We’ll work with you – but we won’t wait for you

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE LESBIAN AND GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

27 January 2017

We’ll work with you – but we won’t wait for you, LGBTI+ groups tell House of Bishops.

Groups working for the full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the Church of England have responded to Friday’s statement by the House of Bishops by promising support for those who want to change – but saying that they can no longer wait for those who don’t, and that their members and supporters will begin the work of making change happen at the grassroots.

In an open letter to the bishops, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement expressed its disappointment at the report, whilst recognising the bishops’ sincere attempts to draw together those of conflicting conviction. Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of LGCM, said, ‘To echo Una Kroll’s words, we asked for bread and we’ve been given stones. LGBTI+ people who have participated in this process in good faith, at considerable personal cost, will feel angry and disappointed that there appears so little real change. Despite us knowing that many individual bishops favour a move towards a more gracious, compassionate and inclusive church, collectively they’ve failed to deliver – promising only more reflection. We stand ready to engage in the process of changing the tone of the conversation – but this has to lead to tangible change. This is another missed opportunity which further undermines the mission of the established church to convey the gospel promise of good news for everyone.’

Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of LGCM, said, ‘The waiting is over. What we’re saying now to the bishops is that LGBTI+ Christians are here, are part of the church, and are happy to work with those who want change. But LGCM can no longer wait for episcopal leadership. The Spirit is moving in God’s faithful people and we’re seeking to be obedient to that movement. It’s a very exciting time.’

 

ENDS

LGCM responds to the CofE bishops

Open letter to the Bishops of the Church of England from the Board of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

Dear brothers and sisters,

A Response to the House of Bishops’ Report to General Synod following the Shared Conversations

When the Pilling report came out you proposed a method, the Shared Conversations, that held the hope of finding a way forward in the Church of England in the controversial area of sexuality by encouraging ‘good disagreement’. We understood that to mean that members of the church were not to expect to see any one perspective dominate, but for them all to acknowledge their part in the Body of Christ, reflecting the relationship in him that they share, whatever their views of human sexuality. They were asked to participate in the process of Shared Conversations in a spirit of Christian openness and trust.

LGBTI+ Anglicans gladly did so, but for those who did so there was a high personal cost of putting themselves and their relationships on the line for public discussion and comment once again, as if to legitimise them. For some that was too much to contemplate. Others committed to the process, in the hope that this would lead, at last, to LGBTI+ people being given some real space in the corporate life of the Church of England. We all looked for an acknowledgement of the potential for holiness and growth in grace that many of us have found, not despite, but through embracing our God-given sexuality and the relationships into which we are convinced God has led us.

When the Conversations came to an end you told the church that you wished to give episcopal leadership to shaping what came next. You announced the timetable, but also made it clear that you were not at that stage inviting representations. You asked your people to trust you. As an ecumenical organisation with many Church of England members, we responded by acceding to that request, as we have all through this process.

It is now clear that the process has almost entirely failed to hear the cries of faithful LGBTI+ people. You are proposing to formalise ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ among clergy in same-sex relationships. This essentially asks clergy to dissemble and keep the nature of their relationships hidden – far from equalising the situation between straight and gay clergy it pushes LGBTI+ clergy back into the closet. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” diminishes everyone’s integrity: where it was used in wider society it was eventually discarded and discredited. Why are you introducing this now?

You write in your report about the need establish “across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people”. You say also that your responsibility is to clarify the issues at stake not find solutions. The issues at stake are principally the lives of these lesbian and gay people. You tell us that the bishops are not going to change an iota of the current teaching of the Church of England. If that is the case, then changes of tone will do nothing to improve the second-class position of the LGBTI+ faithful. Their relationships will be merely tolerated or judged wanting, and LGBTI+ clergy will be vulnerable if their relationships become known.

You have done nothing to acknowledge the goodness or sanctity of the relationships of LGBTI+ people, lay and clerical. Anglican LGBTI+ people are still labouring under the Higton motion and Issues in Human Sexuality as the last word on this matter. You could have made clear that issues of sexuality are not first order theological issues and that same-sex relationships, which the Archbishop described as sometimes being of “stunning quality”, could be a means of grace to those in them. You have done nothing. There is a failure of leadership and theological insight in the Church of England.

This outcome is an almost complete betrayal of the trust that has been placed in you by faithful disciples of Christ. There is no space for good disagreement. The old lines of dishonesty remain intact. Not an inch has been given to support LGBTI+ inclusion.

We have to tell you that this is completely unacceptable. Echoing the words of the late Una Kroll, “We asked for bread, and you gave us a stone”. You make much of starting processes to write more documents, but our observation is that anything written is unlikely to move the situation forwards. LGCM and Changing Attitude, who are shortly to merge, will now begin a series of campaigns to change this situation. We will use the levers of power available to us and will oppose and challenge your stance where it is intransigent at every opportunity. Those of us who are members of the Church of England will remain in communion with you and will insist on making our protests and acting in ways that seek to hold the Church of England together. We will work to help it move to a more diverse and inclusive future, bringing the message of Christ alive in the present day. Like you, we are deeply concerned with the decline of the Church of England not simply numerically, but in the estimation of the English people. Our concern is, therefore, missionary as well as pastoral and political.

Your actions and inactions will not commend your church to ordinary people. We will work to make the Church of England a body of which all Christians can be proud again. We are glad that your proposal for a new report to replace Issues will engage and include LGBTI+ Anglicans in the writing of it, and we remain ready to participate in that. In other initiatives where you allow us we will work with you, but our clear focus is on the changes that need to come.

Yours in the fellowship of Christ,

Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive Officer
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

CofE bishops report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships

The Church of England has published this report: Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations and there is also a press release which is available here.

