Comments: Letter writing campaign against GS 2055

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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at Friday, 10 February 2017 at 10:35pm GMT
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