Thinking Anglicans

Radical Inclusion: two bishops write about this

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes has written this: Bishop Paul pledges to examine how we explore “Radical Inclusion” in our diocese

…The debate gave me the opportunity to speak to Synod and my speech is copied below. You will see that I commit myself to explore to the maximum the freedom under the Church’s current law and guidance to offer rich and meaningful ministry to LGBTI+ people (see footnote), as indeed I have tried to do since I came to Liverpool.

I have no doubt that our further steps and conversations nationally will include LGBTI+ Christians more fully than the recent report was able to do. In my speech I use the phrase “maximum freedom”, which is a phrase much used in the report. Since the report did not command the confidence of the Synod I do not propose to use that phrase now. Instead I use the phrase at the head of this bulletin, a phrase used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their letter written after the debate: “we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church”

The Bishop of Manchester David Walker has written: Being Radical about Radical Inclusion

…Times of change are by their nature times of paradox. To be purposefully paradoxical is to recognise that whilst consistency may be a feature of the endpoints of a journey it is rarely present all along the way. What nineteenth century physics found to be true for the trajectories of photons passing through a pair of narrow slits, twenty-first century theology must allow to be the case for a church traversing through a time of challenge and change. Some aspects of change will get ahead of others. Some parts of the church may move faster, further, or at a different angle than their neighbours. Messy Church won’t just describe a brand of work with children. In many ways we will be more like the pluriform Church of the New Testament, marvelously malleable under the hand of the Holy Spirit…

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Retired bishops voice concern over same sex relationships report

This is the text of the letter that has been published tonight. There is an accompanying press release which is copied below the fold.

OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
February 11th 2017

Dear Fellow Bishop
The Bishops’ Report to Synod on Sexuality

Most retired bishops would be prepared to admit that participation in the synodical processes of the church are not what they most miss about their role as diocesan or suffragan bishops. They also feel some reticence about entering into the current debates occupying their successors on the basis of information that is partial and becomes more and more dated with the passing of the years. There is a dilemma, though: you don’t work for years as a bishop and then easily and suddenly lose the bond you feel for the bishops, your successors and former colleagues. Nor do you lose your concern that the church of which you continue to be a bishop should be faithful in its commendation of the Gospel to the society at large.

So when a report emerges that is the subject of major controversy within the church and society some retired bishops will wish to do what the signatories of this letter are seeking to do, namely to reflect from their particular perspective on what our successors are seeking to say and do about an issue that has been a longstanding source of concern and contention.

Your statement is the product of enormous time and effort, our memories of such situation suggesting perhaps too much time and too much effort. The ‘too much’ comes from the enormous sense of responsibility your document shows to manage a conflict that you and we know causes huge amounts of grief and argument. The result, dare we say, is that whereas it used to be said that bishops often sounded as though they spoke with a pipe in their mouths, now that pipes are rare they sound more as though they see their task as managing – rather than perhaps enabling or leading – the conflicts that are bound to occur. And we remember how exhausting that is, and how it seems to blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions, which might divide them but also invigorate the conversation.

You write after the Shared Conversations. We well remember having had lots of those, even if they did not have capital letters. But their integrity rested on the assurance that in reporting them the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ‘majority view’ or ‘established position’. Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes. Going down the road of seeking a change in the law or doctrinal formulation would indeed not have been realistic – but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.

The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction. Indeed, from the perhaps luxurious perspective of retirement the tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar – we’ve been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true.

We’ll avoid making too many detailed points just now; but hard as you have tried you have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly. In para 8 you draw a contrast between ‘the many who [hold] a conservative view of scripture [for whom] the underlying issue at stake is faithfulness to God’s word’ and others for whom ‘the imperative to read scripture differently stems from a parallel conviction’. If the second group are to recognise their voice in theological conversations their ‘parallel conviction’ needs to be expressed and not just alluded to.

May we end by assuring you that we continue to sympathise with the challenging nature of the task you have in this and other matters. You will receive much negative comment about your report, and we hope that these brief remarks may illuminate the reason for that: it is not that the Shared Conversations were thought to herald changes of law or doctrine; rather there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.

Yours sincerely in Christ

The Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson, formerly Bishop of Thetford
The Rt Revd Michael Doe, formerly Bishop of Swindon
The Rt Revd Dr Timothy Ellis, formerly Bishop of Grantham
The Rt Revd David Gillett, formerly Bishop of Bolton
The Rt Revd John Gladwin, formerly Bishop of Guildford and of Chelmsford
The Rt Revd Dr Laurie Green, formerly Bishop of Bradwell
The Rt Revd the Lord Harries of Pentregarth DD, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme
The Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten, formerly Bishop of Wakefield
The Rt Revd John Pritchard, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, formerly Bishop of Worcester
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, formerly Bishop of Leicester
The Rt Revd Roy Williamson, formerly Bishop of Bradford and of Southwark
The Rt Revd Martin Wharton CBE, formerly Bishop of Newcastle

(more…)

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Protests planned at synod over marriage and sexuality report

Today’s Church Times carries a lot of relevant material.

