There is no easy way to dress up what has been an embarrassing night for the senior leadership of the Church of England.
After three years of so-called shared conversations costing the church more than Â£300,000, General Synod has chosen not to take note of the Bishops report.
It was neither the Bishops nor ordinary members of the church (the laity) who chose to reject the report. It was the vicars, rectors and priests that decided they could not continue with the current prohibition on blessing or marrying same sex couples in church.
For lesbian and gay Christians, there is widespread rejoicing. But conservative evangelicals are dismayed, the vote confirming what they say is their worst fear that the authority Scripture is no longer the rule of faith and practice.
Category : Same-sex blessings
There is no easy way to dress up what has been an embarrassing night for the senior leadership of the Church of England.
A Church of England bishop has been forced to apologise to the archbishop of Canterbury after accidentally breaking ranks with his colleagues in a crucial vote on same-sex relationships.
Christopher Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry, said he was embarrassed after he pressed the wrong button on his electronic handset in the tense vote on a highly controversial bishops’ report at the C of E synod on Thursday.
The report was rejected after the House of Clergy narrowly voted against “taking note” of it, although it commanded overall support in the synod. The motion needed the backing of all three houses ”“ bishops, clergy and laity.
Read it all from the Guardian.
There were impassioned contributions from all sides of the argument. Lucy Gorman (York diocese) argued that the Church’s current stance was devastating its mission to the nation, especially among young people, who saw it as homophobic.
The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who married his male partner in 2014…, begged the Synod not to take note of the report. “Your LGBTI brothers and sisters are not beggars looking for entrance on the borders of the Church,” he said. “We are your family in Christ. We are baptised, faithful, prayerful. I am not a case study. We are flesh and blood.”
Others, including a “same-sex-attracted” Evangelical, the Revd Sam Allberry, said that, while the report was not perfect, they were glad that it had held the line on the traditional marriage teaching. “I was bullied at school for being gay,” he told the Synod. “I now feel bullied in Synod ”” for being same-sex-attracted, and for agreeing with the doctrine on marriage.”
The Church of England’s clergy have issued an extraordinary challenge to its conservative line on marriage by throwing out a bishops’ report on sexuality.
In a major revolt against the CofE’s hierarchy, members of the Church’s General Synod rejected a report by top bishops that said there was ‘little support’ for changing the view that marriage was between one man and one woman.
The shock result plunges the Church into confusion on its stance on marriage with the bishops’ report barred from being discussed until the end of this synod in 2020.
The first paragraph of the report states, “As St Paul writes, ”˜I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”¦’ (Galatians 2.19ff). For St Paul that meant setting aside even the wonderful privilege of Jewish identity and giving priority to the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is in this light that the Church of England has to consider the difficulties over human sexuality that have been a source of tension and division for many years.”
What this introduction misunderstands and misses is twofold. Firstly, in both his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is a Jew and identifies clearly as a Jew in the present tense. To state that Paul is “setting aside” his “Jewish identity” misunderstands Paul. Second, such misunderstanding in the very first paragraph means the report misses the nuance of Paul’s writings and the reality that he too is grappling with “tension and division” both within his communities and in terms of his own identity. To recognise such a nuance would make clear that questions of identity are not as simple as this report’s introduction suggests and that identity with Christ is not as simple as “setting aside” one’s identity at birth (which itself is a loaded and potentially harmful assumption in a report on sexuality and identity).
In Philippians 3.4-6, therefore, Paul writes that in terms of confidence “in the flesh”, he has more for he is: “a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews.” Even if these “gains” are now regarded by Paul “as loss because of Christ” (Phil 3.7) and as “rubbish” (3.8), Paul’s Jewish identity is not solely in his past. This is made clearer in Romans 11.1 where Paul states in his defence of God’s promises that “I myself am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Paul’s testimony before the tribunal in Acts 21 is even more direct, demonstrating unambiguously what the Evangelist thinks of Paul’s identity. Paul begins his defence with the words, “I am a Jew” and then repeats this same claim “in the Hebrew language” in Acts 22 (“I am a Jew”) after which he immediately recounts in the past tense that he previously “persecuted this Way”. Moreover, returning to his letters, Paul counters Corinthian boasting with his own in 2 Corinthians 11.22: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? ”¦ I am a better one.”
And here we encounter first-hand the tension in Paul’s identity. Paul is still a Hebrew, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, in other words, he is a Jew. But he is also a minister of Christ; he is also one who suffers for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s identity is inextricably wrapped up in both.
There is wide recognition on all sides that one of the central issues revolves around how Scripture is interpreted both in and across cultures. It is our conviction that the hermeneutic task is not simply a matter of ”˜correctly’ interpreting Scriptural texts, but must involve reading any given text in the light of the whole gospel, with a heart that is open to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in each and every generation. The Reformation principle of scriptura sui ipsius interpres (scripture interprets itself) must give us cause to pause and consider such texts in the light of Jesus’ overriding call to ”˜“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Luke 10:27)
There are three issues that we believe we, the evangelical community, need to be honest about.
The first, which causes us significant concern, is that of the high levels of homophobia that appear to go unacknowledged and unchallenged. Obviously, we understand that to assert a traditionalist position on same-sex relationships is not in itself homophobic, and that those who take a conservative line may not be individually hostile towards LGBT people. However, we would plead for some recognition, reflection and repentance of the fact that Christian teaching on this continues to function as the lynchpin, not just in the Church but also in secular society, of a widespread and sometimes subterranean nexus of negative attitudes that frequently manifest in overt homophobic behaviour. LGBT people are all too familiar with the impact of this, and whilst some are able to withstand it, many find themselves internalising feelings of shame and self-hatred, which all too frequently then result in depression, self-destructive behaviours, and even suicide. Are these really to be seen as the side-effects of the good news of Jesus Christ? Credible Christian witness cannot just be a matter of repeated verbal denials of homophobia but must involve active steps to combat it. Should not the churches be as well known for their efforts in this area as they are for, say, supporting issues of social justice? The issue is even more pronounced in countries across the world where Christians are known to be condoning and at times positively supporting proposals for severe penalties, including capital punishment, for homosexual behaviour. Should not the repudiation of this by churches in this country be immediate, public, and categorical?
Jules Gomes: The last few weeks has seen a PR disaster for the Church of England. If not a reading from the Koran that denies the divinity of Jesus at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, it is a service of Evening Prayer at Westcott House, Cambridge using gay slang and calling the Holy Spirit “Fantabulosa Fairy.” As director of Reform and committed to biblical orthodoxy, you must be hanging in by your fingernails. How long before your fingernails begin to crack and you let go?
Susie Leafe: I’m not sure we can blame the Church of England for what happens in Glasgow but I know what you mean. The great thing to know is that we are not hanging over an abyss””God has promised to build his Church””only he knows what role the Church of England will play in his future plans. As Reform, we have followed the experiences of orthodox Anglicans in North America and like them we are very grateful for the support and leadership we receive from other parts of the Anglican Communion GAFCON and the Global South. As always, we pray and work for the best whilst planning for the worst.
JG: In its recent report the House of Bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. But in the very same breath the report says that Church law should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for LGBT people. Isn’t this the C of E fudge factory working overtime?
SL: The Report will be discussed at General Synod this week. It describes itself as a compromise and I have not heard anyone endorse it without very serious reservations. Personally, I believe the most worrying element of the Report is the way the bishops have reinterpreted the law of the C of E about where our doctrine can be found. They appear to sideline Scripture and the traditional formularies of the Church, in favour of finding the boundaries of freedom in Canon Law.
In an unprecedented move, 14 retired Church of England Bishops have released a letter expressing concern about the House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same sex relationships. The former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby, who wrote the letter, speaks to William Crawley.
A man who claims he was beaten when he was a boy by John Smyth, the former head of a Christian charity, says his abuser claimed the beatings could be theologically justified. David Hilborn, Chair of the Theology Advisory Group for the Evangelical Alliance and Angela Tilby, Canon Emeritus of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford join William to discuss’ ‘violent theology’.
Trevor Barnes speaks to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby about his book ‘Dethroning Mammon’.
Everyone needs to be heard. There has been much talk (on social media) of people boycotting the small groups at General Synod. I am saddened by the thought that I won’t hear their voices. The assumption may be that I won’t listen because I wear purple and the report has already been written and everything is decided. I don’t believe that is the case. I have much to learn in my own pastoral response to LGBTI people and I can only learn it by listening.
Everyone needs to be seen. There has also been much talk (on social media) of gestures of defiance. There will be protest groups outside Synod and others inside proposing alternatives to the ”˜take note’ debate. I understand the motives behind this but wonder what will be achieved. Will it lead to change and a greater acceptance of LGBTI people in churches? I’m really not sure. The media will circle like wolves and everyone’s hackles will rise.
We need each other. My sincere prayer is that the new relationships generated among members of General Synod by previous small groups will triumph over the old pattern of playing to the public gallery. Vent your anger at me, but please do it face to face in a small group. Tell me of your frustration, but please do it in such a way that we can talk together about new ways of decision making which model to a war-torn world how we can live well together.
Using today’s terminology, Anglo-Catholicism has often been caricatured and derided as harbouring a gay subculture. Irrespective of the actual sexual orientation of Anglo-Catholic laity and clergy, past or present, we have borne the opprobrium, and offered safe space to recipients, of homophobia.
And still we love the faith and the Sacraments received by the Church of England as something rich and life-giving, an articulation of Christian truth shared with the ancient Churches of East and West.
I have no formal mandate for saying so, but that is the reason why many Anglo-Catholics, and others, sincerely and gladly accept the retention of the doctrine of marriage as we have received it.
However, aware of the destructive force of homophobic innuendo and denigration, we also know we need a theological language that can articulate and honour difference in human sexual identity and relationship.
The Anglican church is set for a renewed clash on the divisive question of gay marriage this week when its ruling body votes on a key report from the Bishops on same sex relationships.
The Church of England synod, the governing body made up of Bishops, clergy and laity which decides on church law and policy, will vote on Wednesday whether to ”˜take note’ – confirm – or reject the report confirming the status quo against gay marriage.
Liberals within the church are hopeful the synod will reject advice from the Bishops’ to leave its policy against gay marriage unchanged.
A vote by the synod in favour of same-sex marriage could eventually pave the way for a fundamental change in Anglican teaching.
Dear Fellow Bishop
The Bishops’ Report to Synod on Sexuality
Most retired bishops would be prepared to admit that participation in the synodical processes of the church is not what they most miss about their role as diocesan or suffragan bishops. They also feel some reticence about entering into the current debates occupying their successors on the basis of information that is partial and becomes more and more dated with the passing of the years. There is a dilemma, though: you don’t work for years as a bishop and then easily and suddenly lose the bond you feel for the bishops, your successors and former colleagues. Nor do you lose your concern that the church of which you continue to be a bishop should be faithful in its commendation of the Gospel to the society at large.
So when a report emerges that is the subject of major controversy within the church and society some retired bishops will wish to do what the signatories of this letter are seeking to do, namely to reflect from their particular perspective on what our successors are seeking to say and do about an issue that has been a longstanding source of concern and contention.
Your statement is the product of enormous time and effort, our memories of such situations suggesting perhaps too much time and too much effort. The ”˜too much’ comes from the enormous sense of responsibility your document shows to manage a conflict that you and we know causes huge amounts of grief and argument. The result, dare we say, is that whereas it used to be said that bishops often sounded as though they spoke with a pipe in their mouths, now that pipes are rare they sound more as though they see their task as managing ”“ rather than perhaps enabling or leading ”“ the conflicts that are bound to occur. And we remember how exhausting that is, and how it seems to blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions, which might divide them but also invigorate the conversation.
You write after the Shared Conversations. We well remember having had lots of those, even if they did not have capital letters. But their integrity rested on the assurance that in reporting them the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ”˜majority view’ or ”˜established position’. Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes. Going down the road of seeking a change in the law or doctrinal formulation would indeed not have been realistic ”“ but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.
The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction. Indeed, from the perhaps luxurious perspective of retirement the tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar ”“ we’ve been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true.
We’ll avoid making too many detailed points just now; but hard as you have tried you have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly. In para 8 you draw a contrast between ”˜the many who [hold] a conservative view of scripture [for whom] the underlying issue at stake is faithfulness to God’s word’ and others for whom ”˜the imperative to read scripture differently stems from a parallel conviction’. If the second group are to recognise their voice in theological conversations their ”˜parallel conviction’ needs to be expressed and not just alluded to.
May we end by assuring you that we continue to sympathise with the challenging nature of the task you have in this and other matters. You will receive much negative comment about your report, and we hope that these brief remarks may illuminate the reason for that: it is not that the Shared Conversations were thought to herald changes of law or doctrine; rather there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.
Yours sincerely in Christ
The Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson, formerly Bishop of Thetford
The Rt Revd Michael Doe, formerly Bishop of Swindon
The Rt Revd Dr Timothy Ellis, formerly Bishop of Grantham
The Rt Revd David Gillett, formerly Bishop of Bolton
The Rt Revd John Gladwin, formerly Bishop of Guildford and of Chelmsford
The Rt Revd Dr Laurie Green, formerly Bishop of Bradwell
The Rt Revd the Lord Harries, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme
The Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten, formerly Bishop of Wakefield
The Rt Revd John Pritchard, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, formerly Bishop of Worcester
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, formerly Bishop of Leicester
The Rt Revd Roy Williamson, formerly Bishop of Bradford and of Southwark
The Rt Revd Martin Wharton CBE, formerly Bishop of Newcastle
Please note that there is also information on the additional signatories to the letter here.
Just three months afterward, the Anglican Consultative Council (a deliberative body in which lay persons, clergy, bishops and Primates all take part as elected representatives of their respective denominations) held its sixteenth triennial meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. Representatives from ECUSA attended, but refused to honor the Primates’ requirement to abstain from certain deliberations of the Council having to do with “doctrine or polity.” Nor did the Council bar them from doing so.
The Episcopal delegates not only refused, but they gloated about the Council’s refusal even to consider the Primates’ requirement. In an open letter they sent to ECUSA after the meeting, which was published in the official Episcopal News Service, they reported that although Archbishop Welby had communicated the results of the January meeting to the Council, “ACC members seemed to have little energy for answering the primates’ call for consequences”.
Thus just as they flouted Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference in 2003, when they approved the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson contrary to that Resolution, and just as they have repeatedly, in the years since, rejected all calls to change their course, ECUSA is determined to walk apart from the former Communion while keeping up the pretense that their actions have not turned it into a Disunion. (“How could it be a ‘Disunion’?” I hear them asking. “We still attend all its meetings!”)
Not only do they insist on exercising their full authority and rights when it comes to participation in Anglican-wide affairs, but they rub it in the GAFCON Primates’ faces every chance they get. For instance, Archbishop Welby has invited all Anglican Primates (with the exception of ACNA’s, whom he had invited the previous year) to another meeting at Canterbury next October. Just last week, the official news organ of the Anglican [Dis]union published a story about his invitation, and his expectations for the meeting. In the process, they rather loosely characterized ECUSA’s actions at ACC-16 in Lusaka (by serving up what is called “Anglican fudge” to describe what happened).
