MEMO: TO ALL MEMBERS OF GENERAL SYNOD
DATE: 31 January 2017
Inclusive Church recommends that in the debate on 15 February at General Synod, members should refuse to take note of ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops’, and further, should not take part in groupwork designed to gain approval of the document
Inclusive Church is clear about its convictions and its purpose as an educational charity. The Statement of Belief says:
We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.
It is the conviction of Inclusive Church that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is their conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship.
Inclusive Church identifies with the published priorities of the LGBTI Mission[i] as providing the basis of a safer, more just and equitable church in which all can flourish
We are not demanding that everyone sees things from our perspective, but that there should now be decisive moves towards a ‘mixed economy’ in the established Church of England in which we all have an interest
The very least we were looking for from the Bishop’s report to General Synod was action to assure the safety and well-being of LGBTI+ people both within the Church of England and beyond it. Medical research shows that LGBTI+ people carry a higher burden of mental health problems corresponding with social isolation and stigma; these are heightened in a community that pathologises LGBTI+ identities
The Report was a betrayal of the trust vested in the House of Bishops during the Shared Conversations process, and opens the way to a single, very conservative interpretation of these matters being introduced
In the absence of any action being recommended by the bishops to move to greater inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the life of the Church of England through liturgical, theological or doctrinal change, we have no confidence that the change of ‘tone’ and desire for ‘maximal freedom’ will be seen
The report itself has been a retrograde first step in that direction, with the vice chair of reflection group, Bishop Pete Broadbent, acknowledging that ‘it is a pretty conservative document’ to his clergy
Our understanding is that the majority of members of synod were looking to the College and House of Bishops, when they took the initiative to respond to the Shared Conversations process, to lay a path for a process of change, perhaps setting a programme of activity to realise some of the priorities articulated by the LGBTI Mission
We have no confidence that their stated intention to revise the Church of England’s document ‘Issues in human sexuality’ or the pastoral advice that clergy have for their engagement with LGBTI+ persons will lead to development in the safety provided for LGBTI+ people within the church, let alone lead to progress in affirmative pastoral support
We believe that progress to these can only be made when the Church of England formally recognises and affirms the theological diversity that is already present within its members
Our analysis is that contribution of the Bishops’ reflection group has not led to a report that reflects the mind or expectations of the Church of England’s synod, that at least minimal change take place; to this end, we ask members of synod to refuse to take note of the Report, indicating their dissatisfaction with its recommendations
Further, we understand that Synod members are to be asked to take part in group conversations before the debate to prepare the ground for an acceptance of what the bishops are proposing. LGBT synod members and their supporters have already participated in the Shared Conversations process at last summer’s Synod sessions, and for many also at a regional level. They have made themselves vulnerable for questionable outcome. To ask them to submit to any kind of further examination of the issues is both pointless and insulting and we urge all Synod members to refuse to take part in such group work
We ask members of synod use the ‘take note’ debate to ask the bishops to respond to the priorities of the LGBTI Mission.
In particular, we ask for a guarantee that acceptance and approval of theological diversity amongst members of the Church of England in these matters will be formally recognised
To enable this small move forwards we ask, not for further reports, but that the House of Bishops devise a commended liturgy which recognises and affirms LGBT partnerships as a blessing and gift of God
It has become obvious, since the publication of the Statement made by the Church of England House of Bishops recently, in response to the ‘Conversations’ on Human sexuality that have taken place over the past year in the dioceses; that LBGTI members of the Church are not happy with the Statement scheduled to be presented for discussion at the General Synod on February 15
‘Inclusive Church’, which represents many of the LGBT people in the Church of England, is now recommending that Members of the General Synod refuse to ‘TAKE NOTE’ of the ‘Bishops’ Report’.
this would mean that General Synod, as a body – or perhaps by a majority – discounts the Bishops’ Report as an unworthy summary of what actually took place in the ‘Conversations’.
Although only a minority voice in Synod, Inclusive Church offers the suggestion that most of the population falling into the area of ministry of the Church of England (the State Church’) would agree with the government’s attitude towards Equal Marriage for Same-Sex Partners, that has led to the introduction of a legally constitutional ceremony of Civil Marriage for S/S persons.
If this plea to members of General; Synod to NOT ‘Take Note’ of the Bishops’ Report were to secceed, then maybe the Bishops will have to go back to the drawing board and think again – about how they will treat the partners of a Same-Sex Marriage whose Christian faith and faithfulness lead then to believe that God will honour their relationship – in the same way the State so obviously does.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand