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.”