This press release was issued yesterday by LGBTI Mission:
LGBTI Mission calls on Church of England to move forward following completion of Shared Conversations
The LGBTI Mission rejoices that almost all General Synod members were willing and able to engage in conversation and listening about human sexuality. We commend David Porter and his team for their excellent work in bringing this about. It is also clear that very many throughout the Church of England want to see change soon, as a priority for mission.
We call on the House of Bishops to bring forward bold proposals that enable the Church of England to move towards LGBTI equality, of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes.
Same-sex marriage is only one item on the table. There are other important issues, which could be resolved sooner and more easily. Some do not need synodical approval. We urge the bishops to review urgently all the areas listed in our LGBTI Mission launch document.
We also ask bishops to consult fully with their own LGBTI laity and clergy who are directly and personally affected by current discriminatory policies.
Simon Sarmiento, Chair of the LGBTI Mission said: “Now is the time to move forward and take action. Church leaders and LGBTI church members, of all convictions, need to work together to devise answers to these problems. We now have an opportunity to change the way that LGBTI people are treated in the Church. A good start would be to have a staff member funded to coordinate work in this area and show that the national Church is serious about change.”
Two specific examples of other urgent issues are:
There is a Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion (see text below) awaiting General Synod debate, which asks the Church to improve its welcome to Transgender people and for the House of Bishops to recommend suitable rites and prayers to mark their transition journeys. Debate on this was recently deferred a second time. We urge the bishops to endorse that motion and to ensure it is debated without further delay.
An issue not requiring synodical action is the current ban on clergy entering same-sex civil marriage, contained in paragraph 27 of the House’s February 2014 Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The widely inconsistent application of this has brought the Church into serious disrepute. It must be reconsidered urgently.
Media reports suggest the bishops may revive the 2013 Pilling Report recommendation (see Recommendations 16 and 17 on page 118) to allow clergy who wish to do so to “mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service” but only as a “pastoral accommodation” without authorizing any formal liturgy. This would be welcome as an interim step towards the long-term goal of enabling same-sex marriages in the Church of England. But the addition of approved liturgical forms would improve clarity and give clergy protection against unwanted disciplinary complaints.
The Blackburn Diocesan Synod motion is as follows:
WELCOMING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
…to move on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod:
‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’
Statement following conclusion of Shared Conversations Process
12 July 2016
Over the last 2 days members of General Synod have met in an informal setting in which they have listened and been heard as they have reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality.
Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion with over 1300 members of the church directly involved. It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.
In comments to members of Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness, and grace.
That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming.
Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence. Confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Fr Harry Williams was a Cambridge don, tutor to the Prince of Wales, who, aged 50, entered an Anglican religious community. This is his autobiography. It is fair to say that it caused a stir when p…
So that Group of Sessions ended. The formal word is ‘prorogued’ which simply means bringing it to its end. But it felt odd to know that the Synod had ended but we were still meant to be here.
When I was a kid, going to the pictures was a bit of a bargain – unlike today – you got a film to watch before you saw the main feature, the film you had really gone to see, and, of course, you still had the adverts, for the local Indian or Chinese restaurant. They were called ‘B’ movies, they were of variable quality, sometimes rubbish, but it was something to watch or eat your sweets through. Well, this Synod has taken me back to those days in the Magna Cinema in Wigston where I was brought up and where I went with my sister every Saturday for the children’s film club.
The business of Synod, though interesting and important, felt like the starter to a meal, the film before the main feature. We all knew that the Shared Conversations would be the thing that we would remember most about the July Synod in York in 2016. It could be, by the grace of God, a positive turning point for the Church of England, it could be the ultimate car crash, or, of course, (and perhaps most likely) as indeterminate as most things can be in Synod life until, as with women bishop’s, the rubber finally hits the road.
So, the legislative business ended, a revision committee will look at the Amending Canon on vesture and the burial of those who have committed suicide. The talent pool will continue to be stocked with promising new people, leaders will be trained for leadership, the Archbishops’ Council will do its work, schools will continue to offer excellent education and the budget has been passed so that we can spend money creatively for mission and ministry. Life goes on.
In the evening yesterday news came through that the URC Church had made the decision, by a large majority, to allow same-sex marriages to take place in those churches who wish to conduct them. It was a timely reminder that society and the church is moving on around us and we are looking more and more isolated. I’m proud of the Methodists, some of the Baptists, the Church of Scotland and now the URC for having the courage, confidence and vision to take this step.
How do I feel as we embark on these two days? This will be my third set of Shared Conversations, so in one sense I know a bit of what will happen. But the regional one and the diocesan one that I took part in were not with people who would have to create some kind of outcome. Members of the General Synod are here to be part of the governance of the church and to make decisions about its future. We all know that. We also know that we will be together as a Synod until 2020. So it is different and I suspect it will feel different. But I entered those other two conversations positively and trusting in the Protocol and the process and my trust was well placed. So, despite all the undercurrents of negativity that sweep around Synod, I enter these conversations positively and trusting in the God I always trust and who I know loves me, for that God created me, my ultimate father, my ultimate mother.
We are asked not to blog and Tweet during the process but afterwards we can share some reflections. So, until then I’m being prorogued …. but I promise, I’ll be back!
This verse from the hymn by Jan Struther I’m making my prayer as we begin this journey.
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Posted: 08 Jul 2016 @ 00:03 – Comment – ‘CHURCH TIMES’
ATTITUDES to homosexuality have changed rapidly in the past few years, though less in the Church than in society at large. For some, the changes have been too rapid and have not been accompanied by any new theological understanding.
Others, too, lament a lack of theological thinking but believe that the changes in attitude have been far too slow. On the eve of the General Synod’s Shared Conversations, in which members will discuss their differing views on sexuality, we spoke to one young man for whom this is a live issue, and who says that he cannot wait while the Church slowly comes to an opinion about how he should regard himself.
David (not his real name) works in a national post for a mission organisation whose stance on same-sex partnerships is well known.
He began: “I’ve always known that I’m gay, even growing up in a church in which homosexuality was rarely discussed. And I still am, after years of praying that it would just go away. Now I don’t know what’s right. . .
“As a kid, I felt like it would just go away — that it was just a phase. But it didn’t. I believed it was wrong. I’ve been very fortunate with my parents, but there was no question of showing them when I was younger: I felt completely embarrassed about it. All the talk then was that it was OK to be gay — ‘Some people just are that way’ — as long as no one did anything about it. So I didn’t.
“After university, though, I was on the way home, sat on a train, head in my hands, realising that one way or another I was going to lose my life. Either I lived a lie or jumped off a bridge.”
David is not a campaigner. “I don’t want to run down the street carrying a rainbow flag,” he says. “I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality.” But his feelings of isolation meant he had to tell someone.
“The first friend I told, I thought I’d send her a message so that she could respond in her own time. She came back and she was absolutely brilliant. She said, ‘Look, we love you, whatever happens,’ and so I started to tell a few other people who were close to me.”
But it didn’t all go so well. “I did have some people who were definitely not positive. Some people haven’t spoken to me since. There’s some spectacular naïvety out there in the Church, too. Someone asked me if I’d really thought about it. Just every day since puberty, mate. Someone else said they’d help me get through it, to a ‘normal’ life, married to a woman, with kids. They all seemed to feel like they had the answers. I mean, I’d been asking God for years, and he hadn’t given them to me, but thank goodness there were people here to provide what the good Lord couldn’t. People say it takes a weight off your shoulders. It didn’t for me.”
COMING out didn’t mean looking for a relationship, either. “Where I work, and in my current church, I just couldn’t start a relationship. I told my boss, when I started, that I was gay, I thought he should know. He hugged me. He’s been great, but he’s subject to the organisation, too. I feel like a flawed version of normal there. It’s OK while it’s not common knowledge, but, if I was with someone, my reputation would nosedive.
“None of this has ever been an issue for my non-churchgoing friends. They insist that I can’t possibly be sacked for being in a gay relationship. But the organisation I work for would have ways of making life very difficult for me. If I did get into a relationship, I’d either have to keep quiet about it, or leave.”
The psychological toll may be obvious, but David found that few people considered his emotional needs. “Everyone acts like it’s the only important aspect, but it’s not about the sex. It’s the fact that I’ll never have what you have: companionship, partnership, the feeling of belonging to someone. I’m a very relational person — I need to be, for my job. I look at my straight, married friends, and although I can see, sometimes, that marriage might be difficult, it’s also what most of us aspire to.
“I sit at weddings and hear people talk about how it’s the perfect expression of God’s love, partners coming together; how two are stronger than one, and it’s better not to be alone. But if I were to stand there with someone I loved, someone who builds me up, that would be the perfect expression of sin. You’re asking me to run on one leg.”
ALONGSIDE the negative conversations he overhears about homosexuality, David constantly has them with himself. “I think what’s worst of all is that, even in my own head, I can’t shake off the feeling that it’s wrong to be gay. I don’t want to justify something as right if it’s wrong. I don’t know what’s right. There’s always an opposing view in my head, and I can’t tell if it’s my background or my conscience.”
Ultimately, though, he wants to exist — and to come to a solid view — in his community. His is conservative: “I know there have been some high-profile people coming out recently, but those people were always pretty out there in terms of my Evangelical tradition. I’m right in the mainstream. I’m not a fringe individual. I don’t want my ability questioned, or to be labelled as gay. My nightmare is speaking at a major conference, as I do now, and being introduced with my name, title, and then ‘openly gay’.
“It’s so hard to find counsel on this subject because people fall into two camps. They either say, ‘Wait, this is all fine, come and join our liberal side;’ or they say ‘No, it’s wrong.’ And you know what? It has so few implications for them — for any of the people in positions of influence. Their lives aren’t going to change as a result. Sure, spout your views from your armchair, sat next to your loving wife. This isn’t just an intellectual debate that needs to be settled, for me. It has huge outcomes for my life. I’d love the consensus to change on this, I’d love people to say that we, the Church, have been getting this wrong, but it’s a dream.”
The tension is becoming unbearable. For him, it’s a balancing act that cannot be maintained. “I’m coming to the conclusion that a future in Christian ministry is not for me, because of all this. Is all this what God intended?”
In other sectors, none of this is an issue. “There are other career options. I think I’m going to give it a year. I believe God can transform people’s lives — more than ever. But from where I am, it just doesn’t seem healthy to stay. There are already days when I go to sleep not caring whether I wake up or not.”
It becomes clear in the course of our interview that David is a warm, committed, and empathetic character, and his work appears to be valued highly by his organisation. But he may not feel able to stick with it in the long term. “I don’t want to have to face this battle. It’s a burden I don’t want to have to carry. I think I’m out.”
I suspect there are many in this young man’s situation – intrinsically gay and yet aware of his Church’s negative attitude towards the gay community. There is little doubt that he has no other option but to be as he is – silent about his true nature. It is not simply a matter of adjusting to an apparent need to be ‘different’. He is obviously aware that to fit in with the expectations of the Church community that he serves and is a part of, he should opt into a heterosexual relationship and try to conform to their understanding of what they discern as the ‘biblical’ model of settled life in a Christian society. But he just can’t. It is just not a valid option for him. Nor does he want to be celibate. He wants a warm, loving and faithful partner relationship, but is inhibited by the need for secrecy about his inclinations.
One suspects though that there are many of his evangelical counterparts in the Church who feel they simply do not fit into what they have been taught is the ‘proper’ attitude towards their innate sexual orientation. Although society has increasingly come to terms with the etiology of sexual difference – even to the point of welcoming the legal possibility of same-sex marriage – the Church (with some notable exceptions, like the United Reformed denomination in the U.K., which has just stated its openness to the celebration of S/S Marriage on a parish to parish basis) has been slow to accept society’s general acceptance of homosexuals as part and parcel of the total population.
This article in the Church Times was published prior to the closed-door discussion of the result of the Church of England’s ‘Conversations’ on Human Sexuality at the General Synod meeting in York. At this very moment, beginning on Sunday afternoon, the Synod of 500 members are meeting, both in small groups and the larger assembly, with the express purpose of trying to find a way to deal pastorally with people like this young man, who are already part of the Church and who would dearly love to be recognised as who they are in Christ – irrespective of what happens to be their inbuilt sexual identity. Also, they would like to know that, if and when they find the right partner, the Church will publicly acknowledge their monogamous relationship with a Blessing.
Contrary to the expressed opinion of those conservative Anglicans who have refused to be part of the Synod deliberations on this matter, the acceptance of same-sex faithful relationships will not have a detrimental effect on heterosexual marriage. Why should it? Is there any record of a marriage break-up because of same-sex partners being allowed to make their vows together in either a register office or the Church? The reality is that less young people are now interested in the marriage rite – whether civil or religious. Would Same-Sex Marriage affect that situation?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
Speaking of the process and today’s vote, the Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC said: ‘Today the URC has made an important decision – at which some will rejoice and with which others will be uncomfortable. Those of our churches who now wish to offer full marriage services to same-sex couples are free to do just that – and those churches who do not wish to are not compelled to. All are part of this denomination. This has been a sensitive issue for many in our churches. It has been important to take our time over the decision process, and to listen as carefully as we can to one another along the way.’
Could this latest news from the U.K.’s United Reform Churches be a foretaste of what may come out of the Church of England’s General Synod determination on the outcome of its ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality? :
” It has long been clear that the denomination cannot express a single view on the issue of same-sex marriage and, at the 2015 Assembly it was ruled that the decision on whether an individual United Reformed Church congregation can host marriages of same-sex couples lies wholly with each local church. This is the policy that was confirmed today as the Church’s decision.”
This would seem to point the way to how Anglican Churches around the world might deal with requests from their membership for a Church Blessing of a committed, monogamous Same-Sex Relationship within their congregations.
By allowing individual church communities (parishes) to decide whether to welcome LGBT people into their local Church family; this would obviate the need to legislate a particular requirement for every parish or clergy-person to accommodate Same-Sex Blessings against their will.
Short of allowing an actual Marriage ceremony to be performed for Same-Sex couples in Anglican Churches; this might well prove the most efficacious way of dealing with the need to cater for those within the Church who want their monogamous S/S relationships to receive the Blessing of God and of their local congregation; thus encouraging those people with intrinsic same-sex attraction to feel welcomed in the Body of Christ.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand