Category : Sexuality

(VM) Canon Giles Goddard offers some thoughts on the Living in Love & Faith Project

To be on the LLF Co-ordinating Group at the moment feels weird. We review and revise and re-edit the resources, on the basis of feedback from a wide range of people – more or less equally balanced between progressives and conservatives. We are working in the heat of the moment, and yet, because all is not yet ready for publication, we are working away from the public eye.

I think that what is emerging is something which just might do what Jeremy hopes it might. Films which tell real people’s stories, offered to us with vulnerability and trust, from across the spectrum. A book which opens up the variety of human relationships and understandings of sexuality and gender, recognising that we are, as a Church, in an unprecedented situation where there is a strong desire for unity but also deep questions about whether that must also require uniformity.

But I am so close to the process that I fear I may have lost my sense of perspective. And I know that the hinterland to which I am closest, the LBGTI+ community, is tired of waiting, tired of scraps from the table, tired of being fobbed off. LLF is a process; it will involve more talking, more listening, with a clear timetable for some decisions, but the timetable is not quick and any decisions to be made are far from being considered, let alone recommended. Meanwhile, opinion continues to change and more and more Christians accept the possibility of equal marriage.

Many people have said to me – ‘why can’t the Church just change? Why’s it all taking so long?’ To which my reply is that if we were a different Church, we could indeed have just changed a long time ago. If we were a Church made up only of progressive Christians, of people who are relaxed about the diversity of ways in which God created humans, then it would be easy to change. But we aren’t: we are a Church which includes many more conservative Christians, and many of us, including me, were brought to faith within those more conservative churches… and the eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Psephizo) Peter Ould–Do we know what Anglicans think about same-sex marriage?

I could go on, but the point is clear – the poll does not represent what the press release claims it does. It is not a reflection of Church of England members in the pews, it does not show any change in support for same-sex marriage in the past four years and it uses terms with little or no qualification in a manner that misleads the reader as to the meaning of the poll. That most of these issues have been pointed out on a previous occasion but have been ignored by the authors demonstrates a deliberate choice to perpetuate these errors for the sake of a political cause.

I close with a challenge to Jayne Ozanne and her self-referential Foundation. As described above, one very easy way to correct these errors would be to ask at least one extra question around church attendance. If Jayne Ozanne were to repeat the exercise, I will happily fund the asking of this extra question, the wording of which would be determined by a neutral third party to the agreement of both parties. My hypothesis is that by looking at church attendance statistics you would see that (a) the majority of these “Anglicans” are not active church members at all and (b) the active church members would hold statistically significantly different views on the subject to the non-church-attending respondents. In fact, this kind of work has been done before, by Mark Regnerus in the States. What he found was that nominal, non-church-attending respondents were indistinguishable from the general population, not only on this issue but on sexual morality more broadly, whilst it was active, church-attending members who held views on all these issues quite out of step with the wider culture. Were the Ozanne Foundation poll to make this kind of enquiry, and find something similar, then it would be significant—but rather awkward.

Proper academic inquiry, including in the area of quantitative study, is open to further information and to clarification and stratification in this manner. It adds to the body of human knowledge, it helps to deepen our understanding of sociological issues. There is no good reason why the Ozanne Foundation should refuse such an offer unless they were afraid that the results such an extra question would generate would undermine their position, but in the area of academic research that is not a good enough reason not to explore a subject in greater detail.

The challenge is clearly there – the issues with the poll have been on numerous occasions and now a cost free option exists to correct them.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sociology

(CT) Polyamory: Pastors’ Next Sexual Frontier

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. Though they were clear they did not affirm Tyler’s choice, they did affirm their love for Tyler, Amanda, and their grandkids. They made a point to keep their weekly Thursday afternoon “dates” with their grandkids and stay a part of their lives. Because of this, Tyler has maintained his relationship with his parents, and though his relationship choices are unbiblical, they have been able to communicate their love and care for him and his family. Amanda’s mother responded differently. Decades earlier, her relationship with Amanda’s father had ended when he had proposed a polyamorous relationship and then left when she wasn’t open to it. Amanda’s choice reopened her mother’s unhealed wounds. Feeling angry and betrayed, Amanda’s mother effectively broke off the relationship with her daughter. When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. When we want to lovingly call people to repentance, we should be precise about what needs repentance and what relationships or elements can and should be sanctified in Christ. For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. In the example above, Amanda and Tyler both need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery. A pastoral approach would commend them for their desire to have other adults contribute to the life of their family but point them to the church—not a polyamorous relationship—as the place where God intends for that to happen.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Polyamory, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) General Synod accepts that ‘serious money’ must be found for abuse survivors

Calls for “proper” and “just” redress for survivors of clerical abuse, with “serious money”, were made in an emotional debate on safeguarding in the General Synod on Wednesday morning.