The ECUSA delegates to that meeting issued a response challenging the story’s accuracy, and ACNS had to add some further explanation by way of making the fudge thicker. (See the updated story here, and the explanation at the end. What ACNS added is the last sentence to the next-to-last paragraph.)
The upshot is that ECUSA once again saw to it that the other Primates were told in no uncertain terms that ECUSA had never yet acceded to their demands, and was not about to change its course.
Read it all (my emphasis).
9. Is it a compromise?
“The Church of England’s law and guidance on marriage should be interpreted to provide ”˜maximum freedom’ for gay and lesbian people without changing the Church’s doctrine of marriage itself, bishops are recommending.”
That’s the top line from the press release, which on its own may suggest a middle way. The report calls itself “a compromise between some bishops who would be inclined to seek more far-reaching changes in the direction of e.g. affirming married same-sex couples within the life of the Church, and some bishops who would like to see the sinfulness of any sexually active relationship outside heterosexual marriage more consistently upheld” (56).
In truth, as has been shown, the report does what the latter group of bishops wish to be done. There is no compromise in substance, only a little compromise in presentation.
Despite some attempt having been made to soften the report’s appearance, careful reading makes it difficult not to conclude that the bishops, with little reference to the views of the Church, and on a pretext of theological coherence, are determined to confirm for the foreseeable future an uncompromising conservative understanding of all sexual relationships, which offers no greater pastoral freedom, no new teaching, no less intrusive questioning, and a very uncertain call to penitence for homophobia.
The good news is that the Bishops’ report on human sexuality is reassuring to evangelicals and traditionalists in its determination to adhere to the canonical and biblical understanding of marriage. But like all recent reports, the House of Bishops holds the line in the Church of England by treating this teaching as provisional and subject to change.
The latest report has the character of a staging-post. The Bishops are ultra-apologetic to the LGBT community and the overwhelming subtext is that traditionalists are not dying off quickly enough for the bishops to risk changing doctrine and thereby splitting the Church over the matter. It’ll only be a few years, they reason, before the Church of England can completely capitulate to culture.
Now, of course, many of the more conservative members of the House of Bishops will deny this entirely and I have no doubt that they have personally acted in good faith. But the equivocal language in which the report is hedged indicates that we are involved in a process. This in itself comes from a narrative of progress with which we are all familiar.
According to this widespread cultural narrative, the Church and other archaic organisations are on the wrong side of history and it is only a matter of time before they are dragged kicking and screaming into modernity by any means necessary ”“ including changes to the law, placing facts on the ground and by attrition.
The Church’s integrity and faithfulness is a necessary casualty of these forces of change.
–This appears in the Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2017, on page 11
We welcome the bishops’ reluctance to be drawn into sweeping ”˜solutions’ or idle ”˜resolutions.’ We wonder why one part of the body of Christ continues to be regarded as a problem rather than as a gift. We look forward to a genuine transformation of tone and culture away from one that rejects people simply for the way God has made them.
We welcome the bishops’ call for maximum freedom within the current legal constraints. We wonder if the bishops really want to endorse such an uncomfortable contrast between love and law, covenant fidelity and ecclesiastical disapproval, the manifest grace of God and a precise reading of select scriptural texts, the increasingly warm embrace of society and the apparently inexplicable inhibition of the church. We look forward to a time when pastoral care is not invoked to tend wounds the church has so often itself inflicted.
We welcome the call for a new teaching document on marriage and relationships….
If this is a reasonably accurate account of how the bishops ended up with the report they did then, in evaluating it, among the questions raised are:
Can this process be recognised and received as a reasonable way of faithfully seeking to do what the bishops sought to do in the exercise of episcopal oversight?
Can a plausible case be made that any of the rejected options would have accomplished their goals ”“ particularly the goals of unity and doctrinal coherence and serving the whole church ”“ better than this one?
Can any of the options considered and rejected be implemented within the existing doctrine and law or do their advocates acknowledge that they really require a change in doctrine and/or law and that is therefore what they are demanding?
Can a convincing case be made that one of the three other paths not followed should have been offered as more faithful to the bishops’ vision of what is involved in exercising episcopal oversight?
The bishops have clearly sought and struggled to hold us together across our differences and to avoid “major fracture in our Church”¦at this point” (para 59). We are encouraged that in doing so they have also given due weight to “the unity of the Universal Church” and “the Church of England’s own position in the Anglican Communion” (para 60). As the bishops note, true unity “cannot be detached from our common faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and therefore from the teaching through which that gospel is faithfully passed on” (para 61). This means that there “needs to be a fundamental trust in the clergy to know and be faithful to the teaching of the Church, in their own lives and in their ministry to others” (para 64). We are, consequently, deeply concerned that some of the responses to the bishops’ report have made it even more difficult for those of us who wholeheartedly affirm that teaching as good news to have such trust in some clergy.
We hope and pray that the Church of England and wider Communion will see in the bishops’ proposal a framework, perhaps the only framework, which could enable us “to continue to ”˜walk together’”¦.in a way that is based on a common commitment to biblical truths but recognises our continuing disagreement with one another” (para 59) and we encourage General Synod to “take note” of it in its February session.
There are however serious concerns. It is urged that we must look for contradictory positions to be resolved in ways which are ”˜in some way hidden from us’ (paragraph 8). No reason for this optimism is given, yet it is on this basis that the report says that it is still possible for Anglicans to ”˜walk together’ (paragraph 59) and claims this was what the Anglican Primates agreed when they met in Canterbury in January 2016.
What our resolution agreed in Canterbury actually said was that while ”˜It is our unanimous desire to walk together’, the actions of The Episcopal Church ”˜further impair our communion’. This is in line with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which identified rejection of apostolic teaching on sexuality and marriage as a manifestation of a ”˜false gospel’ which required godly discipline.
It seems therefore that the Church of England bishops have recommended the right thing for the wrong reason. They have retained the Church’s traditional teaching, but because they think that holding opposite views together will eventually produce a consensus, not because it represents an apostolic boundary.
This understanding is confirmed by the fact that the report encourages a relaxation of church discipline and confuses pastoral sensitivity with a permissive church culture which already tolerates, in practice, clergy who have contracted same-sex ”˜marriages’….
Guernsey’s Vice-Dean says the Church of England has much to repent towards the LGBTQ community, following a heavily criticised report by the College of Bishops released last week.
The report recommended the Church of England should not change its opposition to same-sex marriage but it should adopt a ‘fresh tone and culture of welcome and support’ for gay people.
I think it’s very clear that in the past the church has a lot to repent of with regards to the LGBTQ community with the way in which they’ve been treated and some of the homophobia which has been expressed.
So I’d like to see the Church coming to a different place there.
”“ [THE] REV. MIKE KEARLE
I welcome the BRGS Report’s upholding of the doctrine set out in Canon B30. It is to be noted that this Canon is not just about marriage being between a man and a woman but also about its lifelong nature, the birth and the nurture of children and the ”˜hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affection’. This cannot go hand in hand with wanting to make pastoral provision for public prayer for those in others kinds of relationships.
I miss any treatment of a biblical anthropology in the document and, even more, of the detailed work both of biblical scholars and by the Church of England of the biblical material as set out, for example, in Some Issues with Human Sexuality (Church House Publishing, 2003). Although Scripture, tradition and reason are mentioned as a ”˜classic Anglican triad’ the primacy of Scripture is not affirmed. Instead, the report, mistakenly, invokes ”˜provisionality’ in theology, although Lambeth Conferences have done this only in relationship to ecclesiology.
On Friday the House of Bishops released a report saying the Church of England shouldn’t change its teaching on marriage but recommending that it reviews other aspects of how it treats LGBTI+ clergy and laity. The Rev Rachel Mann is critical of elements of the report and gives Martin Bashir her reaction to it….
