The Church of England
The Church of England is already a church which incorporates the ministry of partnered lesbian and gay lay people, priests and bishops. Hundreds of LGBT people in the ordained ministry, including the episcopate, act in a representative role in apparent contravention of the Church’s teaching.
The majority of bishops, priests and lay people in the Church of England have not waited for the Church Catholic or the Anglican Communion to formally recognise the blessing of same-sex unions. Many Anglicans in every order of ministry have contracted Civil Partnerships and live in union with their same-sex partner. They have an appropriate representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with the culture of British society and the majority of people in our congregations.
Changing Attitude is campaigning for honesty about the recognition of same-sex unions by allowing couples to receive, in public, the blessing of the church that is equivalent to Christian marriage.
Changing Attitude is campaigning for the General Synod of the Church of England to change its official position based on the report ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ to affirm that partnered lesbian and gay people can be ordained and lifelong couples can have their relationships blessed openly and publicly in church.
The Anglican Communion
We call on the Anglican Communion to formally repent its failure to oppose prejudice against LGBT people.
We call on the Anglican Communion to formally recognise the human dignity, civil liberties and place within the Body of Christ of LGBT people. The two-track model proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury formalises structural homophobia in the intensified relationships of the ‘covenanted’ Anglican global body.
Painstaking biblical exegesis rooted in solid theological grounding for the blessing of same-sex unions has been undertaken. The result of this work is disputed and has not yet received wide acceptance within the Communion, but the work has been done and is publicly available.
Theologians in Europe, North America and elsewhere have been offering their responses to the question of same-sex relationships and the need for a change in practice and discipline in the light of new facts and contexts for over 30 years.
Formal approval by the Church Catholic, the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners of the holiness of same-sex relationships will take many years but will eventually reach the necessary strong level of consensus. Formal approval by the Church Catholic would require an Ecumenical Council.
The Archbishop of Canterbury rightly states that unexamined prejudice and violence perpetrated against LGBT people is sinful and disgraceful. The Provinces of the Anglican Communion which support harsh laws which sanction intolerance and prejudice against LGBT are guilty of sin.
The Church is imprisoned in a global cultural environment which views homosexuality as sinful and contrary to nature. This view began to change in the C19th and evolved rapidly in the west after the Second World War. Further cultural change followed the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the development of gay liberation movements which began to reveal what had until then been invisible to the majority.
LGBT people are present in every culture and society despite conservative or hostile social and cultural attitudes. We are equally present in Nigeria, the Philippines and Argentina as in the USA and England. Changing Attitude believes the church at the level of the local congregation, diocese and Province is called to be prophetic and counter-cultural.
New developments in teaching and doctrine about the place of LGBT in the church have emerged in different parts of the Anglican Communion. Bishops and Provinces have responded according to local circumstance. Local churches are not becoming isolated or imprisoned in their own cultural environments but are responding to a movement of the Holy Spirit.
One day the global church will come to a wider corporate discernment which will recognise the sinfulness of past attitudes and recognise that God’s creation includes people with same-sex as well as opposite sex attraction.
LGBT Christians have not waited for the church to change its attitude and neither should Provinces where LGBT people are visible and active in the church. We will continue to create loving, holy, faithful relationships which have the same dignity as marriage. We wait impatiently for the global church to catch up with us. The danger for the mission of the church to all people and to LGBT people specifically is not the risk of responding to local pressure but to ignorance and prejudice.
We are LGBT Anglicans. Our membership of the Communion is an important part of our identity. Our Anglican Christian ethos holds us in a global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are high. The risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are not simply worrying but frightening for us. The rhetoric from some Provinces makes the Church a dangerous place for LGBT people. Intolerance and prejudice are sanctioned and encouraged by some bishops and Primates.
Mutual respect for the integrity of each province must be balanced by respect for the Christian faith and integrity of LGBT Anglicans and those who support our full inclusion in the Church.
The Covenant and two ecclesial realities
The Archbishop considers the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance, a ‘two track’ model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage. On one track would be a ‘covenanted’ Anglican global body, sharing a vision of how the Church should be and behave and therefore able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. On the second track would be Provinces which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had declined a covenantal structure. These Provinces would be related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with the first track, ‘covenanted’ provinces.
Any Province which opts to accept the ministry of partnered lesbian and gay people and bless same-sex relationships would be excluded from the covenanted Anglican global body and would thus fall into the second track and be excluded.
Changing Attitude’s desire to be part of a Church of England which models greater integrity and consistency and our campaign for the full inclusion of LGBT people means we will never accept the possibility that in a two track Communion, the Church of England could sign a Covenant which compromises our full inclusion.
We are committed to co-operation in mission and service and oppose any competitive hostility between parts of the Church. We are also working for the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained.
We hope that this period in the Communion’s life might genuinely be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth. It must includen all who value the Anglican name and heritage and are committed to listen openly and speak truthfully. It must not be a tactic to delay the full inclusion of LGBT people which will eventually become an issue in every Province.
The Archbishop of Canterbury highlights the risk of a church becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, rendering it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe. For Changing Attitude supporters, a Church which is able to recognise partnered lesbian, gay and bisexual priests is more fully Anglican.