The Synod voted unanimously for an amended motion to endorse the response of the Archbishops’ Council to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The amendment, brought by the next lead Bishop of safeguarding, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, asked that the original motion be reinforced by “concrete actions”. Earlier attempts to strengthen it had foundered (News, 7 February). Dr Gibbs’s amendment also urged the National Safeguarding Steering Group to commit to a “fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors” and to update the Synod on the progress on the IICSA recommendations not later than 2021.

Redress was a small phrase with large implications, Dr Gibbs said. “It will mean serious money [and] changes in ways we handle claims and complaints.” Safeguarding responses must be “shaped by the righteousness and compassion of God’s Kingdom, not by the short-term and short-sighted financial and reputational interests of the Church,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(C of E) Overwhelming support for General Synod safeguarding motion

General Synod voted unanimously today to endorse the Church’s response to the five recommendations from IICSA and urged its national safeguarding steering group to work towards a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors.

The debate was opened by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock who shared personal reflections on his time as lead bishop along with outlining the Church’s response to the IICSA recommendations. The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, takes over as lead safeguarding bishop in April.

Read it all and please note the links to the various speeches.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The C of E Bishops are playing a game of power politics

Last week’s College of Bishops meeting was described by one unnamed evangelical bishop as a ‘bruising experience’. Out of it emerged a statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologising for the House of Bishops’ statement on civil partnerships in which it had set out the orthodox position of the Church of England.

The Archbishops wrote: “We… apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement … which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

Predictably, of course, this apology has done far more damage than the original statement. Liberals took it as a pseudo-apology along the lines of ‘sorry for offending you’, or ‘sorry for being caught out’. Many others took it as an apology for the actual statement and therefore a rejection of the Church of England’s teaching on marriage. Others took it as a clever bit of spin in which the Archbishops could head off liberal outrage, while still maintaining faith with evangelicals and traditionalists. That latter interpretation does the Archbishops no favours at all because it portrays them in similar terms to Iannucci’s Thick of It as spin doctors desperately and incompetently triangulating to win their nihilistic game of power politics.

The Bishop of Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley, is the latest Diocesan Bishop to break ranks with the Bishops’ pastoral statement on civil partnerships. He revealed that he and other colleagues had asked that the document be withdrawn but a majority of bishops decided against this course of action. From this insight, it is clear that we are beginning at last to see a bit of an honest open ‘fight’ in the House of Bishops. This is about time too. And I also hope that this division is openly revealed in the General Synod as it meets this week.

If we have this aim of achieving ‘good disagreement’ let us at least be open about it rather than hide it behind closed doors. It cannot be ‘good disagreement’ if it is hidden behind the superficial smiles representing faux Anglican ‘niceness’.At the moment suspicions are festering and we in the Church of England are in that anxious and fretting place – the calm before the storm.

The problem with processes such as Living in Love and Faith is that most of the debate and discussion takes place behind closed doors in a process that many of us simply don’t trust. I have always believed that this process is in place simply to kick the can down the road rather than leading to a place where a decision can be made about the future direction of the Church of England. I am much more likely to be convinced if this was an open discussion in the Church of England.

It would be much more honest to recognise the profound differences we have over human sexuality and decide how the two sides in this debate are going to co-exist – if they ever can – in the same Church.Does the future now lie in some kind of formal distancing of relationships from which different networks and forms of oversight can emerge?

–This column appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2020, edition (subscriptions are encrouaged)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Symes on the Oxford Ad Clerum–Bishop offers orthodox Anglicans hope of retaining protected minority status as Diocese takes reappraising route

….there are several clues in the letter that the Bishop does not see his office as a guardian of the apostolic faith, or even as a neutral referee between those with opposing views, but rather as gatekeeper of a new era, ushering in a new default position of revisionist theology while continuing for the moment to tolerate those with traditional views.

Bishop Colin begins by referring first not to the Bishops’ pastoral statement itself, but to the Archbishops’ apology for it following the media furore. He then makes an excuse for the publication of this official episcopal statement, apologises for it himself, and goes further,calling it “wrong-headed and pastorally inept”. Although he acknowledges that some people were in favour of the statement, seeing it as a clear expression of the church’s historic teaching, he makes it clear that he, and by extension the Oxford Diocesan leadership, stand with those who oppose the statement – in fact he specifically quotes further criticisms of the statement from the Bishops of Oxford and Reading.

This criticism is not just about tone and timing, but also content. Outlining why the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement was needed in the first place, Bishop Colin explains it as a response to Civil Partnerships becoming available for heterosexual couples, which was simply a matter of “justice”, and only raised “technical questions” for the church. This dismisses the concerns that many faithful Christians have had about the Civil Partnership legislation: how it undermines marriage, and creates obvious issues about sexual ethics that the Bishops’ Statement was trying to answer.

The Ad Clerum goes on to quote with approval highly critical articles about the Bishops’ pastoral statement in The Times and in the Via Media blog. It is surely significant that these pieces which fiercely attack and even deride historic Christian teaching about sexual ethics and the Church of England’s attempts to navigate the issue, are commended by a Bishop, writing in a position of spiritual authority to his flock. He then makes clear his agreement with the view that, just as the church over the years has changed its understanding on the celibacy of clergy, use of contraception and permitting marriage of divorcees, so there is nothing “static and immovable” in Christian teaching. This, together with a marked absence in the letter of any reference to Scripture or even to God (except at the end – “God bless you”) will surely cause alarm as it appears to illustrate a complete loss of confidence in the idea, basic to Christianity, that faith is based on things that are unchanging!

A letter genuinely trying to balance the different views would offer resources from the two sides, as Living in Love and Faith is likely to do. Bishop Colin does not do this.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Diocese of Oxford Ad Clerum Letter in response to the recent C of E Bishops Pastoral Statement

But are you listening to other voices?

The responses of the bishops and many others have disturbed some people. We have had clergy in this Diocese, who are loved, respected and valued, write to say that they affirmed the pastoral statement. They are concerned to know that we will continue to honour and pastor to those who uphold the historic teaching of the Church of England on marriage.

We continue to listen carefully to voices from across the Church about these matters. As we stated in our December 2018 letter to members of ODEF, neither I nor my fellow bishops have any intention or desire to exclude in any way those who hold to the traditional teaching of the Church and our marriage discipline. As bishops, these are things we uphold. We do not permit uncanonical blessings, though we do seek to encourage priests who, in good conscience, want to pray for and with people at significant points of their lives in a spirit of generous hospitality. As bishops, we are always happy to advise clergy on these matters as issues arise.

Living in Love and Faith

As well as the pastoral insensitivity of the statement, the timing of it was problematic. The Church is now coming towards the end of a two-year national programme of listening, prayer and discernment led by the bishops.

Living in Love and Faith will help the Church to learn and explore questions of human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality. Study guides and resources will be published following the July General Synod. We hope and pray that parishes and deaneries will fully engage with those resources when they are published.

For some, the resources will break new ground. For others, they won’t go far enough. But we must hold firm to that timetable and await what comes next while trusting and praying for the those most closely involved in the process. Do take time to explore the LLF website.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Safeguarding: the Church of England’s house is slowly being rebuilt

Our proposals sought to record our collective lament at our sins of omission and commission, and (for the second time of asking) we commended the text of the excellent Blackburn Ad Clerum. Then and now these suggestions were rejected: the first time our Archbishops thought it premature; this time, seeking to preface our acceptance of the IICSA recommendations with sentiments of repentance, and endorsing the pastoral response which our victims had welcomed, were ruled technically out of order. We can play with the idea of repentance being ‘out of order’ in this context at a future juncture: this is not the time for mischief-making, however tempting.

Our purpose in going beyond the anaemic and prosaic was to make this debate a cultural turning point from which we might begin to move on from the necessary demolition – of structures, attitudes, policies etc. – toward a more positive future.

We thought it important that such an initiative should come from below, for we saw that it is no longer sufficient for the House of Bishops alone to direct our response. Archbishop Justin has previously acknowledged that a change to the culture of deference is needed. We were taking him seriously. It is liberating and deserves to be taken seriously. “Trust me, I’m a Bishop” is no longer a sound principle: the whole of the Church, from top to bottom, must own its priorities, and discussing these at Synod seemed to be a healthy place to start.

Our proposals additionally committed Synod to accepting the final IICSA proposals promptly, on the basis that it was inconceivable that we would pretend to know better after all the embarrassment of the IICSA evidence and submissions. Our track record does not merit once again wandering off on a Safeguarding frolic of our own.

Our final proposal dared to engage bluntly with the issue of proper reparation. We were mindful of the story of ‘Tony’ in the insurance press. He told his story on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and explained how survivors have endured very low levels of compensation because they cannot afford to take matters to court and lose. The power imbalance in the negotiations is immense.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Christian Today) Living in Love and Faith process is a ‘call to action’ for Church of England – bishop

Later in the session, the floor was opened up for questions, with Ian Paul, editor at evangelical publisher Grove Books, expressing his desire to see the Church of England use the LLF process “give us a renewed commitment to the apostolic inheritance of the teaching of the New Testament”.

“I’ve been struck by the commitment to listening and the commitment to one another, but what seems to have been slightly more muted in the discussion so far is the commitment to re-engage with the teaching of Jesus,” he said.

“I think we need to be honest and say both within the Anglican tradition and within this room there is a pulling away from whether Jesus really is a good pastor and whether His teaching is what we need to hear – that teaching which I believe is also echoed in the teaching of Paul.”

Jayne Ozanne, a lesbian and campaigner for LGBT equality in the Church of England, said that she did not want to see the Church of England “just keep kicking this can down the road for more discussions”.

“The truth is, it’s not been a safe space for many involved with the LLF,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop [of Maidstone] Rod Thomas’ letter after the Archbishops’ statement following the earlier release of the ‘Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples’

I thought I should write following the statement that was issued after the conclusion of the College of Bishops yesterday. The statement can be found here.

