The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed two groups with four bishops in each, one broadly conservative, the other broadly liberal, which John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln and CA patron, has convened. He aksed Changing Attitude to send our thoughts and after consulting with our local groups and supporters online, the following comments have been forwarded:
Issues in Human Sexuality
Issues in Human Sexuality should be abandoned as a document defining Church of England teaching about the sexuality of LGBT people. Public perception is that the Church has a pathological pre-occupation with human sexuality. The official Church of England position is deeply at odds with what the majority of people in our congregations think and the practice of many bishops towards LGBT clergy and laity. For the majority of church goers human sexuality is not an issue. They want the church to welcome and grant equality to LGBT people. People find the church’s teaching about homosexuality wrong or irrelevant, reinforcing the view that Christianity is irrelevant and repressive. The churches disapproval of homosexuality has driven many people away from its doors and caused considerable pain to others.
Positive same-sex ethic
The church should develop a positive ethic for same-sex relationships stressing fidelity and commitment.
Mission and evangelism – the gospel for LGBT people
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ for LGBT people as they discover that they are accepted by wider society? The secular world is setting the agenda for liberation in the UK and western cultures and society accepts LGBT people and grants equal rights. Conservative Christian attitudes lead many LGBT people who attend church to hide or deny their sexuality. Some LGBT people still experience bigotry, hatred, and prejudice. The church should speak out strongly against bigotry and prejudice.
LGBT ordination and ministry
A vocation to the priesthood for LGBT people should be tested without reference to their sexuality. The recommendation sometimes made to become a Reader isn’t a solution – some bishops impose ‘Issues’ as a requirement for Readers. The House of Bishops should adopt a policy that Canon C4 paragraph 1 (ordination) does not exclude men and women whose sexual orientation is to persons of the same sex, and who are “of virtuous conversation and good repute and such as to be of wholesome example and pattern to the flock of Christ”. Many LGBT clergy are forced to live a lie and hide their sexuality because they fear disclosure may affect their chances of preferment or appointment to a new post within their diocese.
Relationships and Civil Partnerships
Faithful committed gay relationships have positive moral value and deserve the church’s support not condemnation. Civil partnerships should be celebrated and blessed in church. General Synod should approve a public liturgy for Prayer and Dedication of a Civil Partnership. Commitment to a life-partner should be equally acceptable for clergy and lay people. Acceptance of gay relationships does not weaken or undermine heterosexual marriage. Heterosexual marriage is not the only place for children to be raised. Gay couples can be good parents too.
Nurture or nature
Homosexuality is not a matter of choice. Gay identity is real, not chosen.
The experience of LGBT people who have undergone reparative therapy is that it is harmful and should not be approved by the Church.
Intersex and Transgender
‘Issues’ is deeply flawed because it takes little account of intersex and transgender people. Both transgender and intersex are matters of gender identity rather than sexuality. Intersex is a medical condition not necessarily related to either gender identity or sexuality. Intersex disturbs hetero-normative assumptions about sex, gender and sexuality.
We need to affirm Anglican diversity, living with widely varying Christian attitudes. The church should allow room for pastoral and theological development. Reality is more complex than the habitual conservative/liberal dualism.
House of Bishops
There is a diversity of opinion and practice in the House of Bishops. Some bishops dissent from the Church’s current official position. Bishops need to have the courage of their convictions and speak more truthfully.
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