L.G.C.M versus GAFCON

Reactions to the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude have issued a joint statement:

Statement from Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement on the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality.

Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
James 1.21-25

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude have welcomed the establishment of a Reflection Group under the leadership of Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. Whilst expressing disappointment that a group tasked with reflecting on issues of human sexuality does not appear to include any openly gay people, we recognise that this simply reflects the reality within the church’s leadership – that LGBT people are invisible, our voices often silenced, and our experiences unheard. We welcome the opportunities which have arisen as part of the Shared Conversations to included the lived experience, deep conviction and prophetic witness of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and we recognise the enormously costly nature of the contribution many people have made to that process.

The Reflection Group must now consider the Church’s steps into the future. In doing so, they will be called to listen carefully to all they have heard during the Shared Conversations. We call upon them to lead the House of Bishops towards a future that celebrates the gifts of all God’s people including the LGBTI members of the Church of England and embodies the radical equality to which we are called in Christ.

Our prayer is that, strengthened by the Spirit, the members of the group will be enabled to listen, reflect and discern, and that as they undertake their work they will be granted moral courage and prophetic vision. For we are all alike called to be not only hearers of the Word, but doers too; our actions must match our words in seeking God’s justice, compassion and truth.

We continue to look forward to a future where LGBT people are no longer seen as a problem to be solved, but as gifted members of the Body of Christ, equal partners in prayer, service and mission. Anything less than that falls short of the Good News that God’s abundant love is for all humankind and that although LGBT people may struggle to find their place inside the church at the moment, God will travel with them when they choose the path of life, wherever that takes them.

GAFCON UK has issued this statement:

GAFCON UK Statement following the appointment of a ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ on homosexuality

18th September 2016

GAFCON UK is puzzled as to why the Church of England needs a ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ on homosexuality. Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference is clear, and the Bible is universally clear. We stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are same-sex attracted, and faithfully living according to God’s revealed plan for human flourishing. As pastors, teachers, friends, and neighbours we can have no other response. The Church of England needs to have the courage of its foundational convictions, return to them, and move on to its mission of calling the nation to turn to Christ as the only Saviour and Lord.

Comments from various people have been reported in the media:

  • John Bingham Church liberals’ anger over ‘traditionalist dominated’ bishops’ gay marriage panel
  • Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 September 2016
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  • Being a reader of the liberal Anglican web-site THINKING ANGLICANS and its lead commentator, Simon Sarmiento in the U.K., I find it most interesting, here, to note the two very different reactions to the appointment of the ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ in the Church of England which has been charged with the responsibility to find a way forward that will allow for a fit and proper way to include LGBT people into the fullness of Church life and at the same time, consider the possibility of Blessing a legally-instituted Same-Sex  Civil Marriage.
  • The LGCM and the advocacy group ‘Changing Attitude’ have cautiously welcomed the formation of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, while questioning the fact that there is no input from anyone known to be Gay. Bearing in mind the fact that the fairly recently episcopally-ordained Bishop of Grantham was made a bishop in the C. of E. – with the ABC and other bishops knowing about his sexual orientation and same-sex partnership – one might have thought that he would be a valuable asset to the group. Especially when one considered that one of the actual members of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, +Rod Thomas, also newly-ordained as a bishop, is known to be a fully paid-up member of the opposition to the LGBT movement in the U.K
  • Predictable is the reaction of the GAFCON (UK) sodality, which has been raised up specifically in the U.K. to oppose any forward movement towards the inclusion of Gay people in British Anglican Churches – all on the basis of its view of the few negative Scriptural references to homosexuality (although Jesus is not known to have even mentioned the subject directly; though he may have made an oblique reference to it in his statement about: ‘eunuchs, who are so from their mother’s womb” – Matt.19:12).
                                                         Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Here is a comment by Anthony Archer, former member of the General Synod,

“This joint statement from LGCM and Changing Attitude is completely on message, in sharp contrast to much else that has so far been said (and no doubt will continue to be said) by others. The House of Bishops, and the Presidents ++Welby and ++Sentamu have the awesome task of leading the Church of England forward on this most vexed issue. For the moment, it is their task alone, with the added benefit of input from other members of the College of Bishops, to report to the General Synod in February 2017.

To enable that to happen a working group had to be formed, hence the announcement of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. Its membership was always going to be criticised. It contains no person or persons who identify as LGBTI. No surprise there. But is does consist of members from across the conservative-liberal spectrum of traditions. It has two conservative evangelicals (with an eye to the status quo), two rather more open evangelicals (but who can probably be expected to hold traditional views on marriage) and six other members who may be expected to hold, to a greater or lesser extent, more progressive views (each of whom would of course have to be asked for their opinion, else this remains speculation).

To those who say the group contains no pro-LGBTI supporters, well how do we know that? Bishops have, largely, been tight-lipped on where they stand. The Church’s teaching currently stands and there is the inevitable collective responsibility. But watch this space. As a representative group of the House of Bishops it could not be bettered, and with a very experienced and wise Chairman, well capable of holding the ring in discussion. It contains no co-opted members who could have provided a LGBTI voice. No surprise there. This is a group appointed from within.

The time for talking is largely over for the moment. The experiences of LGBTI Christians have been given much-needed voice throughout the Shared Conversations and of course more need to be heard and acknowledged. But this is now about process, set of course within the inevitable political framework. To those who are calling for action, this is the group that will advise the House on possible actions. The College of Bishops has been sworn to secrecy and there have been few, if any, hints as to what the nature of the discussion was. But it is unthinkable that more than a tiny minority believe that the status quo can prevail.

This task is therefore about what change might be proposed, and over what timeframe. It is also unthinkable that mere tinkering with concepts of further pastoral accommodation will be adequate. Armchair commentators such as those like me who inhabit TA would be well advised to go back into our boxes and pray.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 21 September

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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