How can the Church of England publish something so offensive to her LGB&T members?

I woke this morning to the R4 Today programme’s news headlines about the Church of England’s response to the Government’s equal marriage consultation. I felt so angry. The Church has achieved another set of disastrous headlines thanks to its ill-considered submission. The Church looks like an institution in panic and crisis, terrified that the lesbian and gay hordes are about to breach the defences and destroy marriage in one decisive strategic move.

Is this another case of those holding the reins at Church House, William Fittall and the legal department, producing something with which many in the Church vehemently disagree? The dissonance seems to become more extreme with each authoritative announcement.

The submission and statement were drawn up with no consultation with or input by any lesbian or gay members of the Church of England or the organisations representing LGB&T Anglicans. My friends at Church House and in the House of Bishops, we are with you in the Church of God, we are Anglicans with a deep faith and prayer life and vision for the Church. Don’t we whom these proposals most deeply affect count? Are we invisible to you? What does ‘the Church of England’ mean in this context?

How is it possible for the Church of England which contains a wide spectrum of opinions on this issue and is clearly divided produce such a one-sided statement? My voice (and the voice of thousands of LGB&T Anglicans) has not been incorporated into the Church of England’s official response. It has been produced by a minority with no consultation. As others have said, the practice at Church House has become increasingly dishonest, deceitful and authoritarian.

The Church of England is clearly attempting to pressurise, and even manipulate, the Government into abandoning its commitment to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales. It is perceived to be putting pressure on the Prime Minister and even threatening the Government with disestablishment. This is a crazy move. Overly dramatic responses like this just make the institutional church appear to be more and more disconnected from reality and increasingly irrelevant.

The CofE press release says the legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed and to change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.

The senior staff at Church House don’t get it, do they? There are faithful, spiritual lesbian and gay Christians, committed to their parish church, who want more than legal equality and recognition for their relationships. We want our relationships blessed and consecrated in church in the same way as our straight friends get married in church.

The Church of England hierarchy seems to think that God perversely creates same-sex loving people but has imposed laws, applicable for all time, which prevent the Church from celebrating and blessing our commitment to one another in marriage.

By chance this morning I was reading a Quaker book about Friends’ involvement with homosexuality since Towards a Quaker view of sex was published in 1963. Pushing at the frontiers of change says Quakers should respect the whole diversity among us in our lives and relationships; refrain from making prejudiced judgements about the life journeys of others; foster a spirit of mutual understanding and forgiveness which discipleship asks of us; remember that each one of us is a unique, precious child of God. That advice was published in 1993. Quakers started considering the lack of provision for same-sex marriage among Friends in March 1987. It’s time for the Church of England to play catch-up rather than defending prejudice and the views of one sector of the Church.

Comments

  1. Davis Mac-Iyalla says

    This is the best thing I have read today, will you be able to submit it to the government consultation on same sex civil marriage? If the church can come up with such offensive statement without consulting us then its better they are expose for what they are, please give this post as much publicity as you can and thanks Colin for taking your time to write this and to speak out.

    • Colin Coward says

      Thanks Davis. The House of Bishops statement has aroused great anger amongst many Anglicans, and not just LGB&T Anglicans. I’d disappointed that bishops who are known to be supportive of their LGB&T clergy and lay people have allowed their names to be associated with such a negative statement. Yes, Changing Attitude will be making a submission to the Government in the light og the Church of England statement, setting our forcefully an alternative view.

  2. says

    Reflecting on this I realise it’s the HoB that have issued the statement, not ‘the Church of England’. No one has asked for the view of the members of the Church who, I believe, would by a margin be in favour. The vociferous minority have the ear…

  3. says

    As a straight Christian, I’m also deeply saddened and offended by what my church has said today – it’s certainly not my view. Marriage is for everyone.

    Thank you for bringing this gross injustice to our attention, Colin. Please let us know how we can support your alternative view statement.

    Anne Brooke

  4. Pam Gold says

    And so the ‘fight’ continues. The hierarchy are sounding desperate.
    Thankyou as always Colin for your leadership and faithfulness to the cause.

  5. AndrewKeep says

    After the best part of a century of building up a sense of participation- the Parish Communion Movement, exchanging the peace, synodical government, Doctrine Commissions, coffee after the service, everyone having to pay the parish share, etc. – it beggars belief that someone, or some small group, can suddenly step in and say “The Church of England’s views are…” without reference to others.

  6. Marion says

    I want to stay married to the woman I love, who is technically still a man because the government say she has to stay that way if we want to stay married. I also want to keep going to church, but after this statement was made I dont know how I can face everyone next Sunday morning. I already feel like an outcast, hardly anyone speaks to me, (those that do refer to my wife as he or your partner) but now I know what the church really thinks. I should get divorced, so they can hurry up and marry my spouse off to a nice man!
    Ironically, I phoned the registry office this morning and enquired about a renewal of vows ceremony. They informed me that they would be happy to perform such a service, changing the wording to reflect the fact we are now two females, so long as there was no religious content and we are already legally married. I have not noticed the world as we know it, falling apart yet……….

    • says

      Dear Marion, Don’t despair. Many of us have been lobbying the government and the House of Bishops about the anomalous position you and your spouse are in. This paragraph is from the Sibyls’ Submission to Equal Marriage Consultation:
      ‘2.6 We understand, from the Equalities Office, that this anomaly would be removed for these couples, even if they originally married in church, should the UK adopt same-sex civil marriage and would urge those drafting legislation not to lose sight of this important matter.’
      And to the House of Bishops Working Party on Human Sexuality:
      ‘Although the timetable for the equal civil marriage remains uncertain we wish to draw the House of Bishops’ attention to the fact that some married trans people have been left in a legal gender limbo by the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act because of their commitment to their spouses, and urge the Bishops to support same-sex civil marriage as a means of resolving this anomaly.’
      Sadly, as yesterday’s CofE Response indicated, the hierarchy/central officials are very out of touch – I am sorry that your local congregation are unable to ‘get it’ – sounds as if they too have a lot of learning to do.

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