Tuesday, 14 February 2017

New publications in anticipation of tomorrow's debate on the bishops' report

There are two new publications in anticipation of tomorrow’s debate on the Bishops’ report on sexuality.

1. This Open Letter from Open Evangelicals to the Evangelical Group on General Synod has been published today.

On February 2nd 2017 five “open evangelical” members of EGGS (the Evangelical Group on General Synod) wrote to the whole EGGS membership, urging them to reflect and repent on three core issues relating to the “sexuality debate”.

They also asked three key questions which they felt the evangelical community needed to respond to.

Other evangelicals on Synod had also wished to sign the letter, but were unable to as they had not felt able to become members of EGGS due to its hard line on certain issues. It was therefore released for open signature by all evangelicals following the meeting.

The three questions are:

  • What is God’s “Good News” for LGBT people?
  • How do we respond to the mounting scientific evidence that sexuality is neither chosen nor changeable, and that gender is non-binary?
  • How do we deal with the reality of an increasing number of LGBT married couples with children who wish to worship in our churches?

2. OneBodyOneFaith (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) have published A time to build in which they seek

  • For an explicit acceptance of the integrity of theological diversity over matters of sexuality – that it is possible to be Biblically faithful and hold different positions – and the creation of systems to assure that this is honoured. The establishment of a Sexuality and Relationships Working Group which will be responsible for ‘holding’ the theological diversity of the Church of England. Pilling has already described the different positions –the reference group needs to be tasked with exploring how they live with each other, and how the church develops theologically, and how pastoral oversight is given in the context of the range of views present in the Church of England.
  • In addition to the Sexuality and Relationships Working Group there needs to be a significant level of LGBTI+ representation on each of its boards, councils and divisions for which the Archbishops’ council has oversight – the representatives should be chosen by members of all houses of Synod, not by the Archbishops’ Council or bishops alone
  • For the Church of England to appoint a National Lead for LGBTI+ matters based at Church House – LGBTI+ themselves, who works to the Sexuality and Relationships Working Group and liaises with boards, councils, divisions and dioceses, holds to the need for the kind of change that we propose, but also understands and accepts the need to support all sides
  • For the publication and recommendation of an official liturgy for the blessing of same-sex couples after a Civil Partnership or Civil Marriage - this does not need to be complicated. The Service of Prayer and Thanksgiving after a civil marriage could be adjusted very simply
  • To effect paragraph 13 (a) of Annex 1: Sexuality Issues: what is and is not possible under the relevant legal positions, so that being married to a person of the same sex is not of itself a breach of Canon C26.2
Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 at 3:50pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

The open letter to Evangelicals is terrific. I have to say it spot-on.

The authors and signatories are to be applauded and thanked.

We owe them so much.

(Pour moi 'same sex attracted' was the only phrase that jarred).

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 at 4:14pm GMT

Strong letter from the EGGS members.

Although I continue to find the evangelical doctrine of biblical authority alien, unless liberal congregations experience unprecedented growth, change will only come to England -- and with it, the wider Communion -- when a majority of evangelicals are persuaded that homosexuality isn't a "salvation issue," a belief that currently causes them to reject even tolerance of gay relationships. That being so, affirming evangelicals are crucial, and regardless of theological differences, welcome allies.

To be fair, the letter takes a more nuanced view of biblical authority than many, particularly in its call to view the clobber verses in light of the overall message of scripture.

Biggest hurdle is persuading the heavy hitters of English open evangelicalism. So far, all -- Broadbent, Gumbel, Duncan, Kings, Paul, and especially Wright -- with the exception of Steve Chalke, have stood firm around the traditional position: and since coming out for equality, Chalke's been cast out the evangelical fold. Arguing for change while remaining in good standing with even open evangelicals is perhaps the trickiest thing right now.

Discussing this with evangelicals holding to the traditional position has taught me that the argument must be made in a very specific way: all appeals to justice, empathy or well-being will be made short work of; they're sympathetic, but unless they see a compelling scriptural argument for change, they feel obliged to object to it. That argument will only gain weight if it comes from within the evangelical fold, and is made in evangelical terms. People are rightly angry, but unless the demographics change, only the coolest exegetical logic will win this.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 12:23am GMT

And yet the evangelical blind eye to divorce and remarriage is glaring.Traditional Anglican concepts of marriage were in fact abandoned here in 2001.

The Church of England actually does not believe that marriage is necessarily lifelong and "until death us do part" is obviously kept for poetic effect.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 8:22am GMT

"unless liberal congregations experience unprecedented growth," you often speak as if liberalism were an autonomous strain within the CofE. Maybe it should, but is it not mainly composed of people (and their immediate children) who grow dissatisfied with fundamentalism, catholicism, evangelicalism and all the other isms? As long as conservative evangelicalism endures, so will its liberals. I'm not sure liberalism has a doctrine of its own, not even a set of doctrinal priorities, let alone hymns, liturgies, missionary strategies and whatnot. I guess a few less extreme theological colleges enable the above, but that's it. This was not the case when education was mostly done in secularly run universities, but now, if these colleges go...

Posted by: Lorenzo on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 9:04am GMT

If I was a member of the C of E I'd have no problem signing this letter.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 10:06am GMT

The serving Bishop of Buckingham is now asking what the Good News is for lesbian and gay members of the Church of England and says there is none in the bishops' report. Not sure if he has signed the letter

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/13/serving-bishop-joins-criticism-against-c-of-e-stance-gay-marriage

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 11:07am GMT
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