The Church of England Newspaper has published the following letter from Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, about the recently appointed group to advise the House of Bishops approach to sexuality.
Changing Attitude has two major concerns about the composition and remit of the group appointed to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality.
The group is designed to represent in some way the broad spectrum of opinion within the church about sexuality. However, it is entirely male in its composition. Since we live in a society in which it is unthinkable to appoint a group to advise on human sexuality without including both genders and representatives from the LGB&T community, we consider that the work of the group is challenged from the start and its findings are going to be seriously flawed.
Changing Attitude has been consulted several times recently by dioceses seeking information about how other dioceses have implemented the listening process. The answer is: the majority haven’t. To the best of our knowledge, no-one has been monitoring progress or collating results. By default, Changing Attitude is assumed to be the group with the wisdom and knowledge. Failure by the Church of England to take the listening process seriously is one reason why we distrust the latest initiative by the House of Bishops.
This newly-appointed group will offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about human sexuality might best be shaped in the light of the (almost non-existent) listening process. So, two more years down the line and 22 years after publication of the deeply flawed discussion document Issues in Human Sexuality, proposals will be offered from which the House will discharge its commitment to produce a consultation document in 2013.
There is deep anger and frustration among LGB&T people in the Church of England, together with our families, friends and members of our congregations. We are available to be consulted now. We expect the Church to have learnt something about appropriate process and to have included direct LGB&T experience in any newly-appointed group. We will continue to work for change in the Church while the group searches for information about the listening process. We anticipate rising tension following raised expectations that lesbian and gay Christians will be able to register civil partnerships in religious buildings. These expectations will increase when the government launches the consultation on marriage equality.