My understanding at the College was that the statement was needed for two reasons. First, it was felt that the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples which had been released on 22nd January was pastorally insensitive in the way it was framed and released to the press. Secondly, there was concern that as a result, some of the necessary participation in the discussions which will follow the publication of the Living in Love and Faith materials could be jeopardised. Yesterday’s statement therefore apologised for the release of the Pastoral Statement.

However, it was also my clear understanding that nothing in yesterday’s statement should be taken as a retraction of the doctrinal teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships. While some of that teaching may well come into question during the discussions about the LLF materials, it remains the current teaching of the Church. The position set out in the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples, and which was agreed by the House of Bishops, therefore continues to apply.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Women

(Christian Today) Ben Bradshaw MP warns Church of England its established status is at threat over civil partnerships stance

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw today told the House of Commons that “serious questions” will be asked about the Church of England’s established status if it stands by its position on opposite-sex civil partnerships.

In the Commons on Thursday, Mr Bradshaw grilled Andrew Selous, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, on the guidance….

“It is bad enough that the Church still treats its LGBT+ members as second-class Christians, but to say to the child of a heterosexual couple in a civil partnership that they should not exist because their parents should not have had or be having sex is so hurtful,” he said.

“Will he tell the bishops that unless this nonsense stops serious questions will be asked in this place about the legitimacy of the established status of the Church of England?”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England, Church/State Matters, England / UK, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Aus AP) Few Australian Anglican Submissions back blessing same-sex marriages

Australia’s most senior Anglican, Melbourne Archbishop Dr Philip Freier, referred that decision to the church’s internal appellate tribunal in September.

The tribunal was asked to consider whether the regulation was consistent under the church’s national constitution and valid under canon law.

The tribunal then called for submissions on the matter.

A second referral – to be considered concurrently – asked the tribunal to decide more generally if blessing services other than for heterosexual unions should be allowed.

In her address to the Wangaratta synod in August, which forms part of the diocese’s submissions to the tribunal, Reverend Dorothy Lee argued the blessing of same-sex Christian couples “seems a small thing to ask”.

“There are no theological grounds for refusing to bless civil unions,” Rev Lee said.

“On the contrary, faithful and loving Christian couples, whatever their sexual orientation, gender, race or class, should be able to ask for and receive the church’s blessing.”

However, of the 33 other submissions to the tribunal, just four support blessing same-sex marriages.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected

Survivors of clerical abuse welcomed amendments to next week’s General Synod motion on safeguarding, in a letter to members that laments that the Church has made “no progress at all” in caring for victims and survivors. It was ruled on Wednesday, however, that the amendments were out of order and could not be moved.

“We need you to acknowledge that you do not have the competence or the right to clear up your own mess,” the ten survivors write. “We need independent people we can go to to report abuse and find support; people who are not part of the Church, and don’t wear the same uniform that our abusers wore. We need you to use your power as a Synod to establish a properly funded scheme for support, compensation and redress for victims of church abuse.”

The existing motion, to be debated on Wednesday morning, endorses the Archbishops’ Council’s response to the five recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in May (News, 9 May 2019).

“Is that all?” the survivors ask. “We believe that you should go much further. . . The motion before you is anodyne, but the amendments we have seen seem to have some teeth.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Bishop Philip Mounstephen of Truro issues a statement on safeguarding

As your bishop I have a particular charge laid upon me ‘to serve and care for the flock of Christ’, and as chief pastor of the whole diocese I will never abrogate that prime responsibility. I bring many years’ experience of devising and implementing safeguarding policies to this role: but that very experience teaches me that in this area there is never any room at all for complacency.

Pastoral care in this diocese falls ultimately to me, so I expect all those who exercise pastoral responsibility under my authority to show the very highest levels of care and concern possible, the Lord being our helper. We do well to remember Jesus’ sobering words, ‘If any of you put a stumbling- block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18: 6)

These things should be of the utmost importance in any diocese, which is why the Church of England is currently undergoing the second ‘Past Cases Review’. But there are particular reasons why these are core concerns for us here in Truro. I am acutely aware that Peter Ball lived with his twin brother, Bishop Michael, in the same house my wife and I now call home, after he resigned as Bishop of Gloucester. I know, too, that for many the recent documentaries about Peter Ball were deeply upsetting and shocking – and rightly so.

