Thinking Anglicans

Some Oxford clergy criticise diocesan LGBTI guidance

We reported earlier on the Ad Clerum issued in the Diocese of Oxford on 31 October last year: Oxford bishops expect inclusion and respect for all, and subsequently on the immediate responses: Responses to the Oxford bishops’ letter.

Two documents have been published today on the website of the Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship:

Letter from Concerned Anglicans in the Oxford Diocese in Response to Ad Clerum of 31stOctober 2018

Joint response from bishops of the diocese to this letter

The Church Times reports on all this: More than 100 Oxford clergy criticise bishops’ LGBTI guidance:

MORE than 100 clerics in the diocese of Oxford have written to criticise their bishops’ approach to LGBTI+ people. A letter released on Monday warns that, if the bishops cannot affirm traditional teaching, many of the signatories will consider seeking alternative oversight.

The letter, signed by 104 serving clerics in the diocese, questions whether people in same-sex relationships should be ordained, or receive communion.

The letter addresses the diocese’s four bishops: “We would ask them to recognise the seriousness of the difference between us: advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both. The situation is serious.”

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Mark Brunson
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Mark Brunson

“Either . . . or . . .” – They cannot live in the world God created, which is rarely either/or but both/and. That is the problem with fundamentalism.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

There is more to say about the actual concerns here – but a first impression is how overwhelmingly male the list of signatories is. I more and more think that, in a way we have yet to acknowledge, anxieties about male identity drives so much of this debate.
And from the list I smiled to find ‘The Revd Canon Roger Simpson – Archbishop’s evangelist to the north, St Mary’s Chipping Norton’. Someone pass me a map please.

David W
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David W

However, there is one name on the list who is notable as being open that he is same-sex attracted. Clearly he has not found the church unwelcoming, nor that he is excluded from ministry.

(I also wondered about evangelist to the North…Chipping Norton. However, if the archbishop/province in question is Canterbury and not York, his remit does not quite reach the Proper North.)

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Roger Simpson was already Archbishop of York’s Evangelist when he and Ursula moved to Chipping Norton in 2017 so that she could take up her post there. Roger was born in 1951 so presumably it didn’t seem worth starting another job before retirement. He must be travelling quite a bit to fulfil his responsibilities in that role.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

The man who is same-sex attracted has to lead a life of compulsory celibacy and is denied the God-given right to a partner. How on earth is that not unwelcoming?

William
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William

Fr DavidH – absolutely nobody is forcing him to embrace a life of celibacy. He is simply leading the life that he believes God wants him to live. Doing God’s will is the only way of achieving true happiness in this world.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

A fundamentalist view of Scripture leads some gay evangelicals to lead lives of enforced celibacy. They even deny their gay identity, claiming that they are ‘defined’ only by Christ. “Doing God’s Will” means only what you want it to mean. Why can’t a gay evangelical vicar in Oxford Diocese simply admit to being gay instead of claiming God demands they remain single because of same-sex attraction?

William
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William

There are many people with varying degrees of same-attraction who do not identify as ‘gay’. One would have thought that in a world where people are encouraged to self-identify as just about anything this would not be a problem.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

I believe, William, such same-sex attracted clergy cannot self-identify as gay because they are ashamed and unable to accept themselves. Thus they show hostility to happily partnered gay clergy.

William
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William

Disagreeing with another person’s opinions or life choices is not necessarily hostility.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

The Church bans gay clergy from marrying. That is not just a difference of opinion but shows hostility

William
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William

There are gay people themselves who believe in civil partnerships for same-sex couples but still regard marriage as a heterosexual institution. Do you not feel that the argument might be slightly more nuanced than you suggest and not simply a matter of outright hostility?

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

No. 1) You can always find somebody who holds almost any opinion. That a few people might hold such opinions means very little- outliers can usually be discounted 2) The few times you will find gay people who are for CPs and against marriage it’s either they think the institution of marriage is itself is oppressive and patriarchal (particularly for heterosexuals) or are still dealing (as we all are) with internalised homophobia 3) it’s perfectly possible for two people to hold the same opinion and for one it’s hostile and the other it’s not. What is confusion, or radicalism or… Read more »

Christina
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Christina

I am sorry Father Andrew believes that only LGBT people should take part in this discussion. As a Christian, and a member of the CofE, I care deeply that the Church should welcome everyone, be fully inclusive, and I know that the lack of inclusivity makes the Church seem irrelevant to many (most?) people, LGBT or not. This matters to us all.

