Thinking Anglicans

44 bishops call for clergy to be allowed same-sex civil marriages

The Church Times reports: Don’t delay guidance allowing priests to be in same-sex marriages, say 44 bishops

A GROUP of 44 bishops made a public statement on Wednesday afternoon expressing their hope that pastoral guidance allowing priests to be in same-sex marriages would be issued “without delay”.

The statement in favour of reform follows three weeks after 12 bishops publicly dissented from a majority decision by the House of Bishops to commend prayers for same-sex couples (News, 20 October).

The new group, 14 diocesan bishops and 30 suffragans, write that they “recognise the complexities of the Pastoral Guidance in relation to ministry, and also the need for a swift end to the current uncertainty for LGBTQIA+ clergy and ordinands…

Do read the whole article. The full text of the statement is copied here below the fold.

Full text of statement from 44 bishops

We write to reaffirm our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith process in light of the motion passed at General Synod in February this year, by which the General Synod agreed to lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQIA+ people, commended our continued learning together and looked forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith, such that the final version should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.

We are writing this statement following the publication of the paper GS2328 ahead of the November General Synod. We wish to convey something more of our commitment as members of the House and the College, firmly set within our calling as bishops to be ‘shepherds of Christ’s flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles, proclaiming the gospel of God’s kingdom and leading God’s people in mission.’

We rejoice that we have agreed to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith, and warmly support their use. Many of us regret that the authorisation of the separate Service Structures and Sample Services has been delayed, and we will work within agreed processes to secure that authorisation as soon as possible.

We recognise the complexities of the Pastoral Guidance in relation to ministry, and also the need for a swift end to the current uncertainty for LGBTQIA+ clergy and ordinands. We look forward to Guidance being issued without delay that includes the removal of all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex civil marriages, and on bishops ordaining and licensing such clergy, as well as granting permissions to officiate.

We are seeking together to make pastoral provision in a time of uncertainty, deeply aware that this direction of travel, which has been the increasingly pastoral and inclusive response of many in the Church of England over many years, is not accepted by some of our brother and sister bishops, clergy and laity in the Church. As members together of the Body of Christ we are all summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of God’s kingdom, serving Christ together within the Church, and for the sake of God’s world, committed to living and sharing the gospel of Christ. We know that we will not all agree, but it is our longing that we will find a way that will recognise and honour our different perspectives and the gift we are to each other within the life of the Church of England, such that no one is expected to act against their conscience or theological conviction.

In all of this we long for the day when LGBTQIA+ people will know themselves to be unquestionably included in the life and all ministries of our Church, and the contributions of each one of us fully accepted and celebrated as simply the offering of a fellow Christian. The Lord calls us all to serve and to witness to the God in whose image each of us is made and it is through God’s grace we are all called, together, ‘to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Eph. 4.13).

Signed:

The Bishop of Aston and Acting Bishop of Birmingham, Anne Hollinghurst
The Bishop of Barking, Lynne Cullens
The Bishop of Bedford, Richard Atkinson
The Bishop of Birkenhead, Julie Conalty
The Bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull
The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani
The Bishop of Colchester, Roger Morris
The Bishop of Crediton and Acting Bishop of Exeter, Jackie Searle
The Bishop of Croydon, Rosemarie Mallett
The Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane
The Bishop of Dorchester, Gavin Collins
The Bishop of Dudley, Martin Gorick
The Bishop of Dunwich, Mike Harrison
The Bishop in Europe, David Hamid
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek
The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain
The Bishop of Huddersfield, Smitha Prasadam
The Bishop of Huntingdon and Acting Bishop of Ely, Dagmar Winter
The Bishop of Lincoln, Stephen Conway
The Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave
The Bishop of Liverpool, John Perumbalath
The Bishop of Lynn, Jane Steen
The Bishop of Kingston, Martin Gainsborough
The Bishop of Kirkstall, Arun Arora
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker
The Bishop of Middleton, Mark Davies
The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher
The Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft
The Bishop of Portsmouth, Jonathan Frost
The Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey
The Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham
The Bishop of Ripon, Anna Eltringham
The Bishop of Salisbury, Stephen Lake
The Bishop of Sherborne, Karen Gorham
The Bishop of Shrewsbury, Sarah Bullock
The Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley
The Bishop of Stafford, Matthew Parker
The Bishop of Stepney, Joanne Grenfell
The Bishop of Taunton and Acting Bishop of Coventry, Ruth Worsley
The Bishop of Tewkesbury, Robert Springett
The Bishop of Thetford, Ian Bishop
The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge

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R S Cowlin
R S Cowlin
7 months ago

Well now we know which bishops are trying to keep their powder dry Thank God for courage and strength of this lot.

Simon Kershaw
Admin
7 months ago

I count 16 diocesans and 28 suffragans. And the linked CT article now says 15 + 29 — they seem not to have counted the Bishop in Europe as a diocesan.

Neil Patterson
Neil Patterson
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
7 months ago

David Hamid is the (soon to retire) assistant bishop in Europe, not the diocesan, who is Robert Innes

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
7 months ago

Is that all of the Women Bishops apart from Duff from Lancaster? How does this affect Friday’s meeting with the ABC? Ditto what inclusive members of GS are going to do? What are they actually saying in all that verbiage: The motion brought to Synod is “not in our name” ? We have no confidence in whoever upended what we agreed in the College of Bishops meeting? We are going to declare UDI if the rest of the Bishops don’t smell the coffee? Synod, please don’t kick out the GS motion because we will fix it (eventually) – trust us,… Read more »

Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

Ruth Bushyager (Horsham) also did not sign. No surprise as she is Chi Dio & all 3 are firmly in the anti brigade.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Francis James
7 months ago

Considering that Chichester Diocese must have a large proportion of lgbt+ priests as well as the large population of lgbt+ people in Brighton and elsewhere, the lack of signatures is an episcopal dereliction at the very least and a pastoral disaster.

Anna
Anna
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

No. Rose Hudson Wilkin (Dover) didn’t sign either.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

The Bishop of Kensington didn’t sign

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

Sophie,Bishop of Doncaster hasn’t signed

Martin Carr
Martin Carr
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

On women bishops, the Bishop of Newcastle has also not signed. Looks like all Southwark bishops did.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

London has not signed..

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

I confess that I am at a complete loss how anyone, especially a bishop who should have studied the Bible, can see a theologically coherent position in which it is possible to ordain women but not support same sex marriage. The ordination of women is more clearly against a strict reading of the Bible than same sex marriage. Both require understanding the Bible in the light of Jesus’s own preaching.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

I can sort of see it. Between people like Deborah and St. Mary Magdalene we have women in positions of religious authority, whilst strictly speaking there aren’t any same-sex marriage in scripture. Of course, whether the relevant ancient culture would’ve had an idea of same-sex marriage – as opposed to some other model of same-sex relationship (John Boswell, for example, takes the Imperial Romans to have three different models of stable same-sex relationship) – is its own kettle of fish, but if you’re not across that sort of history I can see it. I mean, once you are across that… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
7 months ago

David Hamid is the Suffragan in the Diocese in Europe. As noted, he announced his retirement last month.

Susannah Clark
7 months ago

Many of us have been asking for transparency, about what individual bishops believed and voted for. I am glad the bishops above have chosen to be forthright on this. I will also be joyful for gay and lesbian ordinands and priests if the Pastoral Guidance is advanced to allow them to marry the people they love, regardless of gender. Of course, this is not the core issue. The core issue is marriage, and recognition of the sanctity of marriage, whether straight or gay. I would quote one section of the statement above: “It is our longing that we will find… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Susannah Clark
7 months ago

I disagree with you on the core issue. That is protecting vulnerable people, especially minors and susceptible groups like students in their first year away from home, from teaching which seeks to suppress natural sexual orientation or gender identity. Marriage ceremonies is a secondary issue, albeit there is a positive witness effect on vulnerable people – but only if no parish is allowed to opt out.

Marriage ceremonies for same sex couples and freedom for clergy to marry are very important – just not THE most important thing.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

What you seem to be advocating is that NO church should be allowed to teach (from pulpit etc) that gay sex is a sin. However, the 44 bishops being discussed here (and to a degree lauded) expressly champion a Church where we “recognise and honour our different perspectives” and where “no one is expected to act against their conscience or theological conviction.” Banning priests from teaching that gay sex is sinful is not on the agenda. Gay marriage in the Church of England IS (though it is kicked further and further down the road, while the Church agonises over ‘prayers’,… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
7 months ago

Despite their warm words in a recent mailing I see that none of the York bishops have signed. Gay clergy and ordinands are merely collateral damage to them. Hand wringing bishops are not very inspiring or a focus for unity – a quality they apparently set much store by.

Dave
Dave
7 months ago

I’m not sure which suffragen bishops are in what diocese. Please can a kind person say which dioceses have not one bishop signing this letter, and which diocese bishops have not signed it. I think quite a lot from the York province haven’t supported this.

Concerned diocesan churchgoer
Concerned diocesan churchgoer
Reply to  Dave
7 months ago

Blackburn is one ☝️2 on dissent list and third is currently advertised

Malcolm
Malcolm
Reply to  Dave
7 months ago

No Bishop in Sheffield

Michael Sadgrove
Michael Sadgrove
7 months ago

I count 7 out of 44 as coming from the Northern Province. No-one north of Yorkshire (Ripon).

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

Well done Chelmsford diocese!

Joseph
Joseph
7 months ago

Did some of the bishops have a Damascus moment like Paul?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Joseph
7 months ago

I suspect many Bishops have had longstanding views in favour of gay marriage, but have chosen to stay silent for the past few years. I don’t understand the reason for the silence. Only a few years ago it was entirely possible to have a rational public debate between bishops with views for and against.

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/31-may/news/uk/bishops-divided-as-gay-marriage-bill-passes-in-lords

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
7 months ago

I wonder how many clergy have already quietly converted their civil partnership into a marriage?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
7 months ago

This is incredibly welcome but I feel for LGBTQ+ clergy in dioceses where none of the bishops has spoken out on their behalf. That’s something pastoral assurance needs to address and I hope someone will raise it in Synod as an issue. The issue may cascade down to lay Christians too if clergy in some dioceses are not supported in their mission to LGBTQ+ Christians by their bishops or, worse, are actively blocked. I find it particularly odd that Brighton isn’t on the list. Going forwards Vacancy in See requirements in certain key areas such as London, Manchester and Brighton… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

Not sure to what extent a Vacancy in See Committee can ensure this. They can write something into the Statement of Needs, but I don’t think this is binding on the CNC. Six members of the ViSC are elected to the CNC, but they are representatives not delegates. And there are 8 other voting members on the CNC, the 2 archbishops and 6 members elected by the General Synod (one from each of the 6 pairs elected). So the diocesan 6, even if of one mind (which is perhaps unlikely), can be outvoted by the central members.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
7 months ago

That needs fixing then in the pastoral assurance work being done by the bishops. There are clearly regions particularly known for having a lot of LGBTQ+ people and who should be supported by their bishop.

Verulamius
Verulamius
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

The Statement of Needs for the forthcoming new bishop of Exeter https://exeter.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Diocese-of-Exeter-Statement-of-Needs-2023.pdf has a page on LLF. It states: These are prayers that ‘might be used for two people of the same sex who have marked a significant stage in the development of their relationship.’ Whilst many in the Diocese of Exeter have welcomed the decision at Synod, there are some for whom the proposals have not gone far enough and others for whom they have gone way too far. Some Clergy and PCCs in this latter group have, as a consequence, written to the Bishops expressing their concern, and… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Verulamius
7 months ago

Interesting, thank you. Personally I think it is disappointing since it both-sides the issue when many of us think both-siding a question of identity is not a neutral act.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

Brighton isn’t on the list because there is no Bishop of Brighton! The nearest geographically is Lewes, but he isn’t on the list either. Some have suggested that +Chichester’s signature of an earlier letter of dissent (see Oct12th) counts for both his suffragans as well (Horsham and Lewes). But that earlier letter was mainly from people who thought the proposed legislation already goes too far, whereas the new letter is from those who don’t think it goes far enough. Make of that what you will!

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Kate Keates
7 months ago

This is a very good point. There are 5 diocesan vacancies at the moment (Carlisle, Sodor and Man, Exeter, Ely and Truro) soon to be followed by Coventry and Durham. It will be interesting to see how this is dealt with by the CNC. If CNC members see this as a key issue, it may be difficult for them to agree on a candidate (as 10 votes are required).

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
7 months ago

It appears that this letter was prepared in great haste. I’ve been told that there may have been a communication issue, so that it’s possible that some Bishops may not have had the opportunity to sign it before it was published with 44 names. This may, possibly, account for why there are relatively few names from the Northern province, and some notable absences across the country.

R S Cowlin
R S Cowlin
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

This needs clarification.

If you are a bishop who would have signed and you either missed the boat or didn’t like a hastily produced letter or one that was created via a group then communicate that with the diocese, write your own letter. write to your sheep and explain clearly the reasons why or offer an alternative. bring into the light what is currently hidden in darkness. it doesn’t take much.

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
Reply to  R S Cowlin
7 months ago

I would agree that clarification is required all round, but in the real world, not all Bishops are attached to social media 24/7. With all that’s going on, I think those that “might” have signed it are entitled to a draw breath.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
7 months ago

I agree it’s encouraging that by 81 to 17 those bishops wanted to ban questions around sexual intimacy, but in one sense that sounds like “don’t ask, don’t tell” which might lend itself to an ongoing scenario where it’s doctrinally ‘wrong’ but as long as you hush it up and keep it hidden, we won’t have a problem.

That would really not be a good outcome.

David Rowett
David Rowett
Reply to  Susannah Clark
7 months ago

Perhaps, but to me it feels more like parity with a straight married couple, who wouldn’t be asked for details of their private life. Or am I being naïve?

Good to see Lincoln well represented among the signatories.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  David Rowett
7 months ago

Not, possibly, in Anglican parishes yet…But I’ve known it happen in nonconformist circles influenced by some of the ‘Restoration’ and similar ‘kingdom’ movements. Given that they probably also influence some Anglican clergy it’s possible, even probable that it goes on in a more restricted way?

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Graham Holmes
7 months ago

I have heard to the contrary. It wasn’t prepared in great haste, but several hands took care over its crafting. I have heard all bishops were invited to sign through their usual communication networks. Many have chosen not to.
Anyway if some missed the boat in signing (which I personally now believe they didn’t) surely they would have said so by now.

R S Cowlin
R S Cowlin
Reply to  Dave
7 months ago

I would also like to know whatever way you fall on the issues explored in LLF how many diocesan bishops wrote to either all clergy or known LGBTQ+ clergy in their care at any time during the process to check in

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Dave
7 months ago

Which makes it curious that “liberal”,bishops e.g. +Dover and others haven’t signed, esp given the votes in the College of Bishops given by Simon.

Shamus
Shamus
7 months ago

I suppose a way will still be found to continue kicking the can down the road. Certain people in high office in Church and State appear to be highly skilled at that game, don’t they?

Martin Carr
Martin Carr
7 months ago

I note that the letter does not explicitly address the issue of celibacy which is currently required of same-sex partnered clergy. While I wholeheartedly support the move towards allowing clergy to enter civil marriages, this will also need addressing in new pastoral guidance, and will undoubtedly be strongly resisted by CEEC and their allies.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
7 months ago

An analysis of the list of 44 reveals the following:   Total number of dioceses = 42 (including Europe, and Sodor and Man) Number of dioceses in the Northern Province = 12 (including Sodor and Man) Number of dioceses in the Southern Province = 30 (including Europe) Total number of bishops (ignoring PEVs, Islington, and including vacancies) = 109 Total number of women bishops = 30 Total number of signatory bishops = 44 (40%) –       of which 15 (34%) = diocesan bishops –       of which 18 (60% ) = women bishops –       of which 19 (37%) = members of the House of Bishops… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
7 months ago

It is not entirely clear to me how the letter should be read. There is a Southern Province bias, which as suggested above may have been caused by how the letter was put together and issued to the church press. Clearly the central message is that as an urgent pastoral matter (and therefore for inclusion in the delayed new Pastoral Guidelines) restrictions on clergy entering same-sex civil marriages must be removed. The identity of the signatories is therefore a significant statement in the diocese concerned, especially when made by the diocesan. But what can be inferred about the actions of these bishops… Read more »

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