Furthermore, those in authority in this diocese repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sex abuse made against a former press officer of the diocese, Jeremy Dowling. Those were abject failures and must never be repeated. The report on this case, written by Dr Andy Thompson, makes for sobering, but necessary reading, and I commend it to you

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Medium) Ray Gaston–On being pastorally (ir)responsible — and not waiting for bishops

On my return to parish ministry in Wolverhampton a new chapter in engagement with LGBT+ people and the church began as through a member of our congregation Kenny Rogers(who was gay) a growing ministry to sanctuary communities developed. This included a small number of people, particularly — but not exclusively — from African contexts fleeing persecution because of their sexuality. Sadly, Kenny died suddenly but on the night of his death we opened the church for nearly a hundred people, mainly from sanctuary communities to come and light candles and mourn together. At his funeral I shared his story and his journey that he had written for the process he was undergoing to become an authorised lay minister in the church. From this a growing ministry to refugees generally and a small number of LGBT+ refugees has developed and with the help of the Inclusive church ambassador for our area the support group for LGBT+ refugees Emmaus was established. This group now meets at our church and draws people from across our region to support and encourage one another through the hostile asylum process. For some of these people our church has also become their spiritual home. They come from contexts where anti-homosexual legislation introduced in the 19th century by European colonisers is defended by the church and in some cases the church argues for greater prohibition and penalties for LGBT+ people. We often hear about the Bishops of African churches and their negative views on LGBT+ inclusion in the church. At Emmaus we hear from the LGBT+ African Christians their faithfulness in the face of Christian persecution, their love for Jesus and their courage often rooted in a profound knowledge and love of God. Some of these folks rejected the church at home and have (re) embraced the faith here. Its been my experience here and in my previous incumbency that inclusivity (which I prefer to see as true catholicity) leads to growth numerically and spiritually.

I have yet to be asked if I would marry or bless a lesbian or gay relationship at St Chad and St Mark. The guidelines of the church issued in 2014 closed off any ambiguity that some of us felt gave us wiggle room in the noughties to offer blessings. Ironically following the rejection at Synod of ‘The Marriage and same sex relationships’ report in 2017 the bishops claimed they were working towards a ‘radically inclusive church for LGBT+ people’, this latest unnecessary statement shows this not to be the case. And as one non Christian friend commented ‘What’s so radical about NOT discriminating!’

Some of us at the grassroots have been seeking to develop ‘inclusivity’ for years hampered by the pronouncements of the House of Bishops. Perhaps we need to get more radical in our approach and directly and openly flout the guidelines from 2014 and 2020 misdescribed as ‘pastoral’ and make visible the reality of those struggling and in small ways succeeding in creating truly ‘radically inclusive spaces’ at the grassroots — perhaps it’s the only way change will come!

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Kenny’s stages of rebellion, and the church’s response

The onset of the sexual revolution has massively challenged the church and caught it unprepared for dealing with new ways of looking at sex, especially the last two stages of rebellion. While most Christians would no doubt believe that adultery of the kind Kenny is involved in, is wrong, the use of pornography, sex before marriage and cohabitation, marriage breakdown, homosexual practice and transgenderism are increasingly seen as secondary issues by orthodox believers, and even illustrations of love and truth to be celebrated by more liberal Christians.

Amongst evangelicals in some quarters, a narrative has developed whereby we can affirm the historic teaching on sexual desire and practice – the need for sexual self-control; celibate singleness for same sex attracted people, and monogamy for marrieds – as long as this teaching is only directed at practising Christians. The reason more are not attracted to this lifestyle, we’re told, is because of lack of pastoral care and failure of communication. So, the argument goes, Christians must repent of ‘homophobia’ and general lack of compassion towards those not following the Christian sexual ethic like Kenny, and must improve communication of its message. There must even be a visible reconciliation and working together of Christians who have different views on sex. An example of this thinking can be found in the participation of an evangelical minister in a video commending the ‘pastoral guidelines’ from the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project.

If we take this view, we will see Kenny’s story as illustrating just two problems: Kenny breaking God’s commandments, and the church’s failure to show God’s love. But Kenny’s rebellion is not just adultery. He has also embraced a profoundly anti-Christian belief system, based on self-justification, the creation of a new identity celebrating his sin as an innate part of himself, and an ideology which wants to replace ‘repressive’ Christian morality with something which must in the end repress authentic Christian faith and practice.

These powerful new forces of sex/ gender identity and neo-Marxist ideology, sinful and idolatrous thinking now embedded in society’s structures, are too often not addressed in contemporary evangelical discourse about sex. Worse than that, we can end up being ‘orthodox’ in terms of our understanding of marriage and personal application of Christian sexual ethics (remaining opposed to rebellion stages 1 to 3), while at the same time imbibing the philosophies of the sexual revolution (ignoring or affirming stages 4-5). This is perhaps the reason why Bishops are able to sign a document affirming the historic teachings of the church on sex and marriage, and at the same time also support re-naming and re-baptism for those who have rejected God’s design for their bodies, and even call for blessings of same sex relationships.

If Kenny is to become a Christian, it will involve not just stopping his adultery with Ellie (stage 2 and 3), or even gaining control of his lustful thoughts (stage 1). He will need a profound change in the way he views himself (stage 4), and the world (stage 5). It won’t help if Christians positively affirm his understanding of himself, and agree that he is an oppressed victim. Similarly, if society is to become Christian, winsome presentation of Christ will need to be accompanied by a call to widespread repentance from false ideologies, and practical help to escape them, not collusion in them.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) David Baker–Dear C of E Bishops, please stop traumatising your clergy

But then we had a significant number of Bishops coming out and criticising their own statement with a kind of passive-aggressive, pseudo-spiritual language that is actually very disingenuous. Oh yes, they don’t overtly reject the statement per se – it’s just the way it came out, the timing of it, the wording that was used – as though introducing a few swirly flower motifs in the margins, changing the font from ‘Times New Roman’ to ‘Comic Sans’, and sending the whole thing out in a gift-wrapped presentation box with a free Parker pen was all that was required to satisfy them.

But this doesn’t fool anyone, does it? We all know that what many, probably most, of these objecting Bishops really mean is, ‘We don’t support that statement.’ In other words, they disagree with their own church’s teaching (not to mention that of most other denominations also). And thus the scene was set for a reportedly somewhat ‘lively’ meeting of the College of Bishops last week.

Out of that came a second statement – about the first statement – in which the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologised for any ‘hurt caused’. The words used were of such wonderfully ambiguous Anglican-speak that the Church of England media office apparently had to spend most of its time and energy making it clear to media outlets that, no, they were not retracting their original statement, and, no, nothing had changed. Except whatever it was that had. Or hadn’t. Or something.

I scarcely need to spell out what this does for the morale of many clergy on the ground. And heaven help our watching parishioners. So what are we to do? The New Testament would seem to recommend expelling those who contradict established church teaching on moral issues (1 Corinthians 5). But this somehow seems to have been supplanted in recent years by Justin Welby’s assertion that ‘we don’t chuck out those we disagree with’. It’s a lovely sentiment, redolent of the touchy-feely era in which we live. But I can’t really relate this to apostolic teaching on church discipline at all.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Statement from Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Sentamu following the College of Bishops Meeting

From here:

We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.

At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage. This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

(Fulcrum) Transcript of BBC Radio 5 Sunday Programme, A Discussion on the Bishop’s Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships with Ian Paul and Bp Alan Wilson

Crawley Alan, you clearly do believe there’s something new here.

Wilson Well, there’s a rather weird bit of theology going on here, and that’s the idea that you’re only married if you’ve had vows said between you. I mean that is part of the medieval, Western understanding of marriage, but most marriages in Britain don’t have to have vows in them at all, because they’re contracted in a registry office by registrars. They can have vows if they want. And of course the Orthodox Church doesn’t have vows in marriage, they don’t understand it in that way, they never have. So the idea that vows are the things that you are turning your back on if you down-trade your marriage for a civil partnership (which by the way you can’t do anyway, it’s an impossibility, but we’ve still got a rule for you even if you are doing this impossible thing), is a little bit theologically bizarre.

Crawley So Ian Paul, not only new but weird and bizarre in the language of the Bishop there. Civil partnerships involve a commitment as well as marriage. What’s the difference in theological terms?

Paul The two differences are 1) that the vows which are received in our tradition of the Church of England, signal that this isn’t just something private, that the conjugal relationship involved in marriage isn’t something which is a personal contract, it is something which is part of community, is part of building community. Just yesterday somebody told me that a friend of theirs did not want to get married but wanted to have a civil partnership because they didn’t like doing things in public, they wanted to do it privately. And in Christian theology, our understanding of marriage is that it’s part of a building block for community, it’s where children are raised, and that’s really significant. The other significant thing, which Alan hasn’t mentioned, is the fact that there are in civil partnerships no grounds in sexual relating for the relationship to come to an end. It’s a no-fault termination and again that’s a significant departure in the historic position, both in law, as well as in the Church’s understanding.

Crawley Ian, can I just break in. Can I ask, given that this has been an issue this week, does this statement mean that any sexual intimacy, any sexual activity, that takes place within a civil partnership, is illicit in Christian terms?

Paul Well, the position of the Church of England and many Christian Churches has been that the right place for sexual relating is within a marriage relationship. And the reason for that-

Crawley So does that mean that sex within a civil partnership is a sin?

Paul It means that, along with all sort of other forms of sexual relationship outside of commitment….

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) The power of celibacy: ‘Giving up sex was a massive relief’

In a world where you can get a sexual partner faster than a pizza delivery, it has never been easier to play the field. Yet, despite all that swiping right, a surprising number of people are not having sex at all – not for religious reasons, or because they can’t get a date, but because they find that celibacy makes them happier.

Some have never had much interest in sex, while others are taking a break to address personal problems, recover from bad dating experiences or change the way they approach relationships.

Catherine Gray, the author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Single, gave up sex for a year in 2014. “Between the ages of 16 and 34, I hadn’t spent more than a few months single,” she says. “I felt incomplete without a plus-one and constantly hunted approval. I reached rock-bottom after being disproportionately crushed by the failure of a six-month relationship, so I decided to give up sex and dating for an entire year.”