News report: Madeleine Davies Critics of Bishops’ sex report plan a Synod protest vote

THE House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships (News, 3 February) is a “morally reprehensible document that needs to be rejected by the Synod”, the Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, said on Wednesday.

Describing it as a “betrayal of trust” that left “weapons on the table”, he expected a “very close vote” after the take-note debate scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening.

“If it is defeated, that is a clear signal to the House of Bishops that Synod is unwilling to progress in the direction they are taking,” he said. “If it is a narrow vote, the Bishops would be very unwise to continue down this course, because the whole of the Church’s wider agenda will be subsumed into a conflict that will last for the next period of the life of the Church. That would be a disaster.”

The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York, the Ven. Cherry Vann, said on Wednesday that she was “very aware of deep unhappiness about this report from across a wide spectrum of the Church”. Conversations with clergy and laity in the diocese of Manchester, and emails from people beyond, indicated a “strong call” for the Synod not to take note…

There are two comment articles. I strongly recommend that you read each of these all the way through, to get their full import.

Andrew Davison Everything hinges on three words

…What I have said so far draws on what the report says about the Bishops’ meetings, where the line in the sand concerned the law and doctrine of marriage. Skip forward in the report, and this principle morphs to “proposing no change to . . . law . . . or doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships” (§26). That shift is important because, in the next paragraph, this phrase limits what is up for consideration, not least by theologians.

…until it is clear what the Bishops take as immovable, we cannot go forward. Is it marriage, as laid out in Canon B.30, or the entire jumble of central-office convictions about anything to do with sexuality? The report suggests the former. The emphasis on marriage as the red line emerges from the account of the Bishops’ group; it is reiterated in relation to liturgical practice (§39); it is what they want to uphold ecumenically (§60); and it is also where the report ends, with an annex devoted entirely to questions of marriage…

Malcolm Brown The pain lies in facing hard truths

…But, however much the Bishops bear the brickbats with resignation, much comment on their recent Synod paper (GS 2055) underestimates the extent to which the Bishops and, indeed, the Church of England are bound by law in ways that severely limit their scope for manoeuvre.

Start with the law on marriage. The annex to the Bishops’ paper is not mere detail. It sets out the legal framework that would govern any attempt to change things as they are.

For there to be any move to same-sex marriage, canon law would have to change. That law cannot be changed without substantial majorities in each of the Houses of Synod. The Bishops have been accused of lacking pastoral concern (and worse), but how pastoral would it be to initiate a long process with all the continued pain it would cause with no serious likelihood (in the present state of the Church) of success?

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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

(more…)

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LGCM responds to the Bishops

The Board of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has published a press release, and an Open Letter. Both are copied in full below (the press release is below the fold).

OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND FROM THE BOARD OF THE LESBIAN AND GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

Dear brothers and sisters,

A Response to the House of Bishops’ Report to General Synod following the Shared Conversations

When the Pilling report came out you proposed a method, the Shared Conversations, that held the hope of finding a way forward in the Church of England in the controversial area of sexuality by encouraging ‘good disagreement’. We understood that to mean that members of the church were not to expect to see any one perspective dominate, but for them all to acknowledge their part in the Body of Christ, reflecting the relationship in him that they share, whatever their views of human sexuality. They were asked to participate in the process of Shared Conversations in a spirit of Christian openness and trust.

LGBTI+ Anglicans gladly did so, but for those who did so there was a high personal cost of putting themselves and their relationships on the line for public discussion and comment once again, as if to legitimise them. For some that was too much to contemplate. Others committed to the process, in the hope that this would lead, at last, to LGBTI+ people being given some real space in the corporate life of the Church of England. We all looked for an acknowledgement of the potential for holiness and growth in grace that many of us have found, not despite, but through embracing our God-given sexuality and the relationships into which we are convinced God has led us.

When the Conversations came to an end you told the church that you wished to give episcopal leadership to shaping what came next. You announced the timetable, but also made it clear that you were not at that stage inviting representations. You asked your people to trust you. As an ecumenical organisation with many Church of England members, we responded by acceding to that request, as we have all through this process.

It is now clear that the process has almost entirely failed to hear the cries of faithful LGBTI+ people. You are proposing to formalise ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ among clergy in same-sex relationships. This essentially asks clergy to dissemble and keep the nature of their relationships hidden – far from equalising the situation between straight and gay clergy it pushes LGBTI+ clergy back into the closet. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” diminishes everyone’s integrity: where it was used in wider society it was eventually discarded and discredited. Why are you introducing this now?

