Six members of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition are meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace tomorrow, Thursday. I’m representing Changing Attitude. The other five, representing with me all 8 member groups of the Coalition are Tina Beardsley, Mike Dark, Jeremy Marks, Savi Hensman and Clare Herbert.
The goal of the meeting, agreed between us, is a getting to know one another so as to build a relationship of understanding and trust. The archbishop is keen to listen and learn from us, not least given the constituencies and concerns we represent.
Both Lambeth Palace and the Coalition have agreed that everything we discuss in the conversation will be regarded as private. The ground rules have been established in the spirit of being as mutually open and transparent as possible, for the sake of the primary purpose of the meeting, which is not about publicity but about establishing some relationship of mutual understanding and trust, in the hope of working together fruitfully and constructively for the sake of the wider church.
The members of the Coalition have developed a series of questions which we would like to address with the Archbishop and we have already sent him a briefing paper listing the issues which are important to us. It’s a long list and we are not going to address many of them tomorrow. The intention if for this to be the first of a series of meetings. I’m sure that tomorrow, the Archbishop’s thinking on many of the issues in our list will become apparent, and the list may be edited down.
LGB&T Anglican Coalition questions to explore with the Archbishop:
- What does the Archbishop believe the Bible has to say about being LGBT as we understand it today?
- Which theologians has the Archbishop read, or might he read, on the case for accepting faithful same-sex partnerships?
- How does the Archbishop intend to get a better understanding and appreciation of the frustration LGBT Christians are experiencing in the Church of England and what plans does he have to address this?
- To what extent does the Archbishop appreciate the mission damage this frustration is causing?
- How aware is the Archbishop that some parishes are inhospitable places for LGB&T people? Will he take a lead in helping to make it a safer place for them? If so, how and when does he propose to do this?
- What does the Archbishop mean by reconciliation? [we are reading what he has said and written on this subject]
- How much experience does the Archbishop have of transgender people, and what are his thoughts and plans for greater trans inclusion in the Church of England.
- What are the Archbishop’s views on the Church of England permitting churches to offer prayer and dedication (or prayer and thanksgiving) for couples who have had a civil partnership (or civil marriage) ceremony?
- What are the Archbishop’s views on liturgies of blessing for same sex couples?
- What protection can clergy who are in CPs expect from diocesan bishops who are openly hostile to such couples and are perceived as deeply homophobic?
- Opportunities for care at theological colleges.
- Mixed messages being given to would be ordinands about how open to be.
- No more statements about us without us (with men & women in marriage and Pilling in mind)
- The CofE’s role in obtaining faith exemptions to trans equality
- The men and women in marriage report is causing dismay because, once again, a church report stigmatises lesbian and gay people and their relationships as second class. There is also evidence (the critique of the report by Charlotte Methuen, a member of the Faith and Order Commission that produced the report) that dissenting views are not included in the Church of England’s official statements, even as a minority report.
- To ask about the possibility of opening up a wider range of talks within the CoE, and to ask that an agenda for future action is prepared.
- His views on the need for greater education on LGB&T issues within the CoE.
- His views on the HoB reports on Civil Partnerships and Human Sexuality.
- What does he mean by Reconciliation?
Peter Tatchell to meet the Archbishop
The Archbishop is meeting Peter Tatchell two and a half hours after we leave. Peter has written:
“I applaud the Archbishop’s willingness to engage in dialogue – all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church.
“I hope our meeting is not mere window-dressing and good PR for the church. I’m expecting more than tea and sympathy.
“I will be urging a rethink of the church’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage and an end to Anglican collusion with the persecution of gay people in Nigeria and Uganda.
“I plan to call on the Archbishop to embrace a new historic compromise with the gay community: that the church can continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong but will agree that homophobic discrimination is also wrong – and actively oppose it.
“Discrimination is not a Christian value. The Archbishop should therefore oppose all discrimination against gay people, including the ban on same-sex civil marriage.
“I am asking Archbishop Welby to make a clear distinction between what he and the church believe is morally wrong and the law of the land.
“While the Archbishop is entitled to reject homosexuality as unacceptable, in a liberal democracy he is not entitled to insist that his religious beliefs are legislated into law by banning same-sex civil marriage ceremonies.
“The Church of England’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage is a direct and un-Christian attack on the human rights of gay people.
“While Anglicans have every right to refuse to conduct religious gay marriages, they should halt their campaign against gay marriages hosted by civil authorities. The church should have no jurisdiction or veto over marriages in register offices.
“This is the first time any Archbishop has offered to meet me. Even a liberal like Rowan Williams never welcomed me to Lambeth Palace. Justin’s invitation is progress.
“In 1997, ten of us from the gay rights group OutRage! scaled the walls of Lambeth Palace and confronted the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, over his opposition to legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This time I’m going to Lambeth Palace through the front door at the Archbishop’s invitation. It makes a nice change.”
An new engagement
Peter’s agenda is different from ours, covering issues that, for Changing Attitude, are equally important – an end to Anglican collusion with the persecution of gay people in Nigeria and Uganda.
I feel very positive about tomorrow’s meeting and the opportunity it creates for the development of new relationships and understandings. Changing Attitude is actively engaged with the Church of England and the House of Bishops in extending the conversation about the place of LGB&T people in the Church beyond the polarised encounters which have become all too predictable. We have a larger vision of Christian life which I have been exploring in recent blogs. This too will form part of tomorrow’s conversation.
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition members are:
Accepting Evangelicals is a open network of Evangelical Christians who believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life.
Changing Attitude is a campaigning group drawn by God’s love to work for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Anglican Communion.
The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians (EFLGC), formed in 1979, is a group of women and men, most of whom are lesbian, gay or bisexual and come from an evangelical Christian background..
Inclusive Church is a network of individuals and organisations working to break down the barriers to full inclusion at all levels of the Church of England.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement is a UK-based international Charity which challenges homophobia and transphobia, especially within the Church and faith based organisations.
The Sibyls is a UK-based confidential Christian spirituality group for transgender people, and their supporters.
The Two:23 Network is a new network of Christians, connected by LGBT issues that aims to include and encourage all to discover the love of God for themselves, pursue the call of Christ and live in a way that cherishes others just as God cherishes us. It has developed from the LGBT-affirming ministry of Courage.
General Synod Human Sexuality Group works in General Synod for deeper understanding on issues of sexuality.