Thinking Anglicans

Oxford bishops expect inclusion and respect for all

Press release from Diocese of Oxford:

31 Oct 2018 – four bishops from one of the largest dioceses in the Church of England have written to 1,500 ministers setting out the bishops’ expectations of inclusion and respect for all and announces a new LGBTI+ chaplaincy team.

Silence is both painful and damaging for LGBTI+ people in the midst of continuing debate within the Church about human sexuality, say the bishops. Their letter, sent to all clergy and LLMs in the Diocese of Oxford, sets expectations of inclusion and respect towards all and affirms LGBTI+ people called to roles of leadership and service in the church.

The Oxford letter commends five principles for welcoming and honouring LGBTI+ people and looks at work underway in the Church of England to develop new pastoral guidance and teaching resources relating to human sexuality and same sex marriage.

A new chaplaincy team for LGBTI+ people, their families and loved ones is promised too. The chaplaincy team will also provide LGBTI+ insights and advice to clergy and bishops about being church together.

The Oxford letter concludes with a commitment from the bishops to continue to listen well to LGBTI+ people from a variety of perspectives, ‘including those seeking change in the Church of England’s polity and those seeking to live faithfully within it’…

The full text of the letter can be found here: Clothe Yourselves With Love.

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David RuncornAndrew LightbownColin CowardRevd Dean HenleyKate Recent comment authors
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Jayne Ozanne
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This is a significant letter coming from a bishop who was at one stage the spokesperson for the House of Bishops on Human Sexuality, and who is a known evangelical. Bishop Steven has worked closely with a small group of us across the diocese to listen and learn, and I know is committed – as his other episcopal colleagues are in the diocese – to listening more. He took on board the need for “the silence” to be broken, and for as many safeguards as possible to be put in place to protect LGBTI+people during these conversations and for the… Read more »

Peter Spychal
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Peter Spychal

Thank you for putting the letter in context.

Sadly far from ideal and it does not preclude sexually active married same sex couples being barred from positions in the church, but I suppose a listening bishop is better than a poke in the eye from a sharp stick. Well done to everyone who helped.

I wish we had some bishops like that in Europe, but sadly all we see is empty ‘I feel your pain’ platitudes and a failure to ask for wisdom and guidance when offered.

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

This letter is incredibly positive and hints at more to come……it needs to be read alongside other recent letters (i.e. those from other evangelical bishops). There are several themes running through the letter, for instance notice the reference not just to sexuality but to sexual practice. The letter clearly states that nobody is to be regarded as a problem and suggests that radical new inclusion, if it is to be authentically Anglican, must, ultimately, comprise the pastoral, sacramental and liturgical. The letter also stresses the importance of experience in the incarnational encounter. The letter also paves the way for other… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Thank you

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I’m very pleased that the letter explicitly mentions gender.

Revd Dean Henley
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Revd Dean Henley

I’m a gay priest in the neighbouring diocese of St Albans, but this feels like crumbs falling from the straight man’s table and I feel rather underwhelmed. If I were a priest in the Oxford diocese I would feel patronised by the suggestion that I need a chaplaincy service to minister to me or my LGBTQI+ parishioners. Our inclusion in society is now mainstream and it is the bishops of the CofE that are so obviously out of step with the views of the English people and Parliament. A significant number of Her Majesty’s Privy Council are openly in same… Read more »

Philip Cochrane
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Philip Cochrane

Hi Dean, I am very sorry that you read the letter in that way. The whole aspect of Chaplaincy was the subject of much discussion and was consulted on with others outside the Diocese as well – it is both to provide a ‘safe space’ (still much needed, even if not by you) and already happens informally (I certainly get a steady stream of people who need to talk in a safe space. However, I would expect Chaplaincy to have an advocacy role as well. I was privileged to be involved in the consultation around this letter – the driver… Read more »

Revd Dean Henley
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Revd Dean Henley

Hi Philip, thank you for your comment. You use the word ‘safe’ twice in the context of a safe space, but why do we need places of safety in the context of the CofE? What would we be frightened of? The position of the College of Bishops is untenable and they were embarrassed in General Synod when they lost the vote; they then went on to deny the Trans community the liturgy that Synod (including the bishops themselves) had asked them to provide. The bishops are busily digging themselves into a bigger and bigger mess on this issue, including the… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

Philip, I’d like to add my voice in support of Dean’s comment, from my perspective as Director of Changing Attitude for twenty years and as one of the few activists still engaged at an international level, primarily through Anglicans for Decriminalisation in Commonwealth countries. You identify the continuing need to provide a safe space from your personal experience of the stream of people needing such a space. Safe space is still needed because the Church of England is an unsafe space. Some parishes are very safe, some think they are safe, some are afraid to open a conversation about LGBTI… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Though not precisely commensurate, the idea of ‘welcoming’ partners in a legal ‘Equal Marriage’ – while yet being unwilling to provide (or allow for) a liturgical form of a blessing – is tantamount to inviting a fellow ‘sinner’ to the altar table but withholding the Sacrament. More needs to be done in this important area of truly ‘welcoming’ LGBT+ people in our churches.
(We are all sinners, are we not?)

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

Yay!

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

The idea of a chaplaincy / chaplain in the Oxford Diocese has emerged from members of the LGBTI community, their families and friends. It really isn’t an episcopal imposition, but rather the result of careful listening and taking the people’s experiences seriously. I strongly believe, having shared my family stories, with two of our bishops that they are people of enormous compassion. I genuinely don’t think that they regard my gay daughter as a problem to be solved. As Dean says above the C of E is out of step, and this is tragic. I think our bishops know that… Read more »

Revd Dean Henley
Guest
Revd Dean Henley

Hi Andrew, It is heartening to hear that your bishops are men of enormous compassion and heard your family story about your daughter who is a lesbian. But didn’t St Paul talk about action as well as fine words? As the leaders of the CofE, isn’t the onus principally on them to act to remove the barriers to the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in the Church of England?

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

Hi Dean, I think that all I would say is that I believe that our bishops will have much more to say. I don’t think that this letter is their last word. I think the letter signposts this. I hope I am right and I will always continue to pursue full inclusion, liturgically verified, in the life of the church. Like Philip (above) I have been part of the consultation group.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

This letter and the initiatives within it look like action to me. I am grateful and hopeful.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

I keep oscillating in my reaction to this: either it is a welcome first baby step or it is as Dean Henley says ‘crumbs from the straight man’s table.’ Probably both. I guess it speaks of the depth of the abuse of LGBT people in the Church of England that this should be seem to be a forward step. You some times run across similar argument in the secular world when arguing for LBGT rights: ‘but it’s so much better now than it was.’ Well yes it is, but that’s more a comment on where we were than where we… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I understand why you oscillate. For me, though, this is simply what it purports to be: a temporary undertaking between the Oxford bishops and LGBTI Christians covering the period until Living in Love and Faith is published and a new national understanding developed. It doesn’t commit the bishops to go further in 2020/21; neither need LGBTI Christians regard it as sufficient at that point. Seen as a holding position only, I feel it is broadly positive. Were anyone to try to suggest this should be the long-term position, of course it would be wholly inadequate. For now though, I think… Read more »