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

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