A Statement by the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England, December 1991
The Church of England’s response to Lambeth 1.10
Issues was published in response to the 1988 Lambeth Conference call for all bishops of the Anglican Communion to undertake a ‘deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality (Resolution 64) URL.
Its purpose, stated in the Preface, was ‘to promote an educational process as a result of which Christians may become both more informed about and understanding of certain human realities.’
If Issues had been used for prayerful study and reflection as Archbishop George Carey wrote in the Preface, it might have served a useful purpose, although from the perspective of LGBT Christians, it was a conservative document which failed to reflect our wisdom and experience. However, the Archbishop turned it into a policy document without the authority of General Synod and it continues to be cited as the policy of the Church of England together with the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10.
The Statement concludes by returning to ‘[T]he predicament of the conscientious Christian homophile’(which) ‘raises complex issues.’ Changing Attitude believes that the presence of LGBT in creation raises in reverse complex issues for the Church, issues which the Church of England has shown itself reluctant to encounter.
Issues in Human Sexuality was a deeply flawed document when published and Changing Attitude believes that it fails to reflect the theology and Christian witness of the majority of LGBT Christians and should be consigned to history.
The crux of the matter for the Statement is whether sexual behaviour is holy in itself and conducive to growth in holiness. It defines holiness as whatever will be in accord with the spirit of Christ and promotes Christlikeness. (Para 2.26) The greater the degree of personal intimacy, the greater should be the degree of personal commitment. (Para 3.2)
Changing Attitude believes in the Statement’s ideal of an integrated human personality where body, feelings, mind and spirit work fully together. (Para 4.18) It assumes that lesbian and gay people are unable to achieve this degree of integration. The bishops think that there has to be a harmony between the physical and spiritual which same-sex couples are incapable of achieving. The broad experience of Changing Attitude shows that same-sex couples can achieve profound levels of physical and spiritual harmony.
The final chapter addresses the homosexuality in the life of the Church. It sets out two fundamental principles:
“[H]omophile orientation and its expression in sexual activity do not constitute a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as complete within the terms of the created order as the heterosexual.”
“Heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation or with the insights of revelation as the Church engages with these in the light of her pastoral ministry.”
Changing Attitude finds both of these fundamental principles wanting. It is no surprise that the conclusions drawn by Issues from this starting point are false, contrary to the claim in the Statement that the argument that personal identity is fundamentally bound up with sexuality is false. Issues in Human Sexuality does not give equal worth and dignity to LGBT people not accept that we are made in the image of God.
Conclusions drawn by Issues in Human Sexuality:
The ideal for lesbian and gay Christians is abstinence and self-denial. (Para 5.5)
Physical expression of ‘attachment’ to another person cannot be commended as a way of life that is a faithful reflection of God’s purpose. (Para 5.6)
Homophiles who do not renounce all physical sex relations must nevertheless be guided by some form of the Christian ideal of chastity appropriate to them. (Para 5.7)
Bisexual activity is always wrong because their sexual orientation is ambiguous and they are attracted to partners of either sex. (Para 5.8)
One-to-one partnerships are the only ethically serious model for homophiles. Rejection of permanent partnerships is pretentious disguise for the evil of promiscuity. (Para 5.9)
They believe the majority of homophile clergy are not in sexually active partnerships. (Para 5.11)
Clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships. (Para 5.17)
Clergy in homophile partnerships could not, in most parishes, be accepted as examples to the whole flock. (Para 5.16)
Partnered homophile clergy who come out as a matter of personal integrity take pre-emptive action within the movement for change in the Church’s perceptions and teaching (and by implication, shouldn’t). (Para 5.19)
The Statement says it is the fundamental responsibility of Christians to reject and resist all forms of homophobia and to be active in protecting those who are victimised. (Para 4.8) The Church of England has been far from robust in resisting homophobia and still fails to recognise and condemn prejudice against LGBT people.
Some issues in human sexuality
A second report, Some issues in human sexuality: A guide to the debate, was published in 2003. It is described as a discussion document and covers far more ground than the original Statement, running to 358 pages. It dealt, very inadequately, with Transsexualism for the first time. Changing Attitude was one of the groups consulted by the bishops who wrote the report. It has had little impact in motivating debate in the Church or informing people’s attitudes.
Issues in Human Sexuality: ISBN 071513745X
Some issues in human sexuality: ISBN 0715138685