The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has announced the appointment of Reverend Andrew Woodward, Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the LGBTi community in the Diocese of Chichester.
The aim of the post is to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of the LGBTi community and to identify what ministry among this community might look like if it is to be more effective.
The new officer will also represent the church in this community so as to build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them. Many feel they are tolerated but not included.
Dr Warner said today: “This post is about pastoral bridges in line with our diocesan strategy, know, love, follow Jesus. It is primarily about building, opening and crossing new and existing bridges towards great understanding and mutual flourishing.”
The Bishop added: “I think it is important to stress that the post holder is not expected to be an advocate for change in legislation or theological position. Neither can the creation of this post to be understood as establishing a particular policy change or a new direction of travel in the Diocese’ position on same-sex issues. Rather, it is essentially and creatively to enable the fulfilment of the established Church’s responsibility to offer a pastoral presence and a place of inclusion for all.”
“Reverend Andrew said: “I am very much looking forward to building relationships with colleagues across the Diocese and in particular ensuring that all are affirmed and included as part of the pastoral ministry of the Church, irrespective of their sexual orientation. I am keen to build relationships with people who may hold differing views, so that together we can work in trust and respect for one another, for the good of all. My priority within all of this process is to ensure that all voices are heard and that you feel able to approach me and share your views openly”.
The appointment comes shortly after the archbishops of Canterbury and York established a pastoral oversight group to advise Church of England dioceses on how to fashion a pastoral response to those in same-sex relationships following the recent debate at the General Synod of the Church of England. Link here
Biography: Fr Andrew Woodward has a long background in working within the banking Industry where his last role until 2013 was as Relationship Director with Lloyd’s Bank in their Commercial Banking Division. Following ordination training with the South East Institute for Theological Education, he was ordained in 1999 and has worked in parishes in the Dioceses of Guildford and London before moving to Chichester Diocese in 2007 and becoming Rural Dean of Brighton in January 2015.
Fr Andrew’s skill set has involved setting up and managing teams. He has experience of managing conflict and facilitating ways of allowing disparate voices to be heard and acknowledged, with a view to enabling “good disagreement” based on fruitful and positive relationships.
It is very gratifying for all who support the LGBTI community in the Anglican Communion to note this – the very first – appointment of a liaison officer in an Anglican Communion diocese – the Diocese of Chichester in the Church of England.
The fact that, within the Diocese of Chichester, the town of Brighton on England’s South Coast, quite probably contains a larger percentage of LGBTI people than any other city outside of Sydney, Australia; should not blind us to the fact that this is the very first attempt by an Anglican Bishop – in this case, Dr. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, to proactively welcome the presence of Gays within his diocese.
Though quick to state that this appointment does not imply any change of doctrine in the Church of England – with regard to the ecclesiastical accommodation of ‘Equal Marriage’ for same-sex couples – Dr.Warner, by this action, does at least acknowledge the welcome presence of LGBTI people within his part of the Church of England, Furthermore, he also acknowledges the need for a pastoral initiative that will be welcomed by his community.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand