The House of Bishops Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships – the challenge to the Church

To the Church

The Statement challenges the Church

  • to grow up
  • to be honest about the nature of human sexual relationships, heterosexual and homosexual
  • to be honest about God’s creation and God’s intention for sexual relationships – gender is irrelevant to God. Love, fidelity, maturity, intimacy, self-giving, honesty and truthfulness are desired and honoured by God
  • to reject a statement which is a denial of present reality, unrealistic, punishes a minority group in the church and damages the mission of the church
  • to actively support their lesbian and gay members and clergy, be inclusive in welcoming their partners and identify as welcoming and open to all irrespective of difference
  • to a prophetic vision of the Kingdom of God in which there shall be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, male or female, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender; but Christ in all
  • to reject an unworkable, hypocritical document that denies full health and holiness to a significant minority of her members

To lesbian and gay Christians

It challenges lesbian and gay Christians to reject the teaching of a document which invites them once again to live a partial life rather than the fullness of life which is God’s promise to all humanity.

It challenges them to have courage – the courage to believe that they are created by God, loved by God and called by God into the Church and into loving, intimate, faithful relationships which are blessed by God and equal in value to marriage.

It challenges them to abandon fear and live courageously, openly and faithfully, as single or partnered people, lay and ordained.

It challenges them to deny the position of the House of Bishops and follow their deepest convictions

  • to gain legal recognition and protection of their partnerships
  • to gain the blessing of the Church on their relationships
  • to proclaim themselves as people loved by God and fully equal as sexual, intimate people in God’s sight
  • to be unafraid as sexual beings, convinced of their own delight in expressing their love physically and sexually
  • not to be defined by the normative heterosexual patriarchal reading of scripture
  • not to allow the Church to treat them abusively, ask them to maintain a hypocritical silence or sacrifice essential parts of their identity

To lesbian and gay deacons and priests

It challenges lesbian and gay deacons and priests and gay bishops to put at risk their security in the Church.

If a gay or lesbian priest registers their relationship under the Civil Partnership Act, they may

  • prejudice their relationship with their bishop
  • not be offered another post in the Church
  • lose any possibility of advancement in the Church
  • have their licence withdrawn
  • have their ministry terminated
  • be evicted from their house

Section 21 challenges lesbian and gay clergy to maintain privacy about the nature of their relationships and deny bishops the assurance they seek.

Section 22 challenges lesbian and gay clergy to reject the threat implied in advising “clergy to weigh carefully the perceptions and assumptions which would inevitably accompany a decision to register such a relationship.”

To the bishops of the Church of England

The Statement challenges bishops who do not deny the presence of lesbian and gay people and priests in their diocese, partnered, faithful and committed, who are known to live with their partner.

It challenges bishops to ignore the ruling of paragraphs 21 and 22 that lesbian and gay clergy should assure their bishop that their relationship is consistent with Christian teaching, the position currently held by previous statements of the Lambeth Conference and reports of the House of Bishops.

It challenges bishops to state directly that the requirement quoted above from Section 22 is a direct threat to clergy and an attempt to intimidate them into foregoing registering their partnership and sacrificing the legal and social benefits that registration grants their relationships.

It challenges bishops to declare their faith in a healthy, open and honest Church which reinforces its members’ integrity rather than encouraging behaviour which is dishonest, secretive, hypocritical and repressive.

To conservative Anglicans

It challenges conservative Anglicans to recognise the institutional injustice, discrimination and prejudice which is maintained by a narrow, supposedly orthodox view of scripture which sustains a judgmental, narrow, legalistic, faithless, neurotic image of Christianity and Church in which God’s love is seen to be highly conditional and selective.

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