My speech from Synod on Wednesday;
Andrew Foreshew-Cain – London 161
Thank you, Mr Chairman, I am afraid I listened to rumours and prepared something lasting a minute, so forgive me if I stumble slightly as I try to find say a few more words.
Synod, I want to ask you not to do this, please, do not vote for his measure. We deserve better. Your LGBTI sisters and brothers deserve better, both here in the Church, and in the country. Our churches and communities deserve better. And the country we seek to serve with the love of Christ deserves better.
The report itself admits that it only addresses the concerns and divisions of the Bishops on marriage alone and nowhere do I think does it reflect the work and the struggle and the genuine listening we have all been involved in for the last three years. It fails to allow for the possibility of what we could achieve as a Church working together. I think the bishops have begun to realise that it is a document divorced from the living reality of the people of God.
We need something better to show that reality.
I suggest we need a Commission drawing together voices from across our Church, the voices of all of us. Yes, of course, the Bishops – but to help them understand where we really are, lay men and women taking serious their call to leadership in our Church. And we need openly confident LGBTI people in the room, taking part.
We need better, because we, your LGBTI brothers and sisters, are not beggars looking for a new tone or welcome on the borders of the Church seeking entrance. We are your family in Christ. We are baptised, faithful, and prayerful, we read and study our bibles.
I am not a case study.
We are flesh and blood.
We need to be able to honest about the divisions in this church as Jayne pointed out and that honesty should not be behind closed doors fearful of episcopal unity but genuinely honest about what divides us and the great hope in Jesus Christ that unites us all.
And we need to trust in each other, trust in our maturity in Christ to sit across the table with each other and see in each other the face of Christ despite our divisions.
And we need love. I need love. Oh God, do we all need love – to hear a little genuine, heartfelt love in this debate because it hasn’t been there much and perfect love casts out fear. The fear that I think this Report reflects too clearly.
Sisters and brothers in Christ. We need better. We deserve better. Synod, please, I beg you. Do not give in to fear, do not be afraid, do not take note.
Fr. Andrew Foreshew-Cain is a beneficed Anglican Vicar in the Diocese of London, who recently married his same-sex partner and is vitally interested in the Church of England’s seeming double-mindedness about the Church’s open acceptance of the legal relationships of many openly gay priests whose lives are, nevertheless, lived out in a spirit of service to the Church in their local communities.
Father Andrew was one of several speakers at the recent General Synod, whose experience of alienation by the Church authorities – simply because of their sexual identity as bearers of God’s Image and Likeness who happen to be ‘different’ in an ongoing culture of homophobia (and transphobia) that is no longer reflected in the world outside of the church – reveals the dichotomy between the seeming acceptance of them in the ‘Bishops Report’ and the contrasting statement (in the Report) of doctrinal opposition to their situation of being legally partnered in civil marriage.
The culture of institutional hypocrisy involves the fact that, in the Church of England, a same-sex partnered clergyperson’s pension rights have been officially extended to their surviving partner in the event of the clergyperson’s death. This shows a tolerance of a situation which the Church still has difficulty in admitting to. On the one hand, General Synod is exhibiting evidence of justice and charity towards committed same-sex clergy relationships. On the other hand, the recent ‘Bishops Report’ (rejected in the House of Clergy at this General Synod) refuses to consider changing the Doctrine of Marriage to accommodate the real situation of the monogamous same-sex legal partnerships among its serving clergy.
In stating that the Doctrine of Marriage cannot be changed; the Bishops seem to forget that the Anglican Church has already changed its doctrinal attitude to Contraception, Divorce and Re-Marriage. To extend the Institution of Marriage to include Same-Sex committed monogamous partnerships would do absolutely nothing to deny the veracity and holiness of the more usual heterosexual Marriage of two persons – a fact that remains, whether or not the Church comes to recognise Same-Sex Marriage as an extension of its extant doctrine.
It is salutary to realise that, in his Book: ‘Archbishop (Arthur Michael) Ramsey – The Shape of the Church’ (Revised 2015); Peter Webster says this of the Archbishop:
“Attached to catholic order though he was, Ramsey’s attachment to it was always subject to the reality of divine action in the present age. In a situation of crisis in church relations, and indeed throughout the church and the nation (UK) from the mid-1960s onwards, many things that had seemed certain in interwar Cambridge seemed mutable, dispensible. If the greater need of God’s Church on earth demanded it, then there was little in the ordering of God’s Church, so often thought to be immutable, that could not and ought not to be overturned. What God had instituted. He could surely amend”.
It was thus that Archbishop Michael Ramsey was privy to the following changes made in the Church of England’s understanding of (1) Homosexual Law Reform (with the ABC a willing party to this reform); (2) Marriage and Divorce and (3) Contraception.
The question now is: if Archbishop Michael were ABC in today’s Church, would he have helped to turn the tide of resistance to same-sex marriage in the Church of England?
I think he would!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand