The Church Times has today published the Osborne Report, a report for the House of Bishops on homosexuality, written in 1989 but never published. The working party which produced the report was set up in 1986. It’s work was somewhat subverted by the very conservative Higton motion passed by General Synod in 1987. The House of Bishops produced their own report instead in 1991, Issues in Human Sexuality.
The Osborne report is by far the better piece of work. I’ve been reading through it today, carefully, and I’ve not yet reached the end. I skimmed to the end to find the point at which it says:
Strictly Private and Confidential
The bishops’ responses to the requests of the working party
Tony Higton’s guide to homosexuality says: “[Some bishops] appeared to take the line that, provided individuals were discreet, they either did not wish to know what they did in their private lives or felt it inappropriate to get involved unless invited … A minority took a more liberal view …” No wonder the bishops didn’t agree to its publication!
The bishops were not able to place in the public domain a report which reviewed the theology and tradition of the church and the experience of homosexuals with great care and wisdom. It was for its time an outstanding report. I wish I had been given the opportunity to read it then. I would have had tools at my disposal to interpret my experience as a gay Christian which I have had to assemble largely on my own initiative over the subsequent 22 years.
In 1989 the bishops had in their hands a report which LGB&T Christians would have welcomed and valued and which contained an astonishingly good and even-handed survey of the material. Instead we had to endure Issues and then suffer the fall-out from Lambeth 1.10.
So in 2012 is the House of Bishops about to make up for its negligence 22 years ago? Osborne’s working party included 5 men and 2 women, one bishop and at least one gay man. The recently announced working party of 5 includes no women, 4 bishops, and no known LGB&T people. That’s scandalous. The church appointed a far more represntative group in 1986, God help us! This is going nowhere – except to guide the production of a consultation document in 2013. I have no confidence in the ability of these 5 men to be as creative and wise as Osborne’s group.
We will end up with 25 wasted years unless the House of Bishops alters course now and plays catch-up with the Osborne Report. There’s little that needs updating, a huge amount that is as valid now as then, and it is almost certainly going to be better than anything the bishops produce sometime in 2014 (if we’re lucky) after they’ve consulted.
It’s intolerable. So, let me repeat:
We hold to our convictions with deep, passionate, intellectual conviction. In the core of our being, the depths of our hearts and the prayerfulness of our souls, we tens of thousands of gay Christians together with the hundreds of thousands who are our friends, know the truth of our identity in Christ. We know (despite the best efforts of conservatives) that we are deeply, intimately and infinitely loved by God, as LGB&T people, because God has created us, just as we are.