In response to the message from the lesbian gay and Christian community in response to the house of bishops’ statement on gay and lesbian and transgender relationships (below):
“How sad after three years of deliberation, courage is not in evidence but rather a preservation of the status quo by the house of bishops who are actually going back to a policy of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ of thirty years ago. Positive affirmation of gay/lesbian relations are already happily on the Scottish church, Quakers and episcopal churches of the USA practice and Canada currently as on the ordination of women priests and bishops the C of E is hiding in the long grass again.
Many clergy will defy the house of bishops and bless gay and lesbian couples when asked to do so and offer justice compassion and pastoral care when our episcopal leaders fail to act. And count me in…”
An open letter to LGCM’s members and Changing Attitude’s supporters from the Board of LGCM
Dear brothers and sisters,
Concerning the statement from the Church of England’s House of Bishops following the ‘Shared Conversations’ – 27th January 2017
For the last three years, LGCM has given its support to the process in the Church of England that the House of Bishops inaugurated after the publication of the Pilling Report. Those members and supporters who have been invited to take part in the Shared Conversations, and who have chosen to do so, have spoken truth to power in costly and prophetic ways. We understand why some chose not to take part; it was a bruising process for many of us.
The House of Bishops then decided to take control of the outcomes of this process, and asked everyone to trust them in finding a way forward that would honour the search for “good disagreement”. This morning they have published what proposals they wish to bring to General Synod in this regard.
The bishops have betrayed their people by suggesting that we could trust them to produce the changes that are needed. There is no sense from their proposals that they are making space to honour the lives, witness and relationships of faithful LGBTI+ members of the Church of England. There is no change in theology, no meaningful change in practice and no change in discipline. LGBTI+ relationships are still second-rate at best, there is no sign of their providing services of blessing for same-sex couples, and their ban on clerical same-sex marriage stays in place. The only significant change they appear to have made is to establish “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as an official policy in relation to clergy in same-sex relationships. But as they expect all of those relationships to be celibate, they are effectively pushing those 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 they introducing this now?
We are disappointed and frustrated at the collective failure of the bishops to move the process forward. However, we know that within the House and College of Bishops there are many who want to be supportive of their LGBTI+ faithful. These bishops also know that the official position of the Church of England is extremely damaging to its mission, and that this week’s news will not help wider society, which the established church is supposed to serve, to have any credibility. We want to support those bishops in any and every move they make to change the position and the status of LGBTI+ people in their dioceses.
However, LGCM is not prepared any longer to wait for the bishops to act collectively in this matter. We know that many people will be angry and frustrated that so much money has been spent, so much time taken in listening, speaking and sharing our stories, and so little appears to have been achieved.
One of the sadnesses and frustrations of this state of affairs is that the Church of England seems to have been unable to learn from other churches who have made real progress in this regard over the last few years. The United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church, and the Baptist Union have all recognised the value of a diversity of views and the movement of the Holy Spirit which gives space and hope to the whole body. The Scottish Episcopal Church is also poised to move forwards. It is a great sadness that the established church in England has made so little progress. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for absolutely everybody and we have failed to grasp this opportunity.
LGCM and Changing Attitude, who, as a newly-united group, will be launching a new identity in two weeks’ time, want to encourage you all to turn your frustration and anger into action. Over the next few months, we are going to identify several campaigns that we are going to launch to invite ordinary Christians, both LGBTI+ and their allies, to take positive action to change things.
The first of these is a Members’ and Supporters’ Day on 4th March at Coventry Central Methodist Church. This will be an opportunity to meet together, to share our responses to what has happened, and to equip ourselves to campaign effectively for change from the grassroots. We invite anyone who would like to come on that day to reserve a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and put Members’ Day in the heading. More details will then be sent to you.
We know that many people will be further alienated by this news, but we are keen to continue to offer support, and to indicate those places where LGBTI+ people are genuinely welcome, as they are, in Christian communities. One of a number of ways of doing this, and something that you can do immediately to make a difference, is to register the place where you worship, if possible, as a Visible Congregation, which will be listed on the LGCM website. The link to the application form is on this page.
Beyond our disappointment we want things to change, and to do that we need your support and energy. Please come and join us in creating the future we know God is calling us to.
With prayers and good wishes,
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive Officer
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement
South Church House, 25 Market Place, NEWARK, Nottinghamshire NG24 1EA