([The Rev.] Canon Andy Lines is also interviewed about his perspective on the report).
The Bishops of Manchester and Maidstone respond to criticism that the Church has come up with a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ solution.
Listen to it all (begins approximately at 21:58 and ends about 35:42).
Church of England bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, in a move that will frustrate campaigners for gay rights and risk further alienating the church from wider society.
After two years of intense internal discussion involving clergy and laity ”“ and at least two decades of bitter division within the church ”“ the bishops have produced a report reaffirming that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
However, it says church law and guidance should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without a change of doctrine ”“ meaning clergy will have some leeway in individual cases.
While calling for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbians and gays, the report offers little in the way of concrete change.
The Church of England should not change its opposition to same-sex marriage, a new report has recommended, despite saying it needs to “repent on the homophobic attitudes” it has previously had.
A document from the House of Bishops says the Church should adopt a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for gay people.
It says guidance in marriage should be interpreted in a way that provides “maximum freedom” for homosexuals.
The report will then be the subject of a “take note” debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion. It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but a vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report. The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.
Read it all (appended at the bottom).
A Statement from the Bishop of Norwich on the House of Bishops Report on marriage+same-sex reltnshps
When reports to the General Synod are launched at a press briefing they are often published at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This report on marriage and same sex relationships from the House of Bishops isn’t that sort of report. It describes where the bishops have reached in their reflections. It goes on to provide a framework identifying areas where we believe present advice, policies or practice need further consideration, and invites members of General Synod and the wider Church, to contribute. So this isn’t the end of a process but we are somewhere in the middle of it. We are sharing where we have reached in order to be as transparent as possible, and open to other voices.
We hope that the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some. This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same sex relationships within the Church, and within the House of Bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture. The House is agreed, however, that our present teaching documents do not address some elements of the contemporary situation regarding marriage and relationships in our culture. I refer to the current teaching document on marriage, issued by the House of Bishops in 1999, and an earlier document on same sex relationships, Issues in Human Sexuality. Neither discusses nor even anticipates same sex marriage, a reminder of just how quickly things have changed. Issues, published in 1991, was written when Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was in force. It prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools and prevented local councils from spending money on lesbian and gay projects including anything which suggested support of what it called “pretended family relationships”. The temper of the time in which Issues was written was a very different one from ours. The later teaching document from 1999 simply assumes marriage is the union of one man with one woman. Hence, the House of Bishops believes it needs to commission a new teaching document which articulates such an understanding of marriage within a theology of relationships for our changed times. This report isn’t that document but it indicates why it is needed.
Read it all (appended at the bottom).
Under current Church rules, gay clergy wanting to enter into civil partnerships are required to assure their bishops they will remain celibate ”“ in line with traditional Church teaching that sex is only permitted within heterosexual marriage.
Such clergy also have to make similar official assurances to their archbishop before they can be promoted to the rank of bishop.
But sources said the bishops could now call for the rule to be scrapped so that clerics living with same-sex partners would no longer have to make a solemn vow.
They would still be expected to remain celibate.
One of CEEC’s tasks, prompted by “Guarding the Deposit”, is to consider together the various ways evangelicals will respond to this situation and how the wider church might face the reality of our diversity over human sexuality. “Guarding the Deposit” outlines three broad ways the church might act in 2017 and beyond.
Its hope is that the Church of England will maintain its current teaching and practice as the 2007 Synod committed us to do. Alternatively there may be a full acceptance of same-sex relationships as in a few other Anglican provinces. This would undoubtedly lead to major division within the CofE and the destruction of the Anglican Communion in its current form. There may therefore be an attempt ”“ as in the Pilling Report ”“ to offer some form of supposed via media with official permission for marking of same-sex relationships.
But, as “Guarding the Deposit” argues, this too would both represent a departure from apostolicity and lead to continuing conflict. It would therefore require some form of agreed visible differentiation and structural separation within the Church of England (and wider Communion).