Scroll down in the press release to see the full text of the remarks made at this morning’s press conference by the Bishop of Norwich and the Bishop of Willesden.  These are a valuable guide to the tone of the document.

The press release itself says:

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.

A report from the House of Bishops to be discussed by the Church’s General Synod next month upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

But it also concludes that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples – which allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership – is not clear enough and should be revisited.

It also calls for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbian and gay people and those attracted to people of the same sex throughout the Church of England.

The paper recommends that bishops prepare a substantial new teaching document on marriage and relationships to replace or expand upon documents drawn up in the 1990s.

And it calls for new guidance to be prepared about the kind of questions put to candidates for ordination – irrespective of their sexual orientation – about their lifestyle.

It also speaks of the need for the Church to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirm the need to stand against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

But you should read carefully the whole of the official document to get the full flavour of it.

 

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce merger

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce plans to merge their work to create ‘new missional movement for transformation and change’.

Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who have between them been working for over 60 years for LGBT inclusion across the Christian churches, have announced plans to merge.

Tracey Byrne, LGCM’s Chief Executive said, ‘We’ve been working closely with Changing Attitude for some time now and we have so much in common, and so much to gain from working together. We both bring wisdom and experience to our work, and Changing Attitude’s deep understanding of the Church of England is complemented by LGCM’s insights from across and beyond the denominations. We want to see all that energy, commitment and vision combined to bring about real and lasting change.’

LGCM marked its fortieth anniversary in 2016, and Changing Attitude celebrated 20 years of Colin Coward’s leadership on his retirement in 2015. Tracey went on to say, ‘Both LGCM and Changing Attitude have been blessed with extraordinary and prophetic founders and leaders – people like Colin, Malcolm Johnson, Jim Cotter and Richard Kirker. We shall not see their like again – but of course we’re also part of a world and a church which functions very differently to the way it did in 1976. We have a really firm foundation from which to build a new movement which draws in all people of goodwill who want to see the church welcome LGBT people on equal terms with our sisters and brothers.’

Jeremy Timm of Changing Attitude said, ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for us to further LGCM and Changing Attitude’s work, to make ourselves a resource and a force for change in the churches as they continue in their journey of understanding in relation to sexuality and gender. We firmly believe we can do this better together, and as both boards of trustees have been talking and listening to one another over the past six months, we’ve become really excited and energised about what the future holds.’

LGCM’s Chair of Trustees, Jeremy Pemberton added, ‘If we’re going to reach out to a new generation with the message that the gospel is good news for everyone, then we’ll all need to commit ourselves to making that a credible and authentic claim for LGBT people too. That will involve humble listening and prophetic action at every level of the churches, from our leaders and from the many people we know are longing for change. The new movement will be uniquely placed to resource that kind of transformation.’

Bishop condemns GAFCON UK hitlist

From the Salisbury diocesan website

Letter to the Church Times, November 2016

Bishop Nicholas had the following letter published in the Church Times of 18 November 2016, in response to the GAFCON statement of 13 November.

From the Bishop of Salisbury

Sir, — The GAFCON Statement of 13 November about Lambeth I.10 is outrageous.

First, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” When Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.

Second, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”

Third, “Love your enemies.” GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.

Fifth*, “Do as you would be done by.” Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. “The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”

For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.

As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people. Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.

+ NICHOLAS SARUM

* Note – this is an error introduced by the Church Times in-house drafting process.

Lambeth 1.10 hitlist condemned

The LGBTI Mission condemns the latest attempt by conservative evangelicals to bully the House of Bishops of the Church of England, who resume their consideration of sexuality matters next week.

On Sunday, GAFCON UK issued  a hitlist, containing some names of people who have, according to them, “violated” the terms of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 -Human Sexuality –  by various forms of action which express support for same-sex relationships.

Despite GAFCON UK denials, publishing this hitlist is an open invitation for people to harass those named in it. The statement appears however to be having the opposite effect, in that those named have expressed delight at their inclusion, and many people have complained that they were not included, with comments on Twitter such as this:

Being honest? Wanting an inclusive church that welcomes all made in God’s image? Praying for change? Better name and shame me too then!!

We are confident that the bishops will recognise this bullying tactic for what it is, and we assure them of our prayers as they work to lead the church into a place where we can live with diversity and with integrity.

Simon Sarmiento, Chair.

 

 

 

Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement on the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality

Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

James 1.21-25

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude have welcomed the establishment of a Reflection Group under the leadership of Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich.  Whilst expressing disappointment that a group tasked with reflecting on issues of human sexuality does not appear to include any openly gay people, we recognise that this simply reflects the reality within the church’s leadership – that LGBT people are invisible, our voices often silenced, and our experiences unheard.  We welcome the opportunities which have arisen as part of the Shared Conversations to included the lived experience, deep conviction and prophetic witness of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and we recognise the enormously costly nature of the contribution many people have made to that process.

The Reflection Group must now consider the Church’s steps into the future.   In doing so, they will be called to listen carefully to all they have heard during the Shared Conversations.  We call upon them to lead the House of Bishops towards a future that celebrates the gifts of all God’s people including the LGBTI members of the Church of England and embodies the radical equality to which we are called in Christ.

Our prayer is that, strengthened by the Spirit, the members of the group will be enabled to listen, reflect and discern, and that as they undertake their work they will be granted moral courage and prophetic vision.  For we are all alike called to be not only hearers of the Word, but doers too;  our actions must match our words in seeking God’s justice, compassion and truth.

We continue to look forward to a future where LGBT people are no longer seen as a problem to be solved, but as gifted members of the Body of Christ, equal partners in prayer, service and mission.  Anything less than that falls short of the Good News  that God’s abundant love is for all humankind and that although LGBT people may struggle to find their place inside the church at the moment, God will travel with them when they choose the path of life, wherever that takes them.