Thinking Anglicans

Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings, says Bishop of Liverpool

Updated 8 July 2021

The Observer reports this evening that the Bishop of Liverpool has said that the Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings.

Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings, says bishop

Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, pushes for ‘gender-neutral marriage canon’ and church ceremonies

A senior bishop has said the Church of England should recognise marriage between people of the same sex and allow such ceremonies in church, a move that would break with centuries of Christian teaching.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, called for a “gender-neutral marriage canon” in a controversial and hard-hitting speech on Saturday, making him the most senior figure in the C of E to explicitly back a change in church law and teaching…

The bishop was speaking to the MOSAIC (“Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church”) National Conference this morning. The text of his address is here and this is an extract.

What do I want to see? I want to see a Church that is no longer institutionally racist. I want to see a Church where people with physical or mental or emotional disability are honoured and accommodated and learned from and loved, and whose love is received as a gift.

In the area of sexuality and relationships I want to see the road which runs through Living in Love and Faith come to a good destination. The LLF process has clarified my own thinking.

I want to see a gender-neutral marriage canon, such as they have in the Episcopal Church or in the Scottish Episcopal Church. And as a necessary but not sufficient first step I want to see conscientious freedom for the Church’s ministers and local leaders to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages.

I want to see an abolition of the foolishness that sees the call to ordained ministry as a call to a state morally higher than that of the baptised, as though baptism called us to a lesser holiness. I want to see an end to LGBTQ+ people hiding who they are for fear of being exposed to conversion therapy or to being forbidden to minister in churches. I want to see an end to the inquisition of ordinands about their private lives.

Update

On 6 July Bishop Bayes published the following on Twitter.

Some days ago I gave a speech to the MoSAIC Conference. I stand by the substantive points in that speech, but I also made some passing remarks which I greatly regret. I’ve asked for the published text to be amended to remove them. Here’s a statement of apology. Many thanks!

Follow the Twitter link to read the statement.

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Fr. Dean
Fr. Dean
3 months ago

The bishop ‘wants to see’ all these wonderful things but is he putting his hand to the plough to bring them to fruition? LGBTQI people are used to warm words and no change.

Richard Allen
Richard Allen
Reply to  Fr. Dean
3 months ago

I agree with your sentiments Fr Dean. But let’s give +Liverpool one cheer at least. How many of the Diocesans ever say this kind of thing as explicitly as Bishop Bayes. +Buckingham has for a long time but he can be, and is, easily disregarded. The indication that this is anything other than another well-meaning false dawn will be seen only if other episcopal and senior voices speak out in a similar vein. On past experience, I don’t expect the silence to be broken any time soon.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Fr. Dean
3 months ago

I, personally, think Bishop Paul is leading the way as the first of other bishops in the Church of England who will soon be coming ‘out of the closet’ of silence that has hitherto hindered the Church’s H.o.B. from proclaiming the Gospel of Inclusion. At least he is willing to step out of the mordant polity of ‘wait and see’ that seems to afflict most other bishops in their fear of becoming noted for their openness towards such inclusion. Someone needed to get this ball rolling and I applaud his encouragement to his fellow bishops to speak up and do… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Father Ron Smith
SkepticalObserver
SkepticalObserver
3 months ago

From a starting point that the CofE legislates against equality between male and female when it comes to ministry I regret that the bishop might need to prepared to continue to be disappointed by the prejudices within the organisation.
LGBTQ+ are my community and we are used to a lack of real commitment to equality.

Horace Mitchell
Horace Mitchell
Reply to  SkepticalObserver
3 months ago

May I ask a question that undoubtedly reveals my ignorance, which is exactly why I ask? What is meant in this context by ‘my community’? I’ve mainly lived a relatively sheltered life from a social perspective. I’m a man with a wife, four kids and eight (so far) grandchildren. Because we live in a rural area, social life tends to revolve around village clubs and societies as well as personal networks of friendships local and distant. In earlier times we lived in London, where social networks tended to be about interests rather than locale, so that we were more likely… Read more »

Kieran
Kieran
Reply to  Horace Mitchell
3 months ago

Horace Mitchell, you are, of course, right to point out the plurality of communities to which we all belong. There may be older gay men in your personal network whose memories would go back to the days of Section 28 and the active persecution of LGBTIQ+ people by Margaret Thatcher’s government at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. I have yet to find a similar example of sexuality-based persecution against heterosexual men. The fact that the acronym has grown reflects the ongoing dialogue society is having about sexual and gender minorities. Speaking from the LGBTIQ+ part of… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

I think Bishop Paul deserves unreserved support for speaking out when most bishops won’t.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Kate
3 months ago

I agree he should be supported and thanked for speaking out.

But even Bishop Paul said is his speech “as I grow older and the arc of my own ministry draws close to its end, I am glad to be able to speak wholeheartedly for a vision of Christian community that does not stink of oppression or of hypocrisy in the nostrils of the world.”

Why is it that Bishops only speak out in favour of LGBTQ issues when they are retired, or (in this case it would seem) about to retire?

Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

Simon, you are entirely on point. Several bishops over the years have spoken up in retirement when they can express an integrity they were never able to share when in office. That says a lot about the habitual dynamic of the institution and the relationship between collegiality and conformity – about as far from the ministry of Jesus as you could get. Whatever the good intentions of the upcoming LLF process it is likely that LGBTI Christians will continue to get chewed up in local discussions. The episcopate is primarily there to address the theology and finance of mission. But… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Canon Dr Michael Blyth
3 months ago

As we age and get closer to death many of us become more regretful of some of our past mistakes. Although we come lately to repentance, I am sure we all hope for forgiveness nonetheless. Certainly I hope the Lord is gentler with me than some are being with a bishop who is becoming more reflective as his own time in office starts to wane.

Fr. Dean
Fr. Dean
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

Stinking hypocrisy!?! Bishop Bayes must be very close to retirement to have described the Church’s position in such terms. My reading of the Gospel is that Jesus was almost exclusively concerned about the abuse of power (including financial power) and the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. He is relatively untroubled about the sex lives of individuals. The Church has turned it upside down and wants to moralise about LGBTQI bedrooms and yet overlooks the large elephant of the abuse of power and status and its associated hypocrisy. As an admittedly jaded gay man, I’ve had enough warm… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Fr. Dean
3 months ago

Father Dean, thanks for your robust response. It has been interesting analysing the dynamics of my own response to this, and how it has changed over 36 hours. My initial response was to be pleased and say well done sir, at last a Bishop who is willing to stand up and be counted. But then over the next day or so I began to change, and to think what is so special about what Bishop Paul has done. All he has done is stand up and say he believes in compassionate equal treatment of LGBT people within the church. But… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Simon Dawson
Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Fr. Dean
3 months ago

Fr Dean – from a lay perspective I agree with your comment that when you begin to disinvest from the institutional Church it is very easy to find yourself to have fully disinvested. Like you I still have my faith but have kicked the dust off my feet and moved on from the Church of England which was callous when I was most vulnerable. I am disbelieving that the church which I left last year, is pondering another lockdown with agreement of PCC and bishop because of increasing number of covid positive tests in England. No children, teenagers or young… Read more »

Peter S
Peter S
3 months ago

For what it’s worth I cried when I read this: at last, a diocesan bishop telling it like it could be.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
3 months ago

Welcome words, even if there is a bit of esprit d’escalier about them. This is, of course, understandable in an institution that has slapped down so many for so long, or lopped off the tops of anyone who rose above the rest.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
3 months ago

A number of contributors refer to bishops not speaking out until or near to retirement. It’s not only bishops and it’s not only retirement related, and in passing not only LGBTQI+. It’s fear, and the power dynamics. The term gaining currency is Institutional Corruption. There’s a lot at stake in speaking out. +Bayes will need permission of his bishop to be allowed to officiate as an old git, which as ++Carey found out can be withdrawn without explanation at any time. Others also have housing, family etc to consider on less pension too. Baroness O’Loan used the term Institutional Corruption… Read more »

Charles K
Charles K
3 months ago

I for one admire +Paul for speaking out in this way. It is important that his message is not just about sexuality, but for a deeper understanding of what it means to be inclusive – honouring all people based on our common humanity. I know of many friends who have wounds which will possibly never heal in this world because of the church’s treatment of innocent people. But this is a bold and prophetic statement and should be celebrated as such. Let’s pray that it is acted on too.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
3 months ago

I am puzzled by some of the comments here. Bishop Paul has not just changed his mind or decided to speak out at last from the ‘safety’ of approaching retirement. He has been openly supportive for some years. His convictions were also clear when he announced he would not attend the Lambeth conference because it had refused invite the partners of married gay bishops.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

I didn’t know he had refused to attend the Lambeth Conference. Good on him.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

David, if I have misunderstood bishop Paul’s history of speaking out in favour of LGBTQ inclusion then I am very happy to be corrected. Thank you. Nevertheless it is a very low bar of achievement when to have one single bishop prepared to voice such views openly is regarded as a cause of celebration. We should not let that mask the fact that other bishops are choosing to stay silent, and to ask ourselves, and them, the reasons for such silence. It seems to me almost a case of double standards. The bishops have created the LLF process where those… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Simon Dawson
Kate
Kate
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

A good shepherd should take care of their flock. EVERY bishop should be either a) speaking out in favour of full inclusion or b) advancing an alternative way to stop the harm of LGBTIQ Christians. Without exception. As Jayne Ozanne has recently written, “Why will you not acknowledge or address the mounting evidence of the deep psychological harm that you have caused and are still causing so many LGBT+ people, particularly young LGBT+ people?” It is worth reading her piece in full https://www.christiantoday.com/article/jayne.ozanne.i.am.not.seeking.to.ban.the.lords.prayer/137015.htm   There is NO justification for any bishop, regardless of their views on same sex relationships, not… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

Hi David, he has indeed been v supportive, but I think that this is the first time he (or any other diocesan) has explicitly called for a change in the canons?

Michael
Michael
3 months ago

I would like to see a church where all are welcome. I would also like to see a humble church which learns. For example, church teaching has developed and does change. Contraceptive use amongst Christians is widespread nowadays but would have been frowned upon at one time. My faith was greeted with hostility when I arrived at University forty years ago. I did not attend an ‘approved church.’ I was a Methodist and there were prayers for my conversion because my faith was not Biblical apparently. I had not been born again. There was pressure put upon me to change.… Read more »

Dave
Dave
3 months ago

The Bishop of Blackburn has publicly made his views clear on equal marriage (against), now the Bishop of Liverpool has (for).

So, in a spirit of openness and transparency can an organisation campaigning in this area now ask all Church of England diocesan bishops for their views too and publish the results – for, against, don’t know, declined to answer. After all these two bishops are very clear where they stand, can others also have the courage to speak?

It would then be interesting to see how their votes are cast after the LLF process…

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
3 months ago

The Bishop has spoken out which is good as far as it goes. It needs to be remembered however, the current ABC voted against marriage for same sex people and the Lords Spiritual have always voted against anything progressive – from change of the age of consent for gay men, to civil partnerships, to same sex marriage, to civil partnerships for heterosexuals. Their comments in the Lords have been disgraceful. The lack of action to tackle the spiritual and bullying abuse of LGBTI people, the wobble over the total ban on so called conversion therapy which is homophobic abuse, the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
3 months ago

I’ve just looked in on the blog ‘psephizo’ discussing Bishop Paul’s (and the ABY’s) discussion of the Church’s negative attitude towards the LGBT+ people and their pastoral needs – summarising his argument with these words: “The primary driver for his (Bishop Paul’s) agenda is ‘the world’. In saying this, the author has obviously forgotten the words of Scripture which affirm that Jesus died for the sake of that world – the very world that psephizo wants to believe is less important than the Church.

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