You write in your report about the need establish “across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people”. You say also that your responsibility is to clarify the issues at stake not find solutions. The issues at stake are principally the lives of these lesbian and gay people. You tell us that the bishops are not going to change an iota of the current teaching of the Church of England. If that is the case, then changes of tone will do nothing to improve the second-class position of the LGBTI+ faithful. Their relationships will be merely tolerated or judged wanting, and LGBTI+ clergy will be vulnerable if their relationships become known.

You have done nothing to acknowledge the goodness or sanctity of the relationships of LGBTI+ people, lay and clerical. Anglican LGBTI+ people are still labouring under the Higton motion and Issues in Human Sexuality as the last word on this matter. You could have made clear that issues of sexuality are not first order theological issues and that same-sex relationships, which the Archbishop described as sometimes being of “stunning quality”, could be a means of grace to those in them. You have done nothing. There is a failure of leadership and theological insight in the Church of England.

This outcome is an almost complete betrayal of the trust that has been placed in you by faithful disciples of Christ. There is no space for good disagreement. The old lines of dishonesty remain intact. Not an inch has been given to support LGBTI+ inclusion.

We have to tell you that this is completely unacceptable. Echoing the words of the late Una Kroll, “We asked for bread, and you gave us a stone”. You make much of starting processes to write more documents, but our observation is that anything written is unlikely to move the situation forwards. LGCM and Changing Attitude, who are shortly to merge, will now begin a series of campaigns to change this situation. We will use the levers of power available to us and will oppose and challenge your stance where it is intransigent at every opportunity. Those of us who are members of the Church of England will remain in communion with you and will insist on making our protests and acting in ways that seek to hold the Church of England together. We will work to help it move to a more diverse and inclusive future, bringing the message of Christ alive in the present day. Like you, we are deeply concerned with the decline of the Church of England not simply numerically, but in the estimation of the English people. Our concern is, therefore, missionary as well as pastoral and political.

Your actions and inactions will not commend your church to ordinary people. We will work to make the Church of England a body of which all Christians can be proud again. We are glad that your proposal for a new report to replace Issues will engage and include LGBTI+ Anglicans in the writing of it, and we remain ready to participate in that. In other initiatives where you allow us we will work with you, but our clear focus is on the changes that need to come.

Yours in the fellowship of Christ,

Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive Officer
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

(more…)

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Changing Attitude and LGCM announce merger

Updated to add press link

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce plans to merge their work to create ‘new missional movement for transformation and change’.

Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who have between them been working for over 60 years for LGBT inclusion across the Christian churches, have announced plans to merge.

Tracey Byrne, LGCM’s Chief Executive said, ‘We’ve been working closely with Changing Attitude for some time now and we have so much in common, and so much to gain from working together. We both bring wisdom and experience to our work, and Changing Attitude’s deep understanding of the Church of England is complemented by LGCM’s insights from across and beyond the denominations. We want to see all that energy, commitment and vision combined to bring about real and lasting change.’

LGCM marked its fortieth anniversary in 2016, and Changing Attitude celebrated 20 years of Colin Coward’s leadership on his retirement in 2015. Tracey went on to say, ‘Both LGCM and Changing Attitude have been blessed with extraordinary and prophetic founders and leaders – people like Colin, Malcolm Johnson, Jim Cotter and Richard Kirker. We shall not see their like again – but of course we’re also part of a world and a church which functions very differently to the way it did in 1976. We have a really firm foundation from which to build a new movement which draws in all people of goodwill who want to see the church welcome LGBT people on equal terms with our sisters and brothers.’

Jeremy Timm of Changing Attitude said, ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for us to further LGCM and Changing Attitude’s work, to make ourselves a resource and a force for change in the churches as they continue in their journey of understanding in relation to sexuality and gender. We firmly believe we can do this better together, and as both boards of trustees have been talking and listening to one another over the past six months, we’ve become really excited and energised about what the future holds.’

LGCM’s Chair of Trustees, Jeremy Pemberton added, ‘If we’re going to reach out to a new generation with the message that the gospel is good news for everyone, then we’ll all need to commit ourselves to making that a credible and authentic claim for LGBT people too. That will involve humble listening and prophetic action at every level of the churches, from our leaders and from the many people we know are longing for change. The new movement will be uniquely placed to resource that kind of transformation.’

Notes for editors:

1. LGCM is a charity which is committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the life of the Christian churches.

2. Changing Attitude campaigns for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Church of England.

3. Further enquiries to Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive on 07497 203635

4. Further information about the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement can be found at www.lgcm.org.uk

5. Further information about Changing Attitude can be found at www.changingattitude.org.uk

Update

Carey Lodge Christian Today ‘We Want Real Change’: Gay Lobby Groups Join Forces To Fight For LGBT Inclusion In The Church

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Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement in Pemberton case

Updated with diocesan press release

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has today issued its judgement in the case of The Revd Canon Jeremy Pemberton versus the Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, The Rt Revd Richard Inwood.

The full text – approaching 20,000 words – of the judgement can be found here (.doc format), or over here (.pdf format) or here as a web page.

There is a summary included in the full text which is reproduced below the fold. Note that the cross-appeals from the Church of England were also rejected by the court.

Here is a press release from Jeremy Pemberton:

Statement after Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling

I would like to thank HHJ Eady QC for the obvious care that she took to consider properly the novel and complex issues of law raised by my appeal. The result is, obviously, not the one my husband and I had hoped for. I appreciate that this case was a source of hope for many people and I am grateful that the judge has recognised its significance and indicated that its importance warrants permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

I am now going to take some time to consider the lengthy judgment with my husband, and we will decide on the best way forward, having taken advice from my lawyers. I would like to thank Laurence for his unwavering love and support throughout this process, my legal team of Sean Jones QC, Helen Trotter, the Worshipful Justin Gau, and Susanna Rynehart of Thomson Snell & Passmore – all of whom have been acting pro bono since 2015 – my family, friends and all those who have supported me thus far. I will not be making any further comment at present.

Here is a press release from the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham:

Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling

For the second time, a tribunal has found in favour of the former Acting Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, on all the claims made against him by Jeremy Pemberton.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal in London upheld the decisions made by the Employment Tribunal held in Nottingham last year.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “Churches across the diocese continue to offer a generous welcome to people from all backgrounds and we remain fully engaged in the Church’s exploration of questions relating to human sexuality.

“The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. It has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships, as set out in the House of Bishops guidelines in 2006.

“We recognise that it has been a long and difficult process for all those concerned, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.”

(more…)

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Married people write to College of Bishops

The following letter has been published today by the Sunday Times

To All Members of the House of Bishops
September 2016

Dear Bishops

We are writing to you as married lesbian and gay members of the Church of England. Some of us are clergy; some of us are members of the laity. We are just a few of the many gay and lesbian people in this country who have in the past two years been able to celebrate with families, friends, and in our cases often our local Church community, the enriching and life enhancing love we have found in our wives and husbands.

We would like you to know that we will be praying for you as you meet in September as a College of Bishops.

Now that the Shared Conversations are at an end it is time for the Church of England to move forward and make clear the commitment to ‘good disagreement’ that was at their heart. We fully appreciate that the time may not yet be right for a change in the Church’s official understanding of marriage. But many in our parishes have already made that move and it is time to respect that a diversity of theology within the Church now exists and that there is more than one understanding of what a faithful Christian may believe on these issues.

As you meet to discuss we seek from you a clear lead that offers a way forward to greater inclusion that will enable those parishes that wish to do so to celebrate the love that we have found in our wives and husbands. We hope for an outcome that will enable those who wish to do so to publicly celebrate where we see God at work in the lives of our congregations without fear and in openness.

We encourage you to be bold, and to be honest about what many of you already believe from your own experience, and to what you know to be increasingly the direction of travel, not just in our Church but in many Churches in this country.

We will always want to see the full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church, and we will continue to work towards it. We look forward to welcoming a first step in that process and a move away from the harm and hurt that has so often been done in the name of the Church.

Yours in Christ

Clergy:
1. The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain and Stephen Foreshew-Cain
2. The Revd Richard Harris and Ricardo Goncalves.
3. The Revd Garry Lawson and Timothy H. Wane
4. The Revd Clive Larson and John Markham
5. The Revd Paul Collier and Mr Collier
6. The Revd Canon Jeremy Davis and Simon McEnery
7. The Revd Geoffrey Thompson and Tony Steeles
8. The Revd Prof Mark Cobb and Keith Arrowsmith

Laity
9. Jeremy Timm & Mike Brown
10. Ruth Wilde & Ellie Wilde
11. Jack Semple and Ross Griffiths
12. Paul Jellings and Andrew Carter
13. Erica Baker and Susan Strong
14. Karen and Samantha Bregazzi-Jones
15. Keith Barber and Tim Mills
16. Simon Dawson and David Mooney

In addition a further seven clergy couples and Readers have indicated their support for this letter whilst wishing to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves, and often their Bishops, from attack.

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LGBTI Mission: The Bishop of Grantham

The LGBTI Mission has issued this statement:

LGBTI Mission: Statement about the Bishop of Grantham

The LGBTI Mission welcomes the openness that Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain has shown in revealing personal information about himself, while we deplore the media threat which has led to the need for this to happen. We assure him of our love and prayers, extending to his partner, his colleagues, and his wider family.

We are pleased that the forthcoming College of Bishops meeting will now have at least one openly LGBTI voice in their discussion of what next steps the Church of England should take in regard to same-sex relationships. We hope this will lead to increased openness among bishops so that burden does not long remain on the Bishop of Grantham alone.

The Guardian reports that Bishop Nicholas himself has said:
“I will speak [at the meeting], and this part of me will be known. I hope I’ll be able to be a standard-bearer for all people as a gay man. And I really hope that I’ll be able to help us move on beyond matters of sexuality,”
And, asked whether other bishops might follow his lead in openly declaring their sexuality, he said: “I really can only speak for myself. If I’m an encouragement to others, that would be great.”

We are also pleased that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Lincoln have expressed their unequivocal support for him, and confirmed that they made his appointment with full knowledge of his circumstances. But we regret that when announcing senior appointments the Church still adheres to a discriminatory policy of purposeful concealment. It is this policy which has lead directly to the discomfort which Bishop Nicholas is now experiencing.

The need to review the absurd and cruel double standard still applied in relation to sexual conduct of the clergy remains an urgent task for the Church.

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LGBTI Mission responds to shared conversations

This press release was issued yesterday by LGBTI Mission:

LGBTI Mission calls on Church of England to move forward following completion of Shared Conversations

The LGBTI Mission rejoices that almost all General Synod members were willing and able to engage in conversation and listening about human sexuality. We commend David Porter and his team for their excellent work in bringing this about. It is also clear that very many throughout the Church of England want to see change soon, as a priority for mission.

We call on the House of Bishops to bring forward bold proposals that enable the Church of England to move towards LGBTI equality, of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes.

Same-sex marriage is only one item on the table. There are other important issues, which could be resolved sooner and more easily. Some do not need synodical approval. We urge the bishops to review urgently all the areas listed in our LGBTI Mission launch document.

We also ask bishops to consult fully with their own LGBTI laity and clergy who are directly and personally affected by current discriminatory policies.

Simon Sarmiento, Chair of the LGBTI Mission said: “Now is the time to move forward and take action. Church leaders and LGBTI church members, of all convictions, need to work together to devise answers to these problems. We now have an opportunity to change the way that LGBTI people are treated in the Church. A good start would be to have a staff member funded to co-ordinate work in this area and show that the national Church is serious about change.”

Two specific examples of other urgent issues are:

There is a Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion (see text below) awaiting General Synod debate, which asks the Church to improve its welcome to Transgender people and for the House of Bishops to recommend suitable rites and prayers to mark their transition journeys. Debate on this was recently deferred a second time. We urge the bishops to endorse that motion and to ensure it is debated without further delay.

An issue not requiring synodical action is the current ban on clergy entering same-sex civil marriage, contained in paragraph 27 of the House’s February 2014 Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The widely inconsistent application of this has brought the Church into serious disrepute. It must be reconsidered urgently.

Media reports suggest the bishops may revive the 2013 Pilling Report recommendation (see Recommendations 16 and 17 on page 118) to allow clergy who wish to do so to “mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service” but only as a “pastoral accommodation” without authorizing any formal liturgy. This would be welcome as an interim step towards the long-term goal of enabling same-sex marriages in the Church of England. But the addition of approved liturgical forms would improve clarity and give clergy protection against unwanted disciplinary complaints.

ENDS

The Blackburn Diocesan Synod motion is as follows:

WELCOMING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

…to move on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod:

‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’

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Statement following conclusion of Shared Conversations Process

Press release from the Church of England:

Statement following conclusion of Shared Conversations Process
12 July 2016

Over the last 2 days members of General Synod have met in an informal setting in which they have listened and been heard as they have reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality.

Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion with over 1300 members of the church directly involved. It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.

In comments to members of Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness and grace.

That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming.

Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence. Confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”

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Canadian church vote on changing marriage canon

Updated Tuesday evening

Hiltz: Poll shows in fact we did have 2/3 majority among clergy, laity and bishops, and the same-sex marriage motion is carried #GS2016

CBC News BREAKING Anglicans to allow same-sex marriage after recount

A statement from The Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson, General Secretary

Associated Press via the Guardian Anglican church of Canada backs same-sex marriage, a day after rejecting it

———

The Anglican Journal reports: Canadian Anglicans reject same-sex marriage by one vote:

A resolution to change the marriage canon (church law) to allow for the solemnization of marriages of same-sex couples failed to pass by a fraction of a percentage point at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod July 11.

The vote, which required a two-thirds majority in each of the orders of laity, clergy and bishops, received 72.22% support from the laity and 68.42% in the order of bishops, but only 66.23% percent in the order of clergy—0.43% shy of the 66.66% needed.

There is another report: Relief, despair as same-sex marriage motion fails.

Subsequently, several dioceses made their own anouncements: Niagara, Ottawa to offer same-sex marriages; Toronto to consider:

Within hours of the defeat of a motion to amend the marriage canon of the Anglican Church of Canada, at least two dioceses had announced plans to go ahead with same-sex marriages, with a third saying it would consider this course of action.

In a prepared statement, Niagara Bishop Michael Bird cited General Synod Chancellor David Jones, who announced in synod Monday, July 11, that the marriage canon in its present form does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.

In Jones’s words, the statement said, the canon “does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage.” It’s also clear, it continued, that Anglican conventions allow bishops to authorize “liturgies to respond to pastoral needs within their dioceses, in the absence of any actions by this General Synod to address these realities.

“Accordingly, and in concert with several other bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, it is my intention to immediately exercise this authority to respond to the sacramental needs of the LGBTQ2 community in the Diocese of Niagara,” said Bird…

Statement by the Bishop of Niagara

Statement by the Bishop of Toronto

Statement by the Bishop of Ottawa

Statement by the Bishops of Huron

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Sexuality news and comment

While the General Synod conversations are proceeding behind closed doors, a chance to catch up on various recent items of news and comment…

Harry Farley ChristianToday No compromise: Die-hard conservatives walk out of Anglican talks on gay relationships

Harriet Sherwood reported in the Guardian that C of E hardliners to boycott synod talks on same-sex relationships.

Andrew Lightbown Julian Henderson and ‘the case for a conservative approach.’
The Church Times article being critiqued is here, but behind the paywall. However, there is another article in the comment section this week which is available: ‘I’d love the consensus to change, but it’s a dream’.

Lucy Gorman just retired as chair of Changing Attitude wrote Going anywhere nice?

Tracey Byrne of LGCM has published URC Assembly and General Synod – thanksgiving and hope.

Andrew Nunn published Prorogued but not ended.

Meanwhile, over at the Canadian General Synod (and yes, we will report on this later) the Secretary-General has been speaking: Sexuality not just an issue in the West, says Idowu-Fearon
The full text of his address is here.

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URC to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in its churches

The United Reformed Church has this afternoon voted to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in its churches. This press release has been issued:

The United Reformed Church votes to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in its churches

This afternoon, Saturday 9 July 2016, the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (URC) voted in favour of allowing its local churches to conduct and register marriages for same-sex couples. This means that the URC is now the largest UK denomination to freely permit the celebration and registration of marriages of same-sex couple in its churches.

A two-thirds majority was needed to allow the proposal to be confirmed as the denomination’s final decision – Assembly voted in favour of the resolution by 240 votes to 21 votes. United Reformed churches in England and Wales wishing to register their buildings for the marriage of same-sex couples are now able to start that process immediately. (In Scotland the legal framework is rather different, but the effects of the Church’s decision will be broadly similar.)

The process which culminated in today’s vote has been a lengthy one. The General Assembly has considered the proposal twice before – in 2014, and again in a special, single issue Assembly, which met in June 2015. It has long been clear that the denomination cannot express a single view on the issue of same-sex marriage and, at the 2015 Assembly it was ruled that that the decision on whether an individual United Reformed Church congregation can host marriages of same-sex couples lies wholly with each local church. This is the policy that was confirmed today as the Church’s decision.

Speaking of the process and today’s vote, the Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC said: ‘Today the URC has made an important decision – at which some will rejoice and with which others will be uncomfortable. Those of our churches who now wish to offer full marriage services to same-sex couples are free to do just that – and those churches who do not wish to are not compelled to. All are part of this denomination. This has been a sensitive issue for many in our churches. It has been important to take our time over the decision process, and to listen as carefully as we can to one another along the way.’

Press reports

Mark Woods Christian Today United Reformed Church to allow same-sex marriages

Callum May BBC News United Reformed Church approves gay marriage services

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UK Methodists review marriage understanding

The Methodist Church in Britain has taken a further step towards changing its understanding of marriage. This press release has been issued:

Methodist Church to review its understanding of marriage and relationships

A task group established to consider whether the Methodist Church’s understanding of marriage and relationships should be revisited has reported back to this year’s Methodist Conference.

Following a decision at the Conference in 2014, people from across the Methodist Connexion have been considering marriage and relationships as part of a process overseen by the task group. The discussions show that there is a broad range of opinions held by Methodists on these matters.

The Church is to reconsider how its understanding of marriage should be expressed. This does not necessarily mean that there will be a change of definition, but that the Church wishes to re-examine the definition through a period of theological and scriptural reflection.

The task group prepared guidance and other resources to help members of the Methodist Church in their discussions on marriage and relationships.

The task group was established at the Methodist Conference in 2014 to consider whether or not the Methodist Church should revisit its definition of marriage and its understanding of family life, marriage and the single person. Its report, received by the Methodist Conference earlier today, 5 July 2016, is the result of two years consideration by the task group, along with reflection and conversation within the Methodist Church. So far, at least 8,000 members have taken the opportunity to participate in conversations across the Methodist Church, where a wide range of views were expressed.

The Church’s definition of marriage was one of those subjects discussed. The task group considered the existing 1992 “Statement on Christian Understanding of Family Life, The Single Person and Marriage”. In the Statement the Methodist Church reiterates its view that marriage is “the lifelong union of one man and one woman”. However, whilst many Methodists support this definition as it stands, there is a range of reasons to revisit it. For example, some people feel the Church’s definition should be extended to include the marriage of same sex couples. Some people feel that the definition only describes the status of marriage, not its purpose and responsibilities and revisiting the definition is important part of the process even if it remains unchanged. The Conference directed that a new Statement on marriage and relationships should now be prepared and that, as part of that process, the definition of marriage should be revisited….

Media reports on this:

Christian Today Mark Woods Britain’s Methodist Church to consider same-sex marriage

Premier Alex Williams Methodist Conference votes to re-examine definition of marriage

Ekklesia Savi Hensman Methodists welcome LGBT people and review understanding of marriage

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House of Commons: Question on Same-Sex Marriage for Clergy

A Question on Same Sex Marriage: Clergy was put to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on Thursday. Here is a transcript (scroll down for the other topics covered):

Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)

1. What discussions the Church Commissioners have had with the Church of England on supporting clergy who have entered into same sex marriages or civil partnerships.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I should first declare my personal position, which is that I voted in favour of same sex marriage when the decision was before Parliament, but I do recognise that it is difficult for the Anglican Church. The Anglican Communion extends over many different cultures and many continents, and not all cultures and societies move at the same pace. It is therefore all the more remarkable that the Archbishop of Canterbury managed to get a unanimous agreement among all the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in Canterbury, in January, that there should be a new doctrine condemning homophobic prejudice and violence, and resolving

“to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.”

Cat Smith: I thank the right hon. Lady for her answer. She will be aware that many people feel called to ministry, including, naturally, many people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Although Church of England policies protect heterosexual couples if they are in a marriage by not taking their status into account when it comes to jobs within the Church, the same is not true for those who have entered same sex marriages. Is she aware of cases of written permission from Bishops placed on file, and of refusals to issue licences when new positions are sought, including even secular positions? Will she do her best to ensure that LGBT clergy are not discriminated against here in the Church of England?

Mrs Spelman: As I mentioned, the Anglican Communion is extremely diverse. What we must remember, living here in the liberal west, is that a typical Anglican communicant is in Africa and black, female and under 35; in many African nations there are also very strong views on this subject, and keeping the Communion together is a big challenge. It is open to Church of England clergy to enter into civil partnerships, and many do so. The Church of England in England is moving forward in its understanding with a shared conversation, three parts of which have already occurred. In July this year, the Synod will move forward with the shared conversation about sexuality—the nature of human sexuality. I reiterate the point that the whole Communion agreed unanimously that the Church should never, by its actions, give any impression other than that every human being is the same in God’s sight regardless of sexuality.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): The Dean of Lichfield cathedral, Adrian Dorber, is always telling me how short of money the cathedral is. May I just say that I live for the day when gay clergymen can be openly gay and there will be gay marriages, which will be paid for in Lichfield cathedral and all the other cathedrals in England and the rest of the United Kingdom, in a liberal nation.

Mrs Spelman: I look forward to visiting the Lichfield diocese. Indeed, the Government have been very generous in their funding for repairs to that beautiful cathedral. On the specific subject of human sexuality, I do not think that the Archbishop of Canterbury could have been clearer about his leadership in bringing the whole Anglican Communion together for the first time, united behind the doctrine that we should condemn homophobic prejudice and violence at home and abroad.

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LGBTI Mission launched

Updated

The LGBTI Mission has issued a press release:

Christians unite to campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in Church of England

A group of Christians have come together to form the LGBTI Mission, which will campaign for the full acceptance and affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people within the Church of England.

The group, which is made up of LGBTI people and straight allies, including both clergy and lay people, will seek to remove all barriers to full participation for LGBTI people within the church. It launches during LGBT History Month, which this year is focused on the theme of Religion, Belief and Philosophy.

The priorities of the LGBTI Mission are centred on three key pillars:

  • Living: the belief that all LGBTI people, heterosexual friends and family, should be welcomed and affirmed by the Church of England…
  • Loving: the belief that God is love, and that life-long, faithful, stable same-sex relationships, and the relationships of those who undergo gender transition, should be celebrated by the Church of England
  • Serving: the belief that God calls LGBTI people to serve the world through the Church of England, and their ministries should be recognised and authorised..

Within these pillars, the Group has nine concrete objectives that it will be working to achieve, which will deliver positive outcomes for LGBTI people within the Church of England.

For more information go to the website.
The full manifesto is contained in a 16 page booklet which can be downloaded as a PDF from here.

Updates

There is some press coverage of this:

Church Times Madeleine Davies Mission targets C of E barriers to gay clergy

Telegraph John Bingham Gender transition services and same-sex weddings call for Church of England

Christian Today Mark Woods New Anglican pressure group will campaign for ‘full participation’ of gay people in Church

Ekklesia Christians unite to campaign for LGBTI equality in Church of England

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More and more Church of England members support same-sex marriage

Updated again Sunday morning

Harriet Sherwood has published in the Guardian a report headlined Church of England members back same-sex marriage.

Attitudes to same-sex marriage within the pews of the Church of England are sharply at odds with the stance of its leadership, as for the first time more Anglicans are in favour of gay and lesbian couples marrying than oppose it, according to a poll.

Support for same-sex marriage among church members has significantly increased over the past three years despite the leadership’s insistence that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and its refusal to conduct church weddings for gay couples or allow gay priests to marry…

…A poll conducted in the aftermath of the Canterbury meeting found 45% of people who define themselves as Church of England approve of same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who believe it is wrong. A similar survey three years ago found almost the reverse: 38% of Anglicans in favour and 47% opposed.

The lowest levels of support for same-sex marriage – 24% – were found among Anglican men over the age of 55, a group that dominates the church leadership. Jayne Ozanne, a leading gay activist within the C of E, who commissioned the poll from YouGov, said this finding was “deeply worrying”. “Unfortunately, this is exactly the profile of those in the senior positions of power and influence within the church,” she said.

The poll’s findings, released to the Guardian, are likely to amplify calls within the church for a change in its stance. Gay and lesbian activists say the church’s insistence on a traditional interpretation of scriptures alienates and excludes LGBT Christians, and further marginalises the church in wider society.

The survey found a clear generational difference among Church of England members, with almost three-quarters (72%) of under-35s in favour. There was a majority supporting same-sex marriage in all age groups under 55, but the figure dropped to fewer than one in three older Anglicans. More women than men believe same-sex marriage is right.

Support was largely consistent across different regions of England, contradicting assumptions that people living in London and other major cities are more liberal than others. There was also minimal variation across social class.

Church members in England are still lagging behind the general public, among whom a clear majority – 56% – support same-sex marriage, while 27% say they oppose it…

For more detail about this survey see press release here.

In particular, scroll down to pages 4 and 5 of the PDF for some graphics showing very clearly the shift in opinion over the past three years.

For more numbers:

For full results of 2016 poll amongst all Anglicans living in England go here.

For full results of 2016 poll amongst all respondents living within Great Britain go here.

The 2013 detailed results are on pages 13 and 14 of this rather large file.

Updates

There is extensive criticism of this poll at Psephizo The YouGov poll on same-sex marriage

But then again there is discussion of who is a member of the Church of England by Archdruid Eileen Are You Really Church of England?

(more…)

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Harriet Sherwood interviews Jeremy Davies

Harriet Sherwood has another major article today. In The Guardian Saturday interview she writes about Married gay priest Jeremy Davies: ‘The bishops say we’re not modelling teachings of the church. Yes we are’.

This is a long article, but do read all of it.

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EHRC statements on cinema advertisement ban

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued the following statement on 11 December:

Statement on Freedom of Expression and the Lord’s Prayer

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today announced that the issues raised by Digital Cinema Media’s (DCM) decision not to show a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer in cinemas, will be examined as part of a major Commission report.

This report, examining the adequacy of the law protecting freedom of religion or belief, will be published early next year. The DCM decision has generated significant public concern about freedom of speech.

The Commission, the national expert in equality and human rights law, has also offered its legal expertise for the purpose of intervening in the case should the Church take legal proceedings against DCM.

The Commission has written to DCM to highlight the importance of Britain’s long tradition of freedom of expression and to reiterate its concerns about the justification for not showing the advertisement being that it risked offending audiences. There is no right in Britain not to be offended, and respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree is the mark of a democratic society.

Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said:

“We strongly disagree with the decision not to show the adverts on the grounds they might ‘offend’ people.
“There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and this is a slippery slope towards increasing censorship.”
“We also understand why people were confused that a commercial Christmas can be advertised but the central Christian prayer cannot. We will therefore examine the issues raised by this case as part of our major review into the law protecting freedom of religion or belief, and publish our findings in the new year.”

Earlier, on 23 November, the Commission had issued this statement: Commission comments on Christian advert being banned from cinemas

Commenting in response to a Christian advert being banned from being shown in the cinema, a Commission spokesperson, said:

“Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.
“Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths or without belief. There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.
“This does not mean groups or individuals are free to express themselves without restriction. Freedom of expression can be and is restricted but only in order to prevent violence, abuse or discrimination for example. There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts.”

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