LGBTI Mission calls for leaders to speak up

Urgent need for church leaders seeking inclusion to speak up, following letter from bishops of the Church of England Evangelical Council

A recent letter from eleven Church of England bishops poses a serious challenge to those in the church who wish to see the Church of England move towards a more inclusive position. The LGBTI mission was founded to advocate Anglican practice which demonstrates that God’s abundant love is for all people, irrespective of sexuality or gender identity. The letter, penned by the Bishop of Blackburn, warned against moves towards the church being more inclusive.

There is an urgent need for Church of England bishops and other leaders who want to be more welcoming towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Christians to be clear about the theological imperatives for greater inclusion. The credibility of the latest study process on sexuality and gender identity (Living in Love and Faith), due to report in 2020, hangs on those welcoming voices being heard. If Bishops and church leaders do not articulate LGBTI inclusive theology, there is also a risk of further alienating young people, many of whom already think that the church is unjust and unloving towards them, their LGBTI family members and loved ones.

This present initiative is the most recent of several processes of study and dialogue over the past half-century. Time and again, these have pointed out the need to treat LGBTI people in a more loving and less unequal way, in line with core biblical values – but church leaders have consistently been reluctant to act on this, for fear of upsetting their most conservative members. These include some church leaders from the Global South, though there are theologians and ordinary churchgoers throughout the world who understand the need for change.

At present, there are severe restrictions on what is legally possible in Church of England churches. Clergy and parishes who want to hold marriages for same-sex couples are forbidden to do so, and licensed clergy are themselves forbidden from being married to a same-sex partner, and some have lost their licence and permission to officiate for having done so. Official teaching even frowns on physically intimate same-sex partnerships which are permanent, faithful, and stable, even though the vast majority of British Anglicans disagree. People who would make excellent priests have been turned away, and some LGBTI people still face distressing rejection or pressure to hide their identity. The Church of England is making extensive use of religious exemptions under the Equality Act of 2010, which makes such behaviour illegal in all other areas of our national life.

Many of the bishops who would like to see greater inclusion have, so far, failed to say so. But while LGBTI members are still treated as second-class and leaders opposed to inclusion are making the headlines, this silence is hugely damaging and undermines trust.

Though many evangelicals now affirm LGBTI people and committed partnerships, the letter from eleven evangelical bishops calls for ‘Living in Love and Faith’ clearly to articulate ‘the traditional teaching of the Anglican Communion. The form of this is what Lambeth 1920 called a “pure and chaste life before and after marriage”’. It warns of division if this does not happen.

However, Anglicans globally have already moved on to take a very different view from that of the Lambeth Conference of a century ago, which expressed a strong disapproval of contraception, or divorce and remarriage even in extreme circumstances other than infidelity, such as domestic violence and abandonment.

In LGBTI Mission’s view, to fulfil Jesus’ call to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and to “love one’s neighbour as oneself” is vital for the Church’s mission and ministry in the 21st Century. Now is the time to be bold, and to respect the consciences of those wanting greater inclusion (as well as those opposed to full affirmation, who would not need to be required to act against their conscience), and to witness in deed, not just word, to God’s self-giving love for all.

LGBTI Mission

Tracey Byrne, Giles Goddard, Ruth Harley, Rosie Harper, Savi Hensman, Chris Newlands, Jeremy Pemberton, Simon Sarmiento (Chair), John Seymour, Bishop Alan Wilson

The letter from the eleven evangelical bishops:

Lambeth Conference of 1920, Resolutions 66-69.


Leading UK psychological professions and Stonewall unite against conversion therapy

Official press release via Pink Therapy
16 October 2017

An updated memorandum of understanding (MoU) against conversion therapy has been launched today, which makes it clear that conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation (including asexuality) is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence. 

Conversion therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.

The primary purpose of the 2017 MoU is the protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK.  The 2017 MoU updates one released in 2015 at the Department of Health, which focused exclusively on sexual orientation, and is endorsed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charity Stonewall.

The MoU also intends to ensure that:

  • The public are well informed about the risks of conversion therapy
  • Healthcare professionals and psychological therapists are aware of the ethical issues relating to conversion therapy
  • New and existing psychological therapists are appropriately trained
  • Evidence into conversion therapy is kept under regular review
  • Professionals from across the health, care and psychological professions work together to achieve the above goals.

Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, although exclusion, stigma and prejudice may precipitate mental health issues for any person subjected to these abuses. Anyone accessing therapeutic help should be able to do so without fear of judgement or the threat of being pressured to change a fundamental aspect of who they are.

You can download the document here: Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK Version 2 October 2017

Anglican Primates’ Meeting October 2017

Background briefing

A Primates’ Meeting is being held in Canterbury from 2-6 October 2017. The most senior bishop or moderator in each church in the Anglican Communion has been invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. While several important topics are due to be discussed, including climate change, the most controversial is human sexuality. This raises particular problems for the Church of England, which is hosting the meeting.

International Anglican gatherings advise, rather than direct, member churches. Key principles agreed over the years include:

·      not trying to take over parts of other provinces;

·      learning from new findings in biblical studies and science, including on sexuality;

·      human rights for all, including lesbian and gay people;

·      opposing homophobic prejudice, violence and criminalisation.

These are widely ignored. However Primates’ Meetings have sometimes punished provinces which have been led by such principles to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people more fully. The Scottish Episcopal Church this year agreed to allow (but not require) clergy to marry same-sex couples in church if they choose. With the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, it may face negative consequences.

Nevertheless three of the primates – Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda and Stanley Ntagali of Uganda – have indicated that they will not attend the meeting because welcoming churches too will be represented. In countries where LGBTI people already often risk jail, archbishops Okoh and Ntagali have campaigned for even harsher laws.

However a growing number of Anglican and other churches are considering a more inclusive stance towards LGBTI people, including in Brazil and South Africa. Many theologians throughout the world, including in Africa, believe that the Bible does not rule out committed same-sex partnerships and some have explored gender diversity.

In Britain, where Christians have debated this issue for decades, only 16% of Anglicans still think that same-sex partnerships are always wrong. Repeatedly over half a century, Church of England working party reports have described the theological case for a more positive attitude. Afraid of upsetting the overseas leaders and local activists most opposed to change, senior clergy have continued to insist that sex between same-sex partners is always sinful.

Yet a shift may at last be taking place, perhaps in part because of concerns for church survival. Only 3% of those aged 18-24 described themselves as Anglican, compared to 40% of those aged 75 and over. While the church’s views on sexuality and gender are not the only cause, these may be an obstacle. As Justin Welby said in 2013, ‘Young people say “I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic.”’

A letter from the General Synod Human Sexuality Group to the primates describes a ‘direction of travel’ in the Church of England towards a more accepting stance. Whatever the outcome of this meeting, in several other Anglican churches too, many now believe that inclusion is in keeping with God’s will.

What should the Church of England teaching document on sexuality encompass?

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced in February that the Church of England needed a teaching document about sexuality to lead the church towards a radical new inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the church. This will replace Issues in Human Sexuality and associated documents which are a generation old. The archbishops wrote:

To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.

The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Leading academic theologians, scientists and other experts have written a paper identifying questions and themes which they believe the Church of England group that will write that new teaching document will need to address. Their work has been co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, sponsored by the LGBTI Mission and supported by the Human Sexuality Group of General Synod, OneBodyOneFaith and Inclusive Church.

The paper which can be found here is titled A Teaching Document on Sexuality and Marriage from the Bishops of the Church of England: Some Initial Suggestions as to Questions and Themes.

LGBTI Mission Chair, Simon Sarmiento said, “We are not telling the group what to write. But we are saying that if the Teaching Document is to serve the Archbishops’ purpose and have credibility in the Church of England and beyond, then it must address the questions and themes these scholars have identified”.

The Chair of the Human Sexuality Group of General Synod, Canon Giles Goddard, added, “The Teaching Document is a significant part of the Archbishops’ plan for the way forward for our church. It is vital that the Document covers the breadth and depth of the questions raised in this preparatory paper if it is to command the support of General Synod”.

Tracey Byrne, the CEO of OneBodyOneFaith, commented, “People in the Church of England, both LGBTI+ people and their friends, families and allies, are looking to our bishops and General Synod for a better way forward than the paper rejected by General Synod in February. We know this Teaching Document is coming, and we are grateful to the academics who have done this work on identifying the important and pressing matters that must be considered by those writing it.”

Diverse Church+ is launched

Diverse Church is proud to announce the launch of Diverse Church+. So far the group has already welcomed a founding community of people aged from 30s to 60s and beyond.

Speaking about the launch of Diverse Church+, the Rev Sally Hitchiner said
“Three years ago we launched Diverse Church building local and national christian community for LGBT people aged 18-30. Two years ago we launched Diverse Church Parents as a way to do this for the Christian Parents of LGBT people. We are proud today to be launching Diverse Church Plus: building community that is fully Christian and fully LGBT, who are LGBT, Christian and over 30 years old. Like all our DC communities it is social media based but has regular local and annual national meet ups. We welcome all LGBT Christians whatever their theology about sexuality and gender and whatever their denomination or christian tradition. If you would like to join or to find out more email them on and their welcome team would be more than happy to answer any questions. Here is a short message from some of the founding community. “

OneBodyOneFaith writes about Dean Jeffrey John and the Bishops of the Church in Wales

Dean Jeffrey John and the Bishops of the Church in Wales

As an ecumenical organisation OneBodyOneFaith surveys the actions of all the churches in the UK in relation to their policies and practices with regards to LGBTI people. The Church in Wales is engaged in the process of replacing the Bishop of Llandaff, following the retirement of the previous bishop, Barry Morgan. The election process failed to produce a clear result, no candidate achieving a two-thirds majority of the electoral college in the time set. This means that the process now becomes an appointment process without a specified time scale, in the hands of the bishops of that church, in consultation with other designated representatives from the diocese in question and the other dioceses.

What has happened is that one of the members of the Electoral College broke the confidentiality of the meeting and let it be known that the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John, who is in a civil partnership, had attracted over half of the Electoral College vote, but failed to meet the two-thirds majority required by, it is alleged, only two votes. The electors from the diocese in question, Llandaff, had unanimously backed Jeffrey John.

OneBodyOneFaith commends the individual who had the courage to break confidence on this occasion, and Dean John in publishing his letter. Far from showing a lack of integrity or faith in the process, what they have exposed is just the tiny tip of an iceberg in terms of injustices which are meted out to ‘rank and file’ LGBTI+ people by bishops on a weekly basis, behind closed doors, and under the cloak of ‘confidentiality’. Such behaviour – lack of accountability and transparency – is shameful and homophobic. It does not belong in the processes of any organisation and certainly not a Christian church.

There has only ever been one other occasion on which an Electoral College has failed to make a choice. This was in 2004 when Tony Crockett failed to receive a two-thirds majority for his election as Bishop of Bangor. He was a divorced and remarried man, and notwithstanding the controversy that this provoked, the bishops went ahead and appointed him almost immediately. He proved to be a faithful, popular and successful bishop, sadly dying in post only four years later.

It now appears that the bishops of the Church in Wales have decided to omit Jeffrey John from the short-list for the appointment process, notwithstanding the precedent set in 2004 and his popularity in the diocese. In the published notice about the appointment process there is no mention at all that previous candidates for election will be excluded from further consideration. Jeffrey John has now published his response to a letter from the Chair of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies. Bishop Davies’s original letter has also now been published on the internet.

In his letter, Jeffrey John accuses the bishops of anti-gay discrimination. Despite declaring that being gay and in a civil partnership is no bar to appointment, he claims that they have decided to bar his candidature on precisely and specifically those grounds, in contravention of their own rules.

It appears that they told him that they were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems that they believed his appointment would cause. There is no evidence of any problems being caused by his candidature, and no reason to think that it would cause any particular problems as Jeffrey’s personal relationship falls within the permitted guidelines. A divorced and remarried man they appointed immediately, a gay man in a relationship they exclude.

The bishops’ behaviour is a very clear example of the instability and inconsistency of the institutional practices of this Anglican church in the way it treats LGBTQ+ people. The open integrity of Jeffrey John causes them more psychological disturbance than gay clergy who are closeted or semi-closeted, certainly far more than a heterosexual man who was divorced and remarried, and they have been unable to act with professional and pastoral integrity themselves. Despite their own published codes relating to this matter, they cannot manage the stress. The consequence is unjust and discriminatory behaviour. It is the kind of tension and response that is well-described in a recent article in Theology, Ledbetter, Charles, Sexuality and informal authority in the Church of England, Theology 2017. Vol. 120(2) 112-121.
OneBodyOneFaith makes an urgent call to the Bishops of the Church in Wales to think again. It is vital for the good health of their church that they re-establish confidence in their leadership and the credibility of the election/appointment process. With this in mind, we ask them:

* To undertake a full enquiry into all the processes in this case before proceeding any further with an appointment
* Not to exclude any previous candidates from further consideration, as they gave no notice of this
* To follow the precedent of their church established in 2004 in appointing a bishop after a failed election, having regard to the support a particular candidate attracted in the diocese in question
* To abide by their own guidelines regarding candidates who are gay and in civil partnerships
* To apologise publicly to Jeffrey John for homophobic remarks and attitudes, and
* To listen to the voices of the people of the diocese of Llandaff and the Church in Wales

Jeremy Pemberton
For the Board of

Monday 20th March 2017

An open letter to the Bishops of Guildford and Dorking from the Chair of OneBodyOneFaith

Dear Bishops Andrew and Jo,

Last night on the diocesan website you published a blog by Hugh Bryant entitled “Shared Conversations concerning Sexuality – a Suggested Solution”.  The content of the blog substantially appears in a sermon preached by Mr Bryant which he has published on his website here .

While we understand that Mr Bryant intends to make helpful suggestions, I have to tell you that his blog has caused very great offence to many LGBTI+ people.  It is not the proposed solution that he offers that is the principal problem, though I do not think it is a particularly helpful or practicable proposal.  It is two other things.

The first and most important is this: he presumes to tell us how our relationships are ordered.

He writes:
“Even though, physiologically, they may both be male or female, as between themselves, one is treated as male and the other is treated as female.”

Apart from the fact that this is nonsense and is not supported by any evidence, this is grossly insulting to us.  We will speak for ourselves and we do not need heterosexual people, however well-meaning, telling us about the nature of the relationships that we have. It is presumptuous, erroneous and patronising to think that the internal dynamics of anyone’s relationships are susceptible to simple explanation in the way that he attempts.  There is at the heart of the gift of loving relationship a mystery, known only to the couple concerned and God.  This is holy ground, and it will not do to allow people to trample on it in this way.

Secondly, if the Shared Conversations have taught us anything, it is that we are well past the time when others can speak for the Christian LGBTI+ community.  Mr Bryant owes it to himself and everyone else in the body of Christ not to presume to speak for others in this kind of a way.  We are just about arriving at the point where the Church of England is realising that it has problematised LGBTI+ people of faith in an unjust and unjustifiable manner.  But only just arriving.  And to publish a piece like this, which stereotypes, silences and problematises us once again, is entirely unacceptable and a very retrograde step.

We are disciples of Christ like everyone else, and we have a properly adult Christian responsibility to
“work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil 2:12b-13
Removing the responsibility from us by silencing us and stereotyping us is, frankly, spiritually abusive.

I am very surprised that your diocesan website saw fit to publish this blog, though of course I recognise that it does not represent the official views of the diocese. I spoke this morning to someone in Communications, who told me that “the last thing we want to do is to cause offence”.  I have to tell you that your communications team have just managed to do the last thing they intended to do.  I am grateful that they have taken this piece down, but I think it would be both helpful and appropriate if you could direct them to put up an explanation and/or an apology.  I think it would reassure people that Guildford diocese is a place where the voices and lives of LGBTI+ faithful are taken seriously and treated with the respect and dignity that we all owe to one another.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Pemberton
Chair of OneBodyOneFaith