Although deleting her dating apps felt like “giving up a drug”, celibacy turned out to be a huge relief. “Instead of doing what my boyfriend wanted to, I discovered what I liked, developing a love for yoga, photography and travelling. I dressed differently and no longer cared about attracting men. I started to see myself as a person – rather than a girlfriend or a sexual plaything.” The period of celibacy changed how she approached dating; she is now in a healthy relationship. “I realised that I had an anxious attachment style and that, if I started dating again, I would need to change who and how I date. If I feel insecure in the early stages of a relationship, I know it’s because I’m dating someone who is emotionally unavailable, so I back away, rather than persist.”

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Posted in England / UK, Sexuality, Young Adults

(Christian Today) C of E Bishops in disarray over ‘sex for married straight couples only’ rule

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, said that she was “deeply frustrated and saddened” by the way the statement was published. She continued: “I recognise that it has fanned into flame unnecessary pain and distress and I wish to acknowledge my part in that.”

In their document, published in response to the introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships, the House of Bishops said last week: “For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.”

It added: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings. The introduction of same sex marriage… has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”

But Bishop Treweek said: “The word ‘love’ emanating from the generous love of God is one that needs to be heard and lived and I am extremely sorry that it has not been heard in the publication of the House of Bishops statement.”

She was supported by the Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox, who on Twitter described her statement as “very helpful comment”. The Bishop of Gloucester’s statement was also retweeted by the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, and the Bishop of Edmonton, Rob Wickham.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Metro UK) Simon Butler–As a vicar I know it’s time the Church stopped telling people to be abstinent

Last week, bishops of the Church of England, issued a statement on the new opposite-sex civil partnerships.

All they could say, when it boiled down to it, was: ‘no sex before or outside marriage.’ They added that those in same or opposite sex civil partnerships should live their lives as ‘sexually abstinent friends’ and those in same sex marriages should not be having sex. The bishops of the Church are, in my experience, thoughtful, wise and compassionate women and men. But many of us are embarrassed and angered by the tone of what we read. The response of many clergy in the Church was to, metaphorically, shout at the telly.

I think it’s wrong and naive to ask for and to expect abstinence from couples. It’s wrong because there is no evidence that sex in other forms of committed relationship are harmful: the texts of the Bible assume a very different meaning to sex than it currently possesses….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A message from Bishop of Gloucester regarding the release of the House of Bishops statement re civil partnerships

It brought me deep joy yesterday morning to be with a group of clergy and laity on the final day of a two-year programme called THRIVE as they continued to reflect together on what it means to be the Church in their different contexts. At the heart of it is the generous love of God, and as we gathered in a room with a roaring fire, I reflected on continuing to fan into flame the gift of God within us as we live and share the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

The bishops of the Church of England are also coming towards the end of a two-year programme. ‘Living in Love and Faith‘ is a project which will result in the production of ‘resources that will help the Church to learn how questions about human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture’. It is led by the bishops and therefore I was deeply frustrated and saddened in the way that the House of Bishops statement re civil partnerships was published on Thursday. I recognise that it has fanned into flame unnecessary pain and distress and I wish to acknowledge my part in that.

I cannot deny seeing the content of the statement at the meeting of the House of Bishops in December and in terms of factual content the statement is reiterating that in the light of the recent change in law allowing civil partnerships to be extended to opposite-sex couples, nothing has changed regarding the legal and doctrinal position of the Church of England. There should have been no surprises for anyone in that. However, I am complicit in making wrong assumptions in December and not asking questions about how this statement was to be used. For me, the publication of the statement in cold isolation from anything else, on a seemingly random day and lacking any pastoral ‘surround’ or mention of the Living in Love and Faith’ process, has been perplexing and upsetting. This is even more so as it has been released just days before the College of Bishops convene once more to focus on ‘Living in Love and Faith’ as we stand in the present looking to both the past and the future.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bp Michael Nazir-Ali responds to the recent Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England

Such an understanding of CPs should determine the Church’s attitude to the blessing of those who enter such partnerships. The Bishops are right, therefore, to say that the Church should not provide an authorised public liturgy for the blessing of CPs and that clergy should not bless such unions. Publicly authorised liturgies are not, however, necessary for clergy to conduct services of blessing. This is being done to a significant extent and the Bishops need to say what action they are going to take in such situations. Widespread practice can become the norm, even if the fundamental documents of an organisation remain unchanged.

When people come for baptism, confirmation or holy communion, my assumption is that they have repented of their sin and intend to lead a life which is consistent with the teaching of Christ and of the Church. I am surprised, however, given the clarity of the Bishops’ understanding of the nature of marriage and of what falls short of God’s purposes (what is, therefore, of the nature of sin), that they instruct the clergy not to ask those who present themselves for reception of the sacraments about the nature of their relationship. Clergy are certainly called to be exemplars to their flock and it is right to ask them about their relationships but they are examples precisely so the people may follow their example. There can be no double standards here; one for clergy and another for lay people. Sensitive pastoring is required for all but the teaching of Christ and of the Church must also regularly be placed before all so they can be comforted and challenged by it and seek to order their lives in accordance with it.