Susannah Clark
Guest

The ‘Concerned Anglicans’ don’t enunciate anything that isn’t already known: they believe gay and lesbian sex is sinful, and if gay people don’t remain celibate for the rest of their lives, that has consequences for their salvation, and indeed calls into question whether they should receive communion or have their children baptised. However, the Bishops were right to recognise that there are changing views and changing understandings in the Church of England as a whole. Over the past 40 years attitudes on gay sexuality have changed significantly, both among Church of England members, and society as a whole. It is… Read more »

Will Richards
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Will Richards

They pulled a similar stroke in 2003 over the Jeffrey John nomination to the See of Reading. That victory has probably given them the confidence to give it another go. It will be interesting to see where it leads – especially as the Oxford ad clerum is not very different, in substance, to the earlier Lichfield ad clerum. Perhaps Lichfield has fewer evangelical clergy serving churches with the spending power to hit where it hurts. They cannot be very happy that Steve Croft, who should be singing their songs from their plasma screens, is betraying the tribe that nurtured him… Read more »

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

I really don’t understand the position set out in this letter, especially because I suspect some of the signatories are not opposed to remarriage after divorce. I keep thinking about what seemed to me to be the irrational opposition to the legislative process that made gay marriage possible. At the time, a sound piece of advice was widely circulated: ‘If you don’t approve of same-sex marriage, then don’t get married to somebody of the same sex’. One would not want clergy who oppose same-sex marriage to be obliged to marry a gay couple, but I don’t see that as being… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I think the elephant in the room is this: “To be considered a valid sacrament both the appropriate form and matter must be present and duly used. Form is the specific verbal and physical liturgical action associated with the sacrament while the matter refers to the essential material objects used (e.g. water in Baptism; bread and wine in the Eucharist, etc.). This in itself is not sufficient to ensure the ‘validity’ there must also be the right intention on the part of the minister… ” – Wikipedia So is it reasonable for an LGBTI person to be concerned that receiving… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Disclaimer: I’m just a lay person who has often found a spiritual home in a TEC (USA) church and since I’m not Christian, I abide by TEC’s policies and refrain from receiving Communion. But I know a little about Communion, and I sure would like to think that — once Communion has been received by the person in line — the attitude of the priest doesn’t matter. Whether the transformed wafer/bread and wine remain transformed would be up to God. My limited understanding is, a priest may refuse Communion to a person in line if the priest feels that person… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

Just to correct this slightly: in the CofE no priest can deny Communion to anyone who asks for it. Only the Ordinary (which is almost always the Diocesan bishop) has the power to excommunicate anyone. The priest must apply to the Ordinary for permission to refuse Communion (Canon B16).

Dean Henley
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Dean Henley

I think the word ‘excommunication’ is one that would still resonate in the secular world. If any Ordinary were to excommunicate a gay, lesbian or bisexual person for their sexuality, or a trans, non binary or gender fluid person for their sexual identity, they would be torn to shreds in the media and likely also in Parliament. Fortunately the bishops to a woman and man know this and wouldn’t go there. Sadly there are a multiplicity of ways in which conservative evangelicals can make people feel unwelcome at the altar and the baptism pool without going to the bother of… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

In Article 26, it was made clear that ‘the Unworthiness of the Ministers… hinders not the effect of the Sacrament’. I am not suggesting that the signatories are wicked, just misguided, but the point remains: the Sacraments are effectual ‘because of Christ’s institution and promise’, not the merits of ministers. This understanding is I think unchanged.

Kate
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Kate

Thanks, Savi

T Pott
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T Pott

I think the point about the intention of the minister refers to baptisms or weddings, for instance, performed by lay actors in a play, or by children fooling around. The form and matter are ok but the intention is clearly not. I don’t think it was intended to cover a sacrament performed by a clergyperson with the open public intention of being a sacrament, although the clergyperson privately did not really mean it to take effect, and hoped or inwardly prayed it would not. Such a clergyperson might be considered very wicked indeed, within the terms of Article 26.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

The priest must intend to do what the church does: ie celebrate the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. So if s/he were going through the actions for a scene in a play, or an instructional video, this would not be the eucharist. But even if that priest no longer believed in Christian doctrine, or who had strange/heretical ideas about it, it would be a valid sacrament if s/he used the appropriate words and elements in the presence of a congregation gathered for the Christian eucharist. At least that’s how I understand the theology.

