s love is for everyone, without exception. We are all alike impeded in our mission of conveying the message that God’s love is for everyone, regardless of who they are, or who they love.

The Report is coming to General Synod on 15th February. There is to be a debate, at the end of which the Synod will be asked to “take note” of the Report. We are asking all members of General Synod not to take note. In other words, to vote against the motion.

LGCM is clear about its convictions and its purpose. The Statement of Conviction says:
It is the conviction of the members of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is their conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship.
We are looking for the bishops of the Church of England to start to move in the direction of our convictions, and to acknowledge those as a permissible and honourable position to hold if you are an Anglican.

We ask ALL OUR MEMBERS AND ALL CHANGING ATTITUDE SUPPORTERS TO WRITE A PERSONAL LETTER TO GENERAL SYNOD REPRESENTATIVES to arrive before 13th February. It does not matter if you are not personally a member of the Church of England – as it is the Established Church you have an interest in their attitudes and policies and every right to express your view to its governing body. Share with them the memorandum attached [below the fold], and your hope that they will vote against taking note of it. Explain to them which parish or church you belong to and any office or role you play in that church (if you do). Tell them why this matters to you and ask them to vote against taking note. A personal letter will make much more impact than a brief email or text. Please also COPY YOUR LETTER TO THE BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE IN WHICH YOU LIVE. Pick up your pens and play your part in this vital campaign. Addresses of all Synod Members are here. If you would like to write but need help in identifying who are the right people to write to please contact us at hello@lgcm.org.uk and we will direct you to the correct people. We are looking for a substantial vote against this dangerous and inadequate report.

THANK YOU!
Tracey Byrne, CEO, LGCM
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board, LGCM

MEMO: TO ALL MEMBERS OF GENERAL SYNOD
DATE: 31 January 2017

LGCM recommends that in the debate on 15 February at General Synod, members should refuse to take note of ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops’, and further, should not take part in group work designed to gain approval of the document

  • The Lesbian and Gay Movement’s statement of conviction affirms that, “human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.” It follows that it is our “conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex, but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship.”
  • LGCM identifies with the published priorities of the LGBTI Mission as providing the basis of a safer, more just and equitable church in which all can flourish
  • We are not demanding that everyone sees things from our perspective, but that there should now be decisive moves towards a ‘mixed economy’ in the established Church of England in which we all have an interest
  • The very least we were looking for from the Bishop’s report to General Synod was action to assure the safety and well-being of LGBTI+ people both within the Church of England and beyond it. Medical research shows that LGBTI+ people carry a higher burden of mental health problems corresponding with social isolation and stigma; these are heightened in a community that pathologises LGBTI+ identities
  • The Report was a betrayal of the trust vested in the House of Bishops during the Shared Conversations process, and opens the way to a single, very conservative interpretation of these matters being introduced
  • In the absence of any action being recommended by the bishops to move to greater inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the life of the Church of England through liturgical, theological or doctrinal change, we have no confidence that the change of ‘tone’ and desire for ‘maximal freedom’ will be seen
  • The report itself has been a retrograde first step in that direction, with the vice chair of reflection group, Bishop Pete Broadbent, acknowledging that ‘it is a pretty conservative document’ to his clergy
  • Our understanding is that the majority of members of synod were looking to the College and House of Bishops, when they took the initiative to respond to the Shared Conversations process, to lay a path for a process of change, perhaps setting a programme of activity to realise some of the priorities articulated by the LGBTI Mission
  • We have no confidence that their stated intention to revise the Church of England’s document ‘Issues in human sexuality’ or the pastoral advice that clergy have for their engagement with LGBTI+ persons will lead to development in the safety provided for LGBTI+ people within the church, let alone lead to progress in affirmative pastoral support
  • We believe that progress to these can only be made when the Church of England formally recognises and affirms the theological diversity that is already present within its members
  • Our analysis is that contribution of the Bishops’ reflection group has not led to a report that reflects the mind or expectations of the Church of England’s synod, that at least minimal change take place; to this end, we ask members of synod to refuse to take note of the Report, indicating their dissatisfaction with its recommendations
  • Further, we understand that Synod members are to be asked to take part in group conversations before the debate to prepare the ground for an acceptance of what the bishops are proposing. LGBT synod members and their supporters have already participated in the Shared Conversations process at last summer’s Synod sessions, and for many also at a regional level. They have made themselves vulnerable for questionable outcome. To ask them to submit to any kind of further examination of the issues is both pointless and insulting and we urge all Synod members to refuse to take part in such group work
  • We ask members of synod use the ‘take note’ debate to ask the bishops to respond to the priorities of the LGBTI Mission.
  • In particular, we ask for a guarantee that acceptance and approval of theological diversity amongst members of the Church of England in these matters will be formally recognised
  • To enable this small move forwards we ask, not for further reports, but that the House of Bishops devise a commended liturgy which recognises and affirms LGBT partnerships as a blessing and gift of God

Tracey Byrne, CEO, LGCM
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board, LGCM
31 January 2017

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 6:17pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod | InclusiveChurch | equality legislation
Comments

A very good letter. However, it will need some traction. Hopefully, there will be a good response to the request of individuals to write to both Members of the General Synod and the local bishop on this most important matter. We, in other parts of the Anglican Communion, will be praying for a pro-active response at the General Synod.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 10:28pm GMT

Let's just examine what maximum freedom means:-

1. The Church of England position is firmly that civil partnerships are different to civil marriage: clergy can contract a civil partnership but not a same sex marriage.

2. The bishops' report says they support maximum flexibility within present doctrine.

So the following fully complies with the position of the bishops:

1. A couple enters into a same sex civil partnership

2. On the basis of the new "maximum flexibility", a minister formally blesses the civil partnership - no need for "informal prayers" since CofE permits civil partnerships

3. The couple then opt legally to change their civil partnership into a marriage.

As I say, I'm conflicted. I fully understand why people might want to ask Synod to vote against taking note, and very much support their choice; but, after thought, I'm not personally going to write letters.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 2:05pm GMT

Kate,

there is little in GS2055 to support your optimism, I'm afraid. Step 1, ok. Step 2, the formal blessing, remains and looks likely to remain forbidden. Step 3 will still lead to the formal letter of rebuke and likely refusal of further posts unless the couple disingenuously keep the conversion secret. Please do write!

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 5:54pm GMT

Although this letter is a welcome critique of the limitations of the House of Bishops' report, it loses some of the cohort for whom it intends to speak: the T and particularly the I components. I speak as a Christian first, an intersexed man because I can't help that. Our difficulties, relate to gender idenity and acknowledgement rather than to sexual orientation, and these are often compounded by a feeling of being an anomaly within the community of creation. I find further that intersexed people are mentioned only once in your GLBTI mission statement - in the acronym on the cover. Please include us!


Posted by: J. Chandler on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 10:24pm GMT

Does the right to swap civil partnerships into marriages continue to apply to civil partnerships entered into subsequent to the legalisation of SSM?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 10:58pm GMT

In response to Interested Observer's question, I've looked at the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and The Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014 (which both apply to England and Wales) and so far as I can see civil partnerships can be converted whenever they were entered into.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/30/contents
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/3181/contents/made

Similarly there are no restrictions on this page.

https://www.gov.uk/convert-civil-partnership/convert-a-civil-partnership-in-england-and-wales

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 11:53pm GMT

Neil

If "maximum flexibility" becomes a formal policy, I do not see how any clergy could be disciplined for formally blessing a civil partnership which, according to doctrine, is not a marriage.

In 3, I was thinking mainly of lay couples so there would be no letter of rebuke or disciplinary action but for clergy how would Church authorities know that a couple had upgraded to marriage? Are you seriously telling me that hasn't already happened on the qt?

I don't pretend I like the report: I hate it. But embracing it and +advertising+ now the pathway it opens up will pressure the traditionalists to reject it. They are uncomfortable already - they just need a nudge.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 2:48am GMT

Kate,
by starting the report with the statement that sex is for marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman, any subsequent flexibility will have to be within that framework.
It continues to deny gay people the intimate life-long relationships straight people take for granted, it denies their right to family and children. And it does so because, to enter into the deepest, most treasured relationship of their lives would, for some unexplained reason, be sinful in God's eyes.

Yes, within that, people can continue to lie and pretend that their civil partnership are celibate. Or they can continue to force themselves to be celibate. And if they are married, they can continue to say goodbye to the possibility of ordination.

It's the institutionalised maintaining of segregation, of two classes of people - one that is worthy of the kind of family life we normally aspire to and one that isn't. It's the continued process of ignoring anyone non-binary in terms of gender or sexuality. It's the continued process of talking about us and legislating for us, as if we were children who couldn't speak for themselves and whose opinion can be smiled at politely but doesn't have to be taken into account. It’s the nod to more affirming theologies without bothering to take them into account. It’s the acceptance that there were dissenting views but then comprehensively writing them out of the picture. It’s the formal good-bye to the much touted Good Disagreement.

That's what's wrong with this report. And that's why everyone who is concerned about the future place of lgbt people in the CoE should write to their GS representative and ask for a no vote.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 9:17am GMT

Kate,

I'm not sure you (and many others, conservative and progressive) appreciate just how conservative GS2055 is. It envisages absolutely no public liturgy for any same sex relationships. Guidance on private prayer will be such that the value of only certain aspects of the relationship is recognised, excluding what contradicts "current doctrine... on relationships".

Don't be fooled by "maximum". It carefully says nothing relative to now. It does not say "greater" and it may mean "less".

Posted by: Mark Hart on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 9:36am GMT

Kate, one real worry is the interpretation of "maximum flexibility" . How much is "maximum"? If what is discussed in the report is maximum, then maximum flexibility is not very different from no flexibility. Language that fudges difference doesn't help anyone to live with difference....