Where the baptism of infants is concerned, the Bishops are correct to point out that, while baptism can be delayed for purposes of instruction and preparation, under the Canons, it cannot be refused. They are right to say that such instruction should include teaching about marriage and family. There should be an expectation, however, that those receiving this teaching will seek to order their lives in accordance with it. The requirement for godparents in the Canons are relevant and, in any case, the covenant community should be committed to those children being baptised into the body so that they are brought up in accordance with Christian faith and values. This will mean, on the part of those bringing them to baptism, that they will commit themselves to making sure the infant is kept in regular contact with the community where the baptism takes place.

The Bishops’ Statement is clear about the Church’s understanding of marriage and the relationship of sexual expression to it. It is less clear about the consequences of such an understanding for clergy and their ordination vows and what should be required of lay people so that they too may order theirs and their families’ lives in ways that are consistent with the teaching of the Bible and of the Church. For the Church’s chief pastors, it is urgent that they guide people to walk in the way of Christ and to help them to grow in holiness and godly love. It is my prayer that the Bishops will go on to provide such clear guidance which cannot be misunderstood in matters having to do with our salvation.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

An Open Letter to the Archbps of York and Canterbury expressing dissent from and disappointment with the C of E House of Bps Statement this week

Since the public defeat of your ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships‘ report to General Synod in 2017, we have waited for you to deliver on your promise of ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’. We have been patient believing that nothing further would be said regarding sexuality and relationships until after the publication of the Living in Love and Faith report. It seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.

The pastoral statement makes clear there has been no desire to listen or learn from those of us who spoke to explain how offensive we found the tone of the House of Bishops’ previous document. Indeed, this statement is anything but ‘pastoral’ – it is cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality

A Telegraph Article on the C of E House of Bps Guidance Released Yesterday–Civil partnerships should be no more than ‘sexually abstinent friendships’, Church of England Bishops rule

Civil partnerships should be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships”, the Church of England has stated.

Following a landmark legal battle, which resulted in the recent introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships, Bishops have now issued pastoral guidance to clergy on how to deal with the issue.

Religious leaders have concluded that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that Christians who are in either gay or straight civil partnerships should remain sexually abstinent.

The statement from the House of Bishops said that sex outside of marriage falls “short of God’s purposes for human beings” and concludes that those in civil partnerships – whether same-sex or opposite-sex – can be ordained, as long as they commit to celibacy.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

(CT) For Christian Women, Persecution Looks Like Rape

Dali’s work serves but a tiny number of the millions of women around the world who suffer from persecution. Of the 245 million Christians attacked for their faith last year, many are women and girls who are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. These are the findings of Gendered Persecution, an Open Doors report that examined the differences in persecution by gender in 33 countries for women and 30 countries for men. (An updated report will be released this March.)

While forced marriage is the “most regularly reported means of putting pressure on Christian women” and “remains largely invisible,” when analyzing the data on female persecution, researchers Helene Fisher and Elizabeth Miller found that

Among all forms of violence… the one most often noted [for women] was rape. The research found it to be a common characteristic of persecution of Christian women in 17 countries, with other forms of sexual assault being listed for exactly half of countries with available data. There are no mentions of this form of violence against men, nor is domestic violence one of the pressures mentioned as a tactic used against Christian men.

Not only must Christian women like the Boko Haram captives deal with their own trauma, they often can’t find sanctuary within their faith communities when they come home.

“Unfortunately, it is all too common that Christian communities do not distinguish themselves from their surrounding cultures and, as a result, will stigmatize their women and girls who have been victims of violence,” Fisher and Miller, the authors of the report, wrote in a statement to CT.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(Church Times) Bishops shamed by BBC documentary

The two-part programme, Exposed: The Church’s dark secret, was shown on BBC2 on Monday and Tuesday nights after the watershed. The documentary, which has been well-received by reviewers, included testimonies from victims, police, lawyers, and church officers, as well as dramatic reconstructions.

On Wednesday, the independent chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, praised survivors of Ball and their families. “The BBC documentary showed the devastating and lifelong impact of abuse,” she said. “Those who spoke out, showed incredible bravery.

“The failure to stop Peter Ball and other abusers, and the failure to bring them promptly to justice, compound the hurt and damage to victims and survivors. Failure to co-operate with police by high-ranking clergy, including a former Archbishop, is truly shocking. Those who failed victims should consider their position.”

Speaking about the changes in the Church’s hierarchy and culture that she has witnessed, she said: “These are necessary, but not sufficient.

“Within the church structure, each diocese is effectively a fiefdom, and significant power rests with diocesan bishops. Last year, one diocese refused to share safeguarding information with another diocese. It took a number of months to resolve the issue, possibly exposing people to risk.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, Violence

(C of E) Bishop Rachel Treweek responds to the Peter Ball documentary

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence