NEWS EXTRA – Osborne Report published – 22 years late! And it’s good!!!!

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
Appendix 1
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.

If you want to make a difference, become a supporter or make a donation now. We’re not waiting until 2014. We want change, now, in 2012!


  1. Christopher Bowman says

    I guessed you would like it.. But there could have been more that it could have benefitted from from the belated & far too premature death of John Boswell and his academic contributions to the debate. Alas it can only be built upon.. But yes all these years later & with outbursts (not with passion!) from such as +Liverpool
    The last part (& other parts too available) on youtube..

    Why now at this time.. ? An attempt to defuse the situation..? or is it indeed a time to nail The Articles Faith to the Door of Reform.. Who ever would have believed that a German Roman Catholic Monk could have brought about a Pro testant Revolt which in turn subsequently brought about the Established Church (of England!)
    I can hear the words of a former protestant bishop of Worcester : Now: Be of good comfort, Master Coward, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
    We must run with this torch!
    Let us face it with the latest figures of church attendance down 10% in as many years… there has never been a better time to have this ‘item’ rendered moribund! Consigned to history with The European Convention Art 10 – which has been flouted all these years…

  2. Paul says

    You are right, Colin, the report is very good considering when it was written. Much as I don’t agree with all of it, I think those who prepared it are to be commended. I wonder if the bishops were too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. It would appear so. I dunno about the listening process, but the “explaining” process doesn’t seem to be much good either. Maybe if the explaining process had been better, the listening process might have been improved over the last 22 years.

    22 years of sweeping it under the carpet! It just beggars belief. How much longer do we have to wait for these people to want to discuss it openly like mature adults?


  3. Barnaby Miln says

    Soon after the Osborne Report was leaked in January 1990, the Secretary-General told me how to word my demand for an emergency debate of General Synod, then in session. I wanted to have the Osborne Report out in the open and debated.

    No doubt the Archbishops had a sleepless night considering my request, but by morning had decided to decline. The letter handed to me said that ‘they were not willing to take any action which could be interpreted as giving to the Osborne Report – “to it and it alone” – a status which it does not at this stage possess’.

    At coffee time the Archbishop of Canterbury came up to me to suggest that even if World War Three had broken out, he doubted if it would warrant an emergency debate. ‘But a good try, Barnaby, well done’, Robert Runcie said.

  4. Rosemary says

    I am speechless to discover this has been covered up for so long – and 2 of the people on the Committee are known to me!! What a shocking waste of lost time – I remember ploughing in 1991 ish through “Issues of ~Sexuality” which was scarcely readable and not as advanced as this.

    What Colin asks is the absolute minimum we should have – we not only need catch-up but overtake and progress. It is now 2012 and I still cannot understand the problem!

    This suppression is hypocritical behaviour to put it mildly.

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