Thirteen years after the Lambeth Conference 1998 launched the listening process the House of Bishops has committed itself to a wider look at the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships more generally and will produce a consultation document in 2013.
The bishops intend to draw together material from the listening process which has been undertaken within the Church of England over the recent years and offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process.
I feel sorry for Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, to whom fell the lot of speaking on behalf of the House. So the House is going to spend two years producing a consultation document, and only in 2013 will they allow the rest of the Church to engage in ‘continuing discussion’.
The bishops are in disarray. Changing Attitude has been told this by a number of bishops. We know from personal experience that the bishops are in disarray. Some recommend for ministry lesbian and gay people who have contracted civil partnerships (and these people are not celibate). Some license lesbian and gay clergy who are in civil partnerships and some actively encourage them to enter civil partnerships. Other bishops are either ignorant of this practice or naïve.
The statement says you have spent little time in recent years discussing homosexuality. I am not surprised by this admission. It’s too uncomfortable to talk about openly amongst yourselves, isn’t it? It’s too personal for some. You should have been talking about it, some of the time, because it affects us deeply, it affects you personally, and it’s the issue that’s affecting the future of our Communion.
The House of Bishops ‘recognise that bishops and clergy have found ways of engaging pastorally with those in civil partnerships, both at the time of registration and subsequently’. What the bishops mean, but don’t say, is that some of them have found ways of fully supporting people in civil partnerships but they don’t want to admit so publicly (or to each other).
The House of Bishops disagrees in practice on the policy it claims to have adopted. It isn’t split. It simply reflects the diversity of the Church of England. The House already contains a number of bishops who are gay and many others who are fully supportive of lesbian and gay relationships.
What the House of Bishops needs to do, NOW, URGENTLY, is to find a way of being open, honest and trusting when bishops meet together, so that the wisdom and experience in their midst can be shared and used to change attitudes NOW.
We, the church, do not need to wait another 2 years for the bishops to produce a consultation document. Come and talk with us now as well as talking openly amongst yourselves for the first time. Talk with the majority of members of the Church of England, talk with those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual, both lay and ordained, talk with parents, friends, aunts and uncles, talk – and listen.
You have a problem amongst yourselves, bishops, and you have a problem in the Church. Some of you know what people in congregations think and feel about LGB&T people and you are afraid to voice your opinions publicly. I know this because some of you have told me.
Today’s statement is designed to deal with a House of Bishops problem. You may have decided to spend two years producing a consultation document. It may be as ineffective as ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality’.
We who are the Church, we in Changing Attitude and in other groups working for change, are already living into a new Christian paradigm. We are tired of your prevarication and fear of truth. We are tired of being asked to suppress our God-given identities and deny our natural, God-given sexual instincts. We are tired of being asked to forgo love and relationship until the bishops have come to a common mind about the teaching of the church.
In 2013 the House of Bishops will be even more divorced from the reality of our real lives and of the practice of the church. It has now agreed that the time has come to review the 2005 statement on civil partnerships including whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops. The review will be completed in 2012. As others have commented, this seems deliberately designed to be personal, to avoid any diocese recommending the appointment of Jeffrey John.
Changing Attitude is campaigning for change NOW! We want civil partnerships in church NOW! We want an end to the discrimination against LGB&T lay and ordained ministers NOW! We want freedom for the church to appoint those in civil partnerships NOW!
Talk with us now, bishops. Invite us to a House of Bishops meeting. Perhaps we can help you find the way to be honest amongst yourselves.