CA writes to every bishop asking for honesty and courage

Press Release

Changing Attitude England has written to every Church of England bishop asking them to speak honestly about the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) Anglicans in the Church and acknowledge truthfully how they treat LGB&T people in their dioceses. 

Changing Attitude knows from the evidence of conversations with bishops and from our supporters that over 50% of bishops dissent from the current teaching and practice of the Church of England on homosexuality. They support, ordain and licence their LGB&T clergy, ordinands and lay ministers, including those in civil partnerships. They know that God does not discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and their expression of love in permanent, faithful, stable sexual relationships.

The House of Bishops meets in December and are expected to conclude a review of their 2005 civil partnership statement. This meeting marks the start of a critical period in the development of Church of England attitudes and policy towards LGB&T people. It will be followed in 2013 by the more wide-ranging report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling.

We hope those who are members of the House of Bishops will find the courage and confidence to talk honestly and with integrity when they meet in December. We hope and pray that they publish recommendations which will begin to transform the place of LGB&T people in the Church of England.

The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:

“If the Church does not want to reach a tipping point where it is too morally discredited to be respected on any issue, it is vital that its senior figures start, this year and next, to speak the truth.

“Some of the bishops to whom we have written are gay; some are bisexual; some are in gay relationships; some were sexually active with men when they were younger. Some may be unaware of the identity the fourteen gay bishops in the Church but we know from conversations that the majority of bishops will know some of them.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglican clergy and lay people need bishops to offer positive, healthy role models. We long for openness and honesty in the Church. Those bishops who are gay or bisexual and others who affirm LGB&T people have a particular responsibility to be prophetic and truthful the Church, to UK society and to God.

“To be open as a gay man when you are a bishop has become almost impossible since Jeffrey John was forced to resign, not apparently because he is gay but because he was honest. A huge amount is at stake in the personal and professional life of any bishop who reveals that he is gay. He risks losing his role in the church, stipend, house, privacy, social standing and much else. Changing Attitude knows what is at stake when you come out in the Church.

“The negative public stance of the Church of England towards civil partnerships in Church, the disastrous submission to the Government’s equal marriage consultation, and the negative Church culture which forces so many to hide their sexuality, all do immense harm to the mission of the Church in England.”

END

Contact:
The Revd Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude England
ccmcoward@aol.com
+44 (0)1380 724908
+44 (0)7770 844302
www.changingattitude.org.uk

Notes

1. Text of the letter
Dear bishop,

The House of Bishops’ meeting in December when those of you in the House consider the review of the 2005 civil partnership statement marks the start of a critical period in the development of Church of England attitudes and policy towards LGB&T people. It will be followed in 2013 by the more wide-ranging report from the Pilling group. If the Church does not want to reach a tipping point where it is too morally discredited to be respected on any issue, it is vital that its senior figures start, this year and next, to speak the truth. Because of this, we are writing to each of you personally and will also be publishing the text in a week’s time.

We hope discussion of both documents will take place in an atmosphere of honesty, truthfulness and trust. We need you to be honest about who you are, what you really believe about the place of LGB&T Anglicans in the Church and what you actually do in your dioceses, remembering that your discussion will affect all of you.

Some of you reading this letter are gay. Some of you are bisexual. Some of you are in a gay relationship. Some of you were sexually active with men when you were younger. Some of you may be unaware of the fourteen gay bishops in your midst. The majority of you will know some of them.

We believe those of you who are gay or bisexual and others who affirm LGB&T people have a particular responsibility to the Church, to UK society and to God. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglican clergy and lay people need bishops to offer positive, healthy role models. We long for openness and honesty in the Church.

We know that over 50% of bishops dissent from the current teaching and practice of the Church of England on this issue. You support your LGB&T clergy, ordinands and lay ministers, including those in civil partnerships. You are aware of the outpouring of God’s love and blessing on all creation, in which God does not discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and their expression of love in permanent, faithful, stable sexual relationships.

We hope that those of you who are gay or bisexual have integrated your sexuality and spirituality and know that your same-sex desires are a gift from God and a blessing in creation.

To be open as a gay man when you are a bishop has become almost impossible since Jeffrey John was forced to resign, not apparently because he is gay but because he was honest. A huge amount is at stake in the personal and professional life of any bishop who reveals that he is gay. He risks losing his role in the church, stipend, house, privacy, social standing and much else. Changing Attitude knows what is at stake to come out in the Church.

The public stance of the Church of England towards civil partnerships in Church, the disastrous submission to the Government’s equal marriage consultation, and the culture of the Church which forces so many to hide their sexuality (which isn’t an issue for the younger generation), all these things are doing immense harm to the mission of the Church in England.

When you meet in December we hope and pray you will find the courage and confidence to talk honestly and with integrity, agree to publish recommendations which will begin to transform the place of LGB&T people in the Church of England.

Yours sincerely,

2. House of Bishops pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships – July 2005
http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2005/07/pr5605.aspx

3. Group to advise House of Bishops on 2005 Pastoral Statement announced – December 2011
http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2011/11/group-to-advise-house-of-bishops-on-2005-pastoral-statement-announced.aspx

4. Group to advise House of Bishops on human sexuality announced – January 2012
http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/01/group-to-advise-house-of-bishops-on-human-sexuality-announced.aspx

5. Changing Attitude submission to the House of Bishops review group
http://changingattitude.org.uk/resources/publications/submission-to-the-house-of-bishops-review-group-2012

5. Winchelsea case sends a message to all bishops
http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/6429

The Revd David Page made an appointment with Bishop Wallace Benn in 2011 to apply for Permission to Officiate. David was refused a PTO because he declined to answer Wallace Benn’s question about whether or not the relationship was sexual.

The Rector and PCC of Winchelsea agreed that David should continue to preach and officiate at services and passed a resolution to that effect, knowing that David didn’t hold a PTO. When this came to the notice of the Archdeacon and Bishop Wallace Benn, procedures under the Clergy Discipline Measure were initiated against David.

David met the Bishop of Horsham Mark Sowerby (Acting Bishop of Chichester) on Wednesday 26 September 2012 for the formal conclusion of the complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

Before the meeting the penalty proposed by the Bishop was ‘an injunction not to officiate without permission for a period of three years.’ David and the bishop agreed the penalty and he was then immediately given permission to officiate in the Diocese.

Comments

  1. Richard Ashby says

    ‘…asking for honesty and courage’

    Colin, I do hope that the Bishops will respond with honesty and courage. I suppose that I would say that I will believe it whenI see it!

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