A response to Andrew Symes

We were unsurprised that Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream disagreed profoundly with our recently published document, in his blog article published on 9 February 2016. http://anglicanmainstream.org/lgbti-mission-a-vision-of-the-future-c-of-e/ But we are disappointed that he has badly misrepresented our position.

He claims that we regard those who disagree with equal marriage as ‘”homophobic”, inherently in the way of progress, and so ultimately not welcome.’ This is neither stated nor implied anywhere in our document.

He also claims that our plan to “raise concerns in Westminster about the reach and scope of the current religious exemptions in civil law” is a threat with regard to same-sex marriage. In fact this reference is in our Serving cluster of priorities where it relates specifically, and only, to earlier employment law exemptions now embodied in the Equality Act 2010.

Our position on equal marriage is clearly stated in our Loving cluster where we support: “legislation that will enable those clergy who want to celebrate same-sex marriages to be able to do so, while protecting the legal rights of clergy who are conscientiously opposed.”

More generally we seek “an acceptance of a difference of views on human sexuality and gender variance and an end to insistence that there is only one acceptable view.”

Daily Telegraph reports launch of LGBTI Mission

John Bingham reported on our launch in this Telegraph article:

Gender transition services and same-sex weddings call for Church of England

His report quoted Simon Sarmiento:

Simon Sarmiento, chair of the LGBTI Mission, said: “Now is the time for the Church of England to practise what it preaches and show love towards its LGBTI neighbours.

“We’ve seen the Church make huge strides towards equality in recent years, most notably through the 2014 legislation enabling women to become bishops, and it’s now essential that LGBTI equality is similarly cemented in our institution.

“We know that this is what most people in the Church of England want.

“We believe that each of the asks we’ve outlined is achievable and, frankly, essential.”

And he quoted Bishop Alan Wilson:

The new campaign group’s aims will be fiercely opposed by conservative Anglicans who believe that any endorsement of “homosexual practice” goes against the teaching of the Bible.

But Bishop Wilson said: “Lots of people are going around saying sorry, it’s great fun saying sorry – but what has actually changed?

“The LGBTI Anglicans say we can’t carry on as we have done – you can’t say ‘can we carry on having blacks-only beaches’ if you say you want to dismantle apartheid.

“Repentance is about change of mind and renewal.

“There is plenty of evidence of a change of mind, there is a genuine wanting to move on but if you want to move on you have to go somewhere different to where you are now.”

He added: “In a lot of this I don’t think the Church has to change its doctrine of marriage – it just has to apply it to same-sex couples.”


LGBTI Mission reported in The Tablet

Our launch was also covered in the Roman Catholic weekly, The Tablet.

Megan Cornwall’s report, Bishop and priests launch gay campaign group (only available to subscribers) included quotes from Simon Sarmiento and Vicky Beeching, and also from an anonymous Church of England spokesperson…

A SERVING bishop is among a group of prominent Anglicans to launch a group to campaign for more rights for gay people within the Church.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, Canon Giles Goddard and Canon Steven Saxby want married gay people to be allowed to become priests.

LGBTI Mission is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their straight allies, including both clergy and lay people. The campaign comes just weeks after the Anglican Communion suspended the United States Episcopal Church over it[s] support for same-sex marriage.

The group, which launched on Thursday, has nine concrete objectives, including ensuring that LGBTI people are never denied access to baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion and funerals.

Simon Sarmiento, the group’s chairman, said: “The Church of England has been failing to deal with this issue for several decades, during which time public opinion on sexuality has changed dramatically.”

Christian singer Vicky Beeching, who is now a theologian and broadcaster, and who hit the headlines in 2014 for revealing that she is gay, is also a member. She said: “‘God’s house’ of all places should be filled with love and acceptance, yet countless stories prove otherwise. If we want anyone left in the pews in years to come the Church must address this serious issue.” She said she believed the Bible had been misinterpreted on the topic of same-sex relationships.

A Church of England spokesperson said: “It is not only expected but welcome that various groups and individuals across the Church will present their views and inevitably this will represent the diversity of opinion held.”

The other objectives of LGBTI Mission include full acceptance of parishes wishing to celebrate same-sex marriages and the availability of liturgical materials for use in church after civil partnerships. Lay preacher Jeremy Timm, suspended from ministry after marrying his partner, Mike Brown, is also a member.

Church Times covers Mission launch

The launch of the LBGTI Mission was well reported in the Church Times, by  Madeleine Davies: Mission targets C of E barriers to gay clergy. Here is part of what she wrote:

Tracey Byrne, the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which is part of the mission, said this week that people were reporting to her that “things have got worse, not better” in recent years.

“The fog of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is definitely clearing, and things are worse in many ways,” she said on Monday. “Perhaps that makes it easier, because we are clearer now about where we stand. We are clear about what the Church can legally do. . . Outside the Church, [people] are horrified when I say that the Church can do this.”

…The Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, Canon Giles Goddard, a member of the Synod, and part of the Mission, said on Tuesday that it would be “hard to read the mood of Synod” until after the Shared Conversations.

One of the first acts of the Mission will be to produce a “clear statement on the full spectrum of human sexuality and gender variance, and the precious gift of sex and marriage in Christian understanding”. Developed by a theological resource group, largely comprising academics at Cambridge University, it will be distributed before the members of the General Synod embark on Shared Conversations, in July. The Mission says that, while the Church accepts a range of views on other issues, including women’s ordination, “there is no space for differences when it comes to human sexuality and gender identity. The official and only acceptable view is that marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.”

On Wednesday, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “It is not only expected but welcome that various groups and individuals across the Church will present their views, and inevitably this will represent the diversity of opinion held. Given what many have experienced and learnt through the Shared Conversations, it is hoped that these are expressed and responded to with clarity and respect, holding our differences and disagreement within the love and grace of Christ.”

LGBTI Mission hopes to see more bishops speak openly about their own views. Currently, only two bishops have spoken out in support of gay marriage: the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, and the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson.

Last week, Dr Wilson, part of LGBTI Mission, said that, while he refused to judge any of his colleagues, he expected this to change.

“Just clamming up and saying nothing is ceasing to be an option,” he said. “A situation where everyone knows the real score but a small number of people at the top is pretending something else is really damaging to the Church.”

Given that “hundreds and thousands” of people in the UK might be in gay marriages within the next decade, he said that the need for liturgies that priests could use was “urgent”.

“Right now we are very good at telling people what not to do,” he said. “You must not call it a blessing but can call it a service of thanksgiving, dedication and commitment. We are not very good at telling people what they can do.” He expressed concern about what would fill this “vacuum”.

LGBTI Mission’s programme had “no intention to put the squeeze on people not ready to expand their sense of what marriage is,” he said. “What we do want is for there to be the same respect all round for the consciences of everybody, and right now there isn’t.”


About us

The LGBTI Mission has come together to work towards the full acceptance and affirmation of LGBTI people within the life of the Church of England.  Over the next five years we will do everything we can to remove the barriers to full participation by LGBTI people. We will bring together organisations, allies and friends including LGBTI faith groups.

Read more about us…