Tuesday, 24 April 2018

OneBodyOneFaith responds to William Nye

OneBody says “not in our name”: our open letter to William Nye

OneBodyOneFaith has sent a strongly-worded letter to William Nye after the emergence late last week of a letter he wrote last October to The Episcopal Church, on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council. Whilst acknowledging that he wrote only on behalf of members of the Council, of which he’s Secretary General, the wider membership of the Church of England will inevitably be associated by implication with his words - words which again more treat loving, committed same-sex couples as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, not real people, created in the image of God.

OneBody wants to send a clear message to Mr Nye, and the wider Communion: not in our name…

You can download a copy of the letter here. And it is copied here below the fold.

The letter, signed by Canon Peter Leonard, OneBody’s Chair, and Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive, and copied to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and Archbishop Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, reads as follows:

Dear Mr Nye,

You will be aware that your previously undisclosed letter to The Episcopal Church has been met with anger, frustration and disappointment by many across the Church of England, on whose behalf you presume to speak. We wish to add the voices of our members to those calling for a more courageous, just and Christ-like response to what has become – we wish it were not so – the issue on which many will judge our church, and find it sorely wanting.

Your letter raises a wide range of issues – about governance and accountability, about process, about how the Holy Spirit might move in the lives and structures of the Body of Christ across generations and nations, about simple pastoral care and concern for those who don’t fit the received ‘norms’ we’ve imposed on people down the years. In particular, your focus on procreation seems to ride roughshod over all those who have ever known the anguish of unwanted childnessness, or the loss of a pregnancy. To them, and to all who bear the human costs of your carefully chosen words, we say: not in our name.

Perhaps we should share something of the response of LGBT people to the developments in TEC, since our voices so often seem absent in your pronouncements. We saw in ECUSA’s brave and costly decision some hope that change might come for us too. We saw our brothers and sisters listening intently to the Spirit speaking through the Body – and having listened, acting with courage, integrity and the determination to keep walking with Christ and with one another. And if it should prove impossible, to know that walking with Christ is our highest calling.

Your suggestion that such a move represents a challenge to our mission could not be further from the truth; our experience is that the inertia and simple refusal to listen which has characterised the Church of England for decades continues to be the single biggest missional disaster of our generation. It should not need saying, but it bears repeating: no-one is attracted to a group of Christians who profess the love of Christ but seem incapable of recognising it in the loving, committed relationships of two people. These matters are not disconnected.

Nor are such matters disconnected from the shocking statistics and stories of poor mental health amongst LGBT young people – statistics which bear out what we have long known, that young people in some Christian communities are especially impacted by the drip-drip of negativity and dismissal to which your words contribute.

If you are in any doubt about this, go and visit St James and Emmanuel in Manchester. They will talk to you about Lizzie Lowe, who was just 14 when she ended her life because she simply could not reconcile her faith and emerging sense of her identity as a gay young woman. Maybe the people of St James and Emmanuel would have a different sense of the impact of the steps ECUSA has taken; maybe, like us, it has given them hope. Or maybe, like so many others, the minutiae of Anglican Communion politics is no longer where their focus lies, and who could blame them? Maybe they are simply too caught up in seeking, finding, creating and sharing the good news of the kingdom with absolutely everyone, without exception, and in that are experiencing a renewed sense of the Spirit moving powerfully amongst and between them.

For decades we have watched the Communion used as an excuse for our failure to acknowledge the diversity of views in the Church of England, and to speak with integrity and courage the truth of our people. Now, as another province embarks on a different way of making gracious provision for diversity of integrities, it appears they are being blamed with impacting on the work of the working groups set up by the House of Bishops in the aftermath of the disastrous GS2055. The members of those groups with whom we’ve been able to engage are working courageously and prayerfully to hold in tension their various perspectives and to make room for meaningful change. It is disingenuous to seek to draw TEC into submission to the Church of England suggesting that this is for the sake of the Communion. TEC, the discernment and reception process are bigger than that, as is the provenance of the Holy Spirit.

We continue to look forward to a day when we are able to recognise love as just that. It is love which reveals the love of Christ, wherever we encounter it: in and between human beings, in all their diversity. We know we can’t just watch and wait; we will continue to hope and pray – drawing strength from ECUSA and the Scottish Episcopal Church. We remain committed to action too, knowing that change cannot come without our active participation, and learnt with sadness how slow the Church of England is to listen to us; and, as your letter to TEC bears witness, how inconvenient it is to see the power of God active in our lives.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 7:08am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

This letter is excellent, but more is needed.
How about a parliamentary petition? The WO debate showed very clearly that the Church of England will change, when Parliament asks it to.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 9:03am BST

I agree with Jeremy.

It would be good to see a theological rebuttal too, but I understand that isn't the strength of KneBpdyOneFaith. Hopefully Martyn Percy might produce something.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 1:22pm BST

Fantastic letter. Well said!

Posted by: Charles Clapham on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 4:11pm BST

I agree with both of the comments above. What worries me is that while the C of E is wasting its energy on fighting lost causes; there are people in the real world who desperately need the gospel of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 quotations -
Milton in Lycidas: 'The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.'
John Robinson on the Mayflower - a Pilgrim Father:
“I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”

Why do we fossilise Christian ethics into the straitjacket of earlier cultures?

Posted by: John Wallace on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 4:27pm BST

Kate: not only a theological rebuttal, but a historical one too. Many of Mr Nye's claims about the history of marriage are demonstrably incorrect. See my book with Scot Peterson, 'Legally Married' (Edinburgh Uni Press 2014). Last time these claims were made and their incorrectness pointed out, the then Church House PR tried to shoot the messengers (also Linda Woodhead and Diarmaid MacCulloch). E.g., it is depressing if, yet again, the claim that the bishops welcomed civil partnerships has to be rebutted. Anyone may read the record in 'Hansard'.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 5:07pm BST

Iain, my mistake. I apologise. I should indeed have said theological and historical rebuttals.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 6:03pm BST

Iain McLean's point about not re-writing the historical account is an important one. See his piece about voting in the Lords:

Around the time of civil partnerships, what I recall was a lot of heat from church leaders about not daring to bless or really celebrate in any public way in church, civil partnerships; some quiet prayers with the couple in the vicarage study seemed to be the advice. I wrote this piece in 2011 and it now sounds rather quaint:

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the established Church had responded warmly (and liturgically) to civil partnerships, meeting a real spiritual need – that for many people, entering a civil partnership isn’t only about pensions and inheritance tax, though no doubt it sometimes is. Just like marriage, then.

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 7:22pm BST

Re: John Wallace, "Why do we fossilise Christian ethics into the straitjacket of earlier cultures?"

Good Question.Northrop Frye comes to mind,
"Mythology is not a datum but a factum of human existence:it belongs to the world of culture and civilization that man [and woman] has made and still inhabits....the real interest of myth is to draw a circumference around a human community and look inward toward that community, not to inquire about the operations of nature. ...Star myths are a good example of the creative autonomy of myth: there is no such thing in nature as a constellation...the myth making activity that does this is clearly not dependent on anything the stars themselves suggest ..." [The Great Code, p.37]

There are so many ways to read the various types of literature in Scripture. I'm repeatedly surprised at the conventional arguments put forward on this site by folks arguing for their own liberation. Accepting the premises of conservative patriarchal interlocutors makes one complicit in one's oppression. It is a lesson learned from latin American liberation theology.

Re: Ian McLean (Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 5:07pm) thanks for the shout out to your book with Scot Peterson,Legally Married. I scoped it out online and plan to pick up a copy.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 2:39pm BST
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