Posted by: RosalindR on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 1:18pm GMT

Kate, you first take the ultra-idealist position of condemning the newly-merged LGCM and Changing Attitude for not taking this as an opportunity to raise trans rights (despite the report being about sexuality); now you take the ultra-pragmatic position of refusing to protest the report in the hope that it can be re-purposed to improve gay rights?

Well, it's a contrast, I'll give it that!

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 10:50pm GMT

The report is awful. Everything Erika, Rosalind and Marks says about it is accurate. Refusing to participate in any more work groups is entirely the right thing to do. But I think the approach to the vote is wrong in terms of tactics.

I single-handedly got a LGBTI statutory instrument signed into law. I have just got two NHS trusts to change their equality policies and practices. I do not say that to blow my own trumpet, but simply to explain that when it comes to effecting change in big, resistant organisations I have been around the block a few times. Change comes about in three ways:

1. Persuasion. That has now failed and irreversibly so. We are all still reeling from that but need to regroup and adapt.
2. Force. Liberals do not have enough votes in the House of Bishops to force a change through. That is now totally clear. James Byron is right though to call for rebellion - there remains a chance that rebellion might work, or at least add weight to the need for change.
3. Consensus.

The only consensus which might now work is a twin track approach. As things stand, conservatives won't support that because they think they can live with this report. So far as I can see the only way now to get a positive outcome is to convince traditionalists that they cannot live with this report either and swing their votes behind the same sort of consensus which got women ordained. I think that our tactics need to alligned to that outcome.

Also a no vote at this stage gains nothing tangible. Publicly pushing for a no vote and failing - and most neutrals will see no harm in merely taking note - will make liberals look weak. All I see in pushing for a no vote is downside if we fail to get it and no real upside if we win. Tactically it is not a battle worth fighting IMO.

I understand the visceral reaction to the report. I react in the same way. Heart says 'no', head says need to be smart.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 2:23am GMT

Kate, I agree about the need for pragmatism, although I think I view force and persuasion differently. Ultimately, change in organizations must come through persuasion: not only is defeating an opponent through force dubiously Christian at best, they'll just bide their time until they can launch a counter-attack.

I view rebellion (or civil disobedience) as a means of persuasion, one that forces people to confront the issue. TEC could've deposed those who first ordained women in the '70s, but the cost would've been too high. Likewise, deposing hundreds of rectors isn't something that the CoE can bear, for practical reasons if no other.

Being outvoted doesn't make you weak. Secular gay rights were outvoted for decades until they made headway. Surrendering your ideals is what must be avoided. Liberals are already seen as weak and accommodating to the point of appeasement. A moral stand would, at least, help inspire, and point to greater stands to come.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 8:53am GMT

Kate,
one of the problems we have is that the HoB has decided that in anything to do with lgbt, sexuality and gender issues, unity means uniformity and that no bishop may publicly argue for their true opinion and for a divergent theology.
They've even managed to comprehensively silence the bishops of Liverpool and Manchester.

We work at grassroots level and we will continue to do so. I, for one, will be speaking at another Deanery Synod this evening.
But we also have to do what we can to stress the level of diversity there is in General Synod. The sham idea that everyone is agreed and only a few radical campaigners try to upset the apple cart just has to go.

And our next opportunity to disturb that cosy image is next week's debate.
There are still many GS representatives who have not yet made up their minds about lgbt issues. Sending them a considered and polite letter about just what is wrong with the HoB report can be helpful in shaping their views.

We keep saying that people in our pews are far less conservative than people in Synod. If we don't write in now, we do nothing to prove that point. Rather, we reinforce the belief that GS speaks for all of us.

None of that negates your approach - this is a multi-faceted battle with attacks on all fronts. One course of action does not negate another.

This is a time to stand up and be counted. There is more power in a GS rep standing up and saying "I had 10 letters about this" than them standing up and saying "I personally believe".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 9:03am GMT

Do not discount the "force" option (which is merely majority vote) by confining the context to General Synod.

After all, the CofE began to move on women bishops only when Parliament began to apply serious pressure. That was after the GS vote failed.

The same thing can happen now. Votes against the report will show that GS is not uniform, and that there is a significant group willing to go on record as opposed to the HoB approach. Parliamentary pressure will surely follow--but members of the Church need to take the lead.

Besides, an actual on-the-record vote will lead to accountability at the next round of GS elections. Members of GS need to understand that they cannot have it both ways any longer, and will have to make a defensible choice.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 3:51pm GMT

I'm one of the House of Laity representatives for Ely. I have now received six emails or letters declaring support for GS2055 versus one against it (and the person who wrote that one was a member of the URC). If this pattern is repeating all over the country, an efficiently misleading picture of a wave of lay support for the HoB report is being created.

Posted by: Francis on Friday, 10 February 2017 at 10:35pm GMT
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