Bishops report defends straight superiority & opposes equal marriage
LGBTI clergy and lay people treated as second class citizens
Join next Wednesday’s vigil at the General Synod of the Church of England in London, in protest at the House of Bishops’ shameful report: ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.’ See a full critique of the report below.
The vigil is organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude with the support of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and the Out and Proud African LGBTI.
Vigil: 8.30am Wednesday 15 February at the Dean’s Yard entrance to Church House in Westminster. The entrance to Dean’s Yard is by Westminster Abbey.
There are three key vigil times. From 08.30 to 10.00 as Synod members arrive; from 12.30 to 14.00 when the presentation of the report is complete and Synod members break for lunch; and a prayer vigil from 17.30 to 19.00 when Synod will discuss the report.
“The Bishops’ report defends heterosexual superiority and opposes same-sex blessings and marriages. The church blesses dogs and cats but it refuses to bless loving, committed same-sex couples. It treats LGBTI clergy and laity as second class, both within the church and the wider society. We are appalled by the church’s mistreatment of LGBTI people and the bishops failure to remedy it. LGBTI people want full inclusion and equality both inside and outside the church. LGBTI Christians are denied equality by the Anglican leadership. They are victims of religious homophobia and this homophobia must be opposed,” urged Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
What do we want from the Church of England?
• We call on members of Synod to refuse to accept the Bishops’ report
• Full equality for LGBTI lay people and clergy in ministry and relationships
• An end to the church’s support for discrimination in marriage law and its refusal to accept the equal validity of same-sex love and commitment
• LGBTI Anglicans must be fully involved in conversations about their future from now on and these conversations must lead to a non-discriminatory, inclusive church
Why are we objecting to the bishops’ report?
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement commented:
“The Church of England has spent almost three years and £350,000 in a careful process of ‘Shared Conversations’ about sexuality. So how has this report from the bishops managed to get it quite so wrong?
“Despite promising a ‘change of tone’, the report reasserts that marriage is (only) between one man and one woman for life, and there are no steps towards any form of words for blessing the committed relationships of same-sex couples. Equal marriage in church – a right for our opposite-sex brothers and sisters – seems as far off as ever.
“As a consequence, people in same-sex civil marriages may not be considered for ministry in the church, others are denied the opportunity to offer their services even as volunteers, and clergy in civil partnerships face innumerable obstacles to taking on new posts or promotions. Even clergy in secular employment – as hospital and prison chaplains – risk losing their jobs if they marry their partner.
We need the bishops to face up to what a ‘change of tone’ would mean: Not more words but a recognition of the real damage that continues to be done by this inertia.
“We need a national programme of practical change to move the church forward. That will require resources – a national lead person – and LGBT people at every level of the strategy, holding the church to account and monitoring effectiveness on the ground,” she said.
Rev Colin Coward, Founder of the LGBTI Anglican group, Changing Attitude, said:
“Church of England bishops have issued a new report at the end of a process started in 2011. It offers nothing new for LGBTI people. It holds out no hope for change and is less adventurous than the Gloucester Report published in 1979 and the Osborne report of 1989.
“The last six years have been wasted years. The ‘Shared Conversations’ have had no impact on the mind of the bishops. We are now asked to wait a further indefinite period while the bishops write a new teaching document.
“We are insulted by the report’s call for a ‘fresh tone and culture of welcome and support’ for lesbian and gay people. The public perceive the church to be prejudiced and unwelcoming. Why is the Church of England unable immediately to offer unconditional welcome and support to us?
“The report makes clear that no ground is going to be given to the twenty-five lesbian and gay clergy who have already married.
“The bishops have done nothing but add further delay to our urgent request that they permit LGBTI couples to be blessed in church.
“Bisexual, transgender and intersex (BTI) people also experience discrimination in the church. Despite our request, the Bishops’ report omits all reference to BTI people.
“Progress towards radical change was urgent six years ago. The bishops’ new recommendation is that a further period of delay follows while they prepare a new teaching document. This must be rejected.
“Any further work by the bishops that doesn’t include LGBTI representatives is unacceptable. There must be no more talking about us without us,” said Rev Coward.
What the bishop’s report says and why it is inadequate:
This summary and critique has been written by Colin Coward of Changing Attitude
These are the promises of the Bishop’s report (in bold):
• Establish a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people
Offering a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people will change nothing and has been greeted with anger and derision. Nothing less than a radical change in teaching and practice will achieve the bishops’ ambition.
• Continuing to work toward mutual love and understanding on these issues across the church
This is a platitude. Almost everyone subscribes to the desire for mutual love and understanding. We want action to remedy LGBTI exclusion.
• A substantial new teaching document on marriage and relationships
The Church of England has produced a series of teaching documents. This new document is the least adventurous of all. Producing a new document is an excuse to delay any more radical change until after the next Lambeth Conference in 2020.
• Clergy will be allowed to pray with couples but no authorised service of blessing and no permission to bless same-sex relationships is allowed
This is one of the key changes required by LGBTI Anglicans. The church allows weapons and pets to be blessed but not the love of same-sex partners.
• Any questioning about sexual conduct should apply equally to homosexual and heterosexual people and take the same form – establishing that the person concerned understands the Church’s teaching that sexual relations are properly conducted only within heterosexual marriage
Lesbian and gay clergy and ordinands, and those seeking ordination, have been and are singled out for intrusive questioning about their sexuality, relational status and sexual activity.
• No change to ecclesiastical law or to the Church of England’s existing doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships, reaffirming the current doctrine of marriage as between one man and one woman, faithfully, for life
The bishops are determined to maintain the teaching that marriage is an exclusively heterosexual state, despite the many LGBTI Anglicans and others who are in loving same-sex relationships and the 25 clergy who are married to same-sex partners. By allowing divorce and the remarriage of divorcees, but not same-sex marriage, the bishops reveal their double standards and dishonesty. Lesbian and gay Christian couples conform to Christian teaching, with one partner, faithfully, for life.
• Explore the distinction that has opened up between the state’s conception of “equal marriage” and the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony, and consider the implications of this
The bishops have had plenty of time to explore the distinction between state and church marriage. The church asked for and got the ‘quadruple lock’ to bar equal marriage in church. The bishops know the prejudiced, discriminatory treatment of LGBTI people is having a disastrous effect on the reputation and mission of the church.
• Clergy may not legally solemnise the marriage of two persons of the same sex, and civil partnerships may not be registered in Church of England places of worship
There is no proposal to change this profound and explicit discrimination, which would be unlawful in civil society. The Bishops’ report refuses to advance in any way the place of LGBTI people in the Church of England. LGBTI clergy, including those who are married and in civil partnerships, are legally prohibited from marrying two people of the same sex. This is an incomprehensible position not only to lesbian and gay couples, but to family, friends and colleagues, to their congregations and to the majority of Anglicans and the general population. The overwhelming majority of churchgoers want the Church to be open, inclusive and unconditionally welcoming.
LGCM Facebook page about the vigil: