Thinking Anglicans

Open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

In response to the recent House of Bishops statement on Civil Partnerships, an Open Letter has been published. If you are based in England or are part of the Diocese in Europe you are invited to sign.

Signatures can be added by going to this page.

The list of those who have already signed is over here.

The full text of the letter is

 Your Graces

We write to express our anger and disappointment regarding the recent House of Bishops ‘Pastoral Statement’ concerning Same Sex and Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships.

Since the public defeat of your ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships’ report to General Synod in 2017, we have waited for you to deliver on your promise of ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’.  We have been patient believing that nothing further would be said regarding sexuality and relationships until after the publication of the Living in Love and Faith report.  It seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.

The pastoral statement makes clear there has been no desire to listen or learn from those of us who spoke to explain how offensive we found the tone of the House of Bishops’ previous document.  Indeed, the statement is anything but “pastoral”- it is cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects.

The Church of England has this week become a laughingstock to a nation that believes it is obsessed with sex.  More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the Church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve.

We ask you to consider how we can, together, build a truly radically inclusive Christian Church.

Yours sincerely

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Andrew Spurr
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Andrew Spurr

In 30 years I have never known a bishop whose own children have held this view. I thought we were aspiring to honesty and integrity.

Ian Hobbs
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Ian Hobbs

I’m entirely unclear what argument for change that is? (Apart from knowing that your assertion about bishop and their children is incorrect.)
The charge of dishonesty groundless and a lack of integrity is unfair. It doesn’t suit you… is what you actually seem to be saying.

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

I believe that there is an alarming connection between this ‘pastoral’ letter and the church’s inability to understand or tackle the problem of sexual abuse. The penny dropped for me when reading it: ah! that explains why George Carey and a score of other bishops covered up the Peter Ball scandal. This is the logic. If sex is male penetration and the only place you can do that is in a ‘traditional’ marriage, then Peter Ball did nothing wrong. He remained celibate. This is why Carey made so much of the fact that he hadn’t penetrated anyone. He was an… Read more »

Nigel LLoyd
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Nigel LLoyd

Yes indeed, Carey made the point about penetration in the IICSA hearings and it was a moment of illumination for me too. It is an incredible misunderstanding of human sexuality, which allows total blindness to that fact that what Ball was doing was deeply sexual, deeply abusive and deeply destructive to his victims.

Peter Draper
Guest
Peter Draper

Well said Linda. I personally was struck by para. 23 of the letter which says ‘the church should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity’. It’s just ludicrous. Nobody thinks that. The young people I know have worked out a much more sophisticated sexual ethic without the churches help. The pastoral letter shows that the church deserves to be ignored on this.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Indeed. “the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity” is completely counter-factual. As the parent of twenty-somethings, I struck by both their ease about sexual relationships, and their absolute willingness to take at face value relationships that are non-sexual. At a simple level, people share rooms and indeed beds for convenience when groups of friends meet, without all of the are they / aren’t they fussing of my generation or the absolute bars of my parents’ generation. To mistake this for licentiousness says a lot more about the writers of the letter than about reality.

Allan Sheath
Guest
Allan Sheath

Good point, Linda. And in this respect holy mother Church is captive to the mores of a patriarchal Establishment. I was once a juror on a rape case involving an egregiously coercive abuse of power and privilege, and in which the judge laboured the point that rape necessitated penetration and, unless we could be absolutely certain (how?) that penetration had taken place, we could only find the accused guilty of “the lesser (sic) offence of attempted rape.” With women now holding senior positions in the judiciary, I doubt if today’s judges would regard attempted rape of that nature as somehow… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Conviction for rape can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. Attempted rape formerly carried a maximum sentence of seven years, but now (since 1985) it also potentially carries a life sentence. From what you say, the judge’s direction seems to have been spot-on, reminding the jury of the strict burden of proof which must be discharged before convicting someone of rape.

I’m quite certain that no distinction whatsoever is to be made between the impartiality of male and female members of the judiciary.

Allan Sheath
Guest
Allan Sheath

The point being that the (pre 1985) judge, in stressing that rape not involving penetration was a lesser offence and not only in a technical sense, failed to see how a protracted and violent but non-penetrative sexual assault was no less serious than rape involving penetration.

My reason for posting it was because of the parallels with George Carey making much of the fact that Peter Ball had not penetrated anyone. No doubt the judiciary would act very differently today. My hope is that the Church would too.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

As I pointed out, pre-1985 the penalties differed. It was a proper direction on the law and I’m afraid I don’t see any basis to suggest that the judiciary should act differently now. A better conclusion would be that the (former) Archbishop would respond very differently today, and in spite of all the flak directed towards him, I’m sure he would. He has publicly expressed contrition. On another thread (TA Opinion: 22 January 2020) I linked an article about the Osborne Report, written in 1989 but not made pubic until 2012: Mark Bennet ‘Surviving Church‘ “Have attitudes to sex changed… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Second reply: Sorry, I didn’t respond adequately. The judge was duty bound to give that direction. Penetration is an essential feature of the crime of rape. Without proof (beyond reasonable doubt) to the satisfaction of the jury that it took place, and however protracted and violent the assault, conviction for rape is not possible without penetration having occurred. The judge, it seems to me, was assisting the jury in their not being swayed into an incorrect verdict in the circumstances which you describe. Of course, you were there, and I was not, but this, I feel sure, is what the… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Guest
Allan Sheath

Of course the judge was right to insist on penetration as determinative of a rape conviction de jure. But he want beyond this by suggesting that rape without penetration, even if violent, was de facto somehow less serious. If women had been prominent in the legislature and judiciary pre 1985, would judges have been allowed to impose sentences for attempted rape that reflected more adequately the seriousness of those cases where the “attempt” involved a violent assault? It seems to me that putting so much weight on whether or not penetration occurred is a peculiarly male obsession, and one which… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I’m afraid we must disagree. I have conceded that you were there and I wasn’t. May we leave it at that?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

1650 signatures as of Saturday night

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Over 2000 signatures at Sunday lunchtime.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Over 700 Church of England Clergy have now (at 9pm Sunday) signed the Open Letter.

2502 people in total have signed.

Of the 710 Clergy, 77 are retired priests.

75 Readers and Licensed Lay Ministers have signed, and 55 Ordinands.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

789 Church of England Clergy have now (at 12 noon Monday) signed the Open Letter.

90 of these are retired priests.

2804 people in total have signed.

85 Readers and Licensed Lay Ministers have signed, and 66 Ordinands.

Additionally this morning, Bishop Peter Selby (formerly Bishop of Worcester) and Bishop David Stancliffe (formerly Bishop of Salisbury) have signed the Open Letter.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

869 Church of England Clergy have now (at 10am Tuesday) signed the Open Letter.
104 of them are retired priests.
3076 people in total have signed.
95 Readers and Licensed Lay Ministers have signed, and 70 Ordinands.
9 Bishops (7 of them retired). 10 Deans. 1 MP. 1 Earl. 20 Professors.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I couldn’t agree more with the general sentiments, but did anyone seriously “trust” the English bishops after decades of them throwing gay people under the bus? I’ve always found Maya Angelou’s famous dictum too harsh — anyone can act uncharacteristically on a bad day — but after the pattern of behavior lasts for years, believe that it’s who the bishops really are, and they won’t change voluntarily.

Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

I know that many Diocesan bishops visit Thinking Anglicans and I cannot believe that everyone of them was happy with this statement. As a matter of personal integrity I would invite any of them to now publicly disassociate themselves with this Pastoral Statement.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

If that happens (and I hope it does), I withdraw any doubts I ever voiced about miracles! 😉

Kate
Guest
Kate

Robert, have you seen the response to this open letter? The Telegraph reports: ”The Church of England’s House of Bishops recently published a statement on Civil Partnerships to reflect the fact that they are now open to opposite-sex couples as well as same-sex couples. “While the document states the long-standing teaching of the Church about sexual relationships within marriage, the bishops are keenly aware of the diversity of views and practices among members of the Church and wider society about the expression of love in faithful human relationships, and of the deep pain that these differences have caused and still… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Thank you Robert for this invitation which I echo.
It is interesting to read the Bishop of Gloucester’s statement. It suggests that although the HofB were shown the statement, they were not told how it was going to be used. Don’t we need to know then exactly what was agreed at that meeting? And if, as Bishop Rachel suggests, the statement is not quite as pastoral as the title says it is, don’t we need some more information?

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

Not sure that this constitutes a disassociation with the statement, but Rachel Treweek’s message to her diocese, linked elsewhere on TA,s interesting, and breaks ranks a bit with how it was issued; who might she be thinking of?

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

She seems to be saying that the CofE’s doctrinal and legal position ought to have been padded out with warm words. How does that help anyone? I think we can also deduce from both the HoB statement and her statement that LLF isn’t going to contain anything new and certainly not the radical inclusion touted by the Archbishop.

Kate
Guest
Kate

It is here https://www.gloucester.anglican.org/2020/a-message-from-bishop-rachel-to-the-diocese-of-gloucester-regarding-the-release-of-the-house-of-bishops-statement-re-civil-partnerships/

It seems to me Rachel acknowledged that she didn’t object to the text when she saw it but thought that the delivery could have been better so there was less blow back. I am sorry but that’s not really any sort of objection.

Meanwhile the Church in Wales has consecrated a lesbian as Bishop of Monmouth. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/01/27/bishop-of-monmouth-lesbian-anglican-priest-church-wales-cherry-vann-history/

Simon W
Guest
Simon W

In an ad clerum today Oxford bishops apologised for distress caused by the statement, said it had caused “consternation” for them and that they hoped something “more fitting” would emerge from discussions at College of Bishops this week. Also referred back to their 2018 Oxford pastoral letter “clothe yourselves with love”.

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

There’s an Ad Clerum https://www.lincoln.anglican.org/news/ad-clerum-28th-january-2020 where our bishops – who are not members of the HoB – express their unhappiness – eg “”We hear, understand and share the concern that has been expressed relating to the Statement’s timing and tone. We both believe that the Statement as it stands has significant pastoral and missiological implications which clearly undermine the work of the Church today. We will bring all these concerns to the meeting of the College of Bishops in London from 29th -30th January.”

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

At 15:30 on Sunday afternoon, 2193 people have signed this open letter. Signatories: Total Church of England Clergy = 629 Of these, 68 are retired 56 are Rectors 52 are Chaplains 394 are Vicars/Priests/Curates etc, mostly in parish ministry * * * In addition, among Church of England Lay signatories : 58 Lay Readers or Licensed Lay Ministers 49 Ordinands * * * Signatories (as self-defined) include 2 Bishops, 3 Retired Bishops, 7 Deans, 8 Area Deans, 4 Rural Deans, 2 Directors of Ordinands, and one of the Bishops, Rt Rev Humphrey Southern, is Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. There… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Susannah, as Linda Woodhead pointed out the CofE’s Comms department will have flagged up that this statement would be disastrous for the already tatty CofE brand; with further significant damage to its reputation in the public sphere. Nonetheless they still went ahead and published, perhaps because of Synod timetabling of all things. All the signatories in the world on this petition will not shake them. My sense is that they have become paralysed with fear and they’re hunkering down in their uniquely obdurate way. At some existential level the bishops know that they are nobody’s friends and are prepared for… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

Would the C of E comms unit have flagged this up? And even if it did, would it have made the slightest difference? When I once contacted them to point out a blatant factual error on the C of E website, I was told that it couldn’t be changed because no-one on the central secratariat had approved the change. If Mr Nye says a statement has to be issued, it will be issued regardless. Ditto that awful prayer in the week of the general election that stated the outcome of the election would be an expression of God’s will for… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

At 20:30 on Sunday afternoon, 2449 people have signed this open letter.

Signatories:

Total Church of England Clergy = 693 (of whom 55 are Canons)

Of total clergy, 76 are retired

63 are Rectors

56 are Chaplains

435 are Vicars/Priests/Curates etc, mostly in parish ministry

* * *

In addition, among Church of England Lay signatories :

69 Lay Readers or Licensed Lay Ministers

53 Ordinands

Dave
Guest
Dave

The letter to the Archbishops is very appropriate. However, there remains the appalling way the House of Bishops operates. It seems to be a closed and out of touch body, which needs to be far more accountable. Clearly people are loosing trust and confidence in the bishops after several recent events. Why is the voting – who voted for what – made public. Individual bishops should now be asked to account for themselves. Surely individual bishops should have the integrity to say how they voted on this and why. When the Scottish bishops voted on same gender marriage the vote… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Dave: the answers to your questions are provided, in part, by paper GS Misc 2138, which I wrote about in a comment on another TA thread last week. This is the relevant part of my comment: GS Misc 1238 is “Summary of decisions by the House of Bishops and its delegated committees.” At para 22 on page 3 we read: “HBDC [House of Bishops Delegation Committee] agreed the Civil Partnerships (Opposite and Same Sex) Pastoral Guidance as deemed business for the House with a minor amendment.” The HBDC met on 22 November 2019. The House of Bishops met at Lambeth… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Continued: On the issue of secrecy, I wrote a comment on another thread last December suggesting that the House of Bishops should publish minutes, in the same way that verbatim reports of the proceedings of the full General Synod sessions are published on the CofE website some time after the close of each group of sessions. I rather doubt that this will happen. Indeed, one response to my suggestion was, “Dream on.” Another, though, was “Brilliant… This should be seen as good practice. The CofE has always found it difficult to differentiate between secrecy and confidentiality. Of course some things… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

2910 people have signed the open letter, as of 6pm Monday. Bishops and former Bishops who signed the Open Letter: Rt. Rev. Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham. Rt. Rev. Humphrey Southern, formerly Bishop of Repton, and now Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Rt. Rev. Tim Ellis, formerly Bishop of Grantham, currently serving as an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Sheffield. Rt. Rev. Laurie Green, formerly Bishop of Bradwell, and is Bishop Visitor to the Benedictine Community at Malling Abbey. Rt. Rev. Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme, and then Honorary Assistant Bishop in St Asaph. Rt. Rev.… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church Oxford, can be added to the list of Deans.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Thank you Rowland. Yes I saw Martyn’s name, but somehow I must have missed it when I was typing. He should very definitely be on the list. Have people read Harriet Sherwood’s article ‘Laughing stock’ in the Guardian?

Ann Reddecliffe
Guest

And Very Revd Dr Rogers Govender, the dean of Manchester has signed.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Several Archdeacons and one Oxford Head of House.

Richard Allen
Guest
Richard Allen

And to the bishops add the Rt Revd Peter Maurice, retired bishop of Taumton

Kate
Guest
Kate

It ought to be of significant concern that once again retired bishops are more prominent than serving bishops in the criticism of the pastoral statement.

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

The Bishops are told what to do, what to say and what to think by William Nye. There’s no way they would have been any detailed briefing, discussion, or opportunity to challenge this statement and its timing. Can you imagine Rowan Williams allowing this to go public? As someone asked me the other day, what is the role of the Bishop of Lambeth in all these crass communiques?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian has been following the ‘Pastoral Statement’ / ‘Open Letter’ story.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/27/laughing-stock-letter-from-clergy-attacks-c-of-es-guidance-on-sex
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/28/church-of-england-sex-guidance-unnecessary-pain-bishops

Of interest in her article today, is the tweet by Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, providing a link to the Open Letter as ‘one way to comment’.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

John Thomson, Bishop of Selby: “Statement it was. Pastoral it was not. As a suffragan I didn’t even know it was to be published. Wrong tone and poor timing.” Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading (consecrated 5 weeks ago): “As CofE’s newest bishop I was deeply saddened by the unpastoral tone of HoB statement on civil partnerships. Cold. Legalistic. Loveless. Astonishing timing – mid LLF discussions. Please know that bishops are not of a mind on this.” Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich: “I’m frustrated by the process which led to the publication of a House of Bishops Statement on civil partnerships,… Read more »