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

My reading of this is that it validates the sacrament for the participant. If a person receives a sacrament believing it to be valid the state of grace of the minister is irrelevant. It is precisely the opposite of depending on any action or intention of the minister. Moreover I believe that the disposition of God’s grace is not confined to the sacraments, but is rather assured by them. God is not constrained by the sacraments, that would be bad theology.

Simon Butler
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Simon Butler

The most telling thing is that 95% of the signatories are male clergy, which tells you something about where the anxiety lies and something about the maleness of conservative evangelicalism.

Dean Henley
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Dean Henley

The Church’s teaching about the appropriate context for sexual activity between men and women has been widely ignored since Adam & Eve. The Bible gives plenty of examples of fornication, infidelity and bigamy between heterosexuals. In over 20 years as a priest I doubt that there were many virgins leaving church after I’d joined them in holy matrimony to enjoy their first ever sexual encounter later that day. If on the rare occasion my marriage returns to the local registry office appear to indicate a couple living at different addresses before the marriage, I have received a ‘phone call to… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

I don’t know St Aldates, but in many big evangelical churches they pay for and appoint their own clergy (though I guess the bishop still has to license them). Sometimes they do this in preference to paying their parish share, though not always.

Kate
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Kate

If you look on the St Aldates website the team is enormous.

My bigger concern is that St Aldates clearly ministers to a lot of students. That’s an age group where gay, lesbian and trans Christians need to encounter acceptance, not rejection. Surely the number of St Aldates signatories ought to be a Diocesan safeguarding concern given the profile and potential vulnerability of the St Aldates membership?

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

I understand Kate’s concern for vulnerable young people. But, at least for students, there are a lot of college chaplains, and also the University Church, to provide alternative perspectives.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Flora, I don’t think that other churches might offer a more positive experience does mitigate the safeguarding concerns the diocese ought to have about St Aldates in the light of this letter. At the least the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer should be writing to St Aldates to check that they offer a positive pastoral environment for LGBTI students.

It is high time that the Church of England recognises that a negative attitude towards LGBTI youth is a safeguarding issue.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Regarding St. Aldate’s, I’ve done a little research on their website and in Crockford. St. Aldate’s lists 9 members of the clergy, which does indeed sound like an enormous team. However, only 2 of those appear to be full-time stipendiary clergy. One is vicar of an associated church; two have other full time posts (Chaplain to the Oxford Pastorate and Rural Dean/Chaplain to St. Edmunds Hall, respectively); 3 are NSM; 1 is a Norwegian cleric with PTO. The latter is the only ordained woman and is ‘Children’s Pastor’. Several lay people (including women) are listed as pastors in various categories.… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I see that All Souls Langham Place has 1 vicar and 7 curates, with 4 churches in the benefice. Given the large number of lay staff, that does seem rather an embarrassment of riches and must stick in the craw of clergy struggling along with challenging parishes and no help.

Incidentally, all 8 clergy are male.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

In my opinion by far the most interesting letter is the Bishop’s response, and we should focus on rather than the standard boilerplate in the initial letter. There appears to be some steel and resolve cloaked in christian grace, and a refusal to be bullied (see for example the paragraph on sacraments). I also commend his personal honesty, in wanting make clear his own position as the best way to facilitate helpful dialogue.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Who is intolerant … God or the Church leadership ? Here is a summary of the views expressed in the group letter from Anglican leaders of the Oxford Diocese. God’s word instructs us that LGBTI+ practices are intolerable. The alternative interpretation, that He encourages such practices, is wrong. It is our duty as responsible leaders to support our LGBTI+ brothers and sisters in reaching this understanding. Such leadership is not only intolerant but also irresponsible in excluding an obvious third possibility : LGBTI+ practices are neither intolerable nor encouraged in the eyes of God but, as with decent civilisation, simply… Read more »