Comments: Reactions to the Bishops' Reflection Group on Human Sexuality

"[LGCM] and Changing Attitude have welcomed the establishment of a Reflection Group" Pathetic. We should be saying loudly and clearly that this is not an acceptable next move. It's not even a move. A little less conversation, a little more action, please! Bishops and LGBT groups both.

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 6:46pm BST

Justin calls for "charity and love." However, it is not charitable to discriminate against LGBT people. It is not loving to treat us as "a problem to be solved," rather than "as gifted members of the Body of Christ, equal partners in prayer, service and mission."

So essentially, he is requiring LGBT people to bear the heavy burden of injustice and indignity for the sake of the comfortable status quo. Again...

GAFCON hardly requires a response. Lambeth 1.10 is not Scripture, nor is it in any way binding on anyone.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:51pm BST

Never mind the absence of any lesbian or gay voice (or bi etc) it's the absence of anyone who's even hinted at dissent from the trad line that is dispiriting.

Posted by Lorenzo at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:51pm BST

I totally agree with DVD. A truly pathetic response. The press release should have bluntly said that the group lacks credibility and the archbishops have betrayed their Christian ideals by excluding LGBTI voices. And yes, it should have been put that strongly. The archbishops could easily have co-opted someone like Jayne Ozanne who, left out, has properly caught the mood with words like "dismay" and "demeaning".

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 8:44pm BST

There could easily be representatives of LGBTI groups on the support staff. This is most definitely, and most unnecessarily about us but without us.

Posted by David Beadle at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 9:08pm BST

This joint statement from LGCM and Changing Attitude is completely on message, in sharp contrast to much else that has so far been said (and no doubt will continue to be said) by others. The House of Bishops, and the Presidents ++Welby and ++Sentamu, have the awesome task of leading the Church of England forward on this most vexed issue. For the moment, it is their task alone, with the added benefit of input from other members of the College of Bishops, to report to the General Synod in February 2017. To enable that to happen a working group had to be formed, hence the announcement of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. Its membership was always going to be criticised. It contains no person or persons who identify as LGBTI. No surprise there. But is does consist of members from across the conservative-liberal spectrum of traditions. It has two conservative evangelicals (with an eye to the status quo), two rather more open evangelicals (but who can probably be expected to hold traditional views on marriage) and six other members who may be expected to hold, to a greater or lesser extent, more progressive views (each of whom would of course have to be asked for their opinion, else this remains speculation). To those who say the group contains no pro-LGBTI supporters, well how do we know that? Bishops have, largely, been tight-lipped on where they stand. The Church’s teaching currently stands and there is the inevitable collective responsibility. But watch this space. As a representative group of the House of Bishops it could not be bettered, and with a very experienced and wise Chairman, well capable of holding the ring in discussion. It contains no co-opted members who could have provided a LGBTI voice. No surprise there. This is a group appointed from within. The time for talking is largely over for the moment. The experiences of LGBTI Christians have been given much needed voice throughout the Shared Conversations and of course more need to be heard and acknowledged. But this is now about process, set of course within the inevitable political framework. To those who are calling for action, this is the group that will advise the House on possible actions. The College of Bishops has been sworn to secrecy and there have been few, if any, hints as to what the nature of the discussion was. But it is unthinkable that more than a tiny minority believe that the status quo can prevail. This task is therefore about what change might be proposed, and over what timeframe. It is also unthinkable that mere tinkering with concepts of further pastoral accommodation will be adequate. Armchair commentators such as those like me who inhabit TA would be well advised to go back into our boxes and pray.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 9:10pm BST

Lorenzo - we can't be surprised, can we? For years, the obvious weight out on numbers in Africa etc means that the result is always WAIT....lie...hide...wait. Why? Why bother? New, free, Internet age, LIBERAL Anglican movements don't need this waste of time institutionalised masochism. Why stay for more dishonesty????

Posted by S Cooper at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 10:25pm BST

"But it is unthinkable that more than a tiny minority believe that the status quo can prevail."

The status quo has already prevailed. They are talking about us without us and openly LGBTI voices are not considered valuable enough to be in the room. The composition of this group is pastorally damaging to LGBTI people and obviously so, yet none of the bishops has bothered to make a pastoral address to help with the distress.

And politically how can you even take the view that nobody believes the status quo can prevail? It is possible to read Welby's tweets as his reaction to the discovery that the House of Bishops is even more hardline than he expected and that he was forced to select a very conservative group of Bishops.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 4:00am BST

With a lot of love, Anthony, for I admire your optimism and hope, you wrote 'and six other members who may be expected to hold, to a greater or lesser extent, more progressive views,' but how do you know this? None of them have done so much have emitting a little squeak of support or approval. Those who vehemently oppose will be reined in by those who do not eve have the backbone to voice any kind of public support. I cannot be hopeful.

Posted by Lorenzo at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 7:58am BST

I fully agree with everything you have said, with one exception. Yes, the groups has been appointed from within. But the women bishops debate only finally got there after 6 women were invited to join the Bishops.

The situation is slightly different in that there isn't yet such a solid support for lgbt equality in the church as there had been for women bishops.
It would still have been possible to have added at least a couple of lgbt voices.

That there will be change is not in doubt. The question is what change that will be. Without lgbt voices, the debate still feels like "we will discuss among ourselves what you may and may not be given". It's not a good signal.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 10:24am BST

If Rod Thomas is included in this team of Bishops, why not include someone who actually knows what is involved in being Gay - the Bishop of Grntham?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 10:42am BST

"They" talked about women for years without women present. That didn't stop change happening, but it took a very long time. Likewise the revision of the Alternative Service Book of 1980 was delayed by ten years from the original intention. The tricky thing about reading the runes on change is distinguishing institutional inertia from inaction/lack of will and purpose. The tricky thing for campaigners is maintaining morale and focus whilst nudging the institution in what they see as "the right direction" at the pace which can be achieved in the real world.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 10:47am BST

Anthony - thank you for this well expressed mix of insight, realism and genuine hope. I agree with you. There no way back and I think things are actually changing wth some speed.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 11:18am BST

I also doubt the status quo cannot prevail. Is this in doubt?

The real question is what the arrangement for moving forward will look like.

Marriage remains untouched--pastoral response OK--denunciations of homophobia, etc.

The question is whether this really resolves anything or is widely seen as acceptable. I doubt it.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 11:26am BST

Thank you, Anthony, for a post deserving of the title, 'Thinking'.

I'm posting during a visit to the States. It is great to see how things have moved on here. I've no doubt at all that they are moving in the same direction in the UK. I'm sorry it takes 15-20 years for us to catch up but I'm not going to fling insult and venom at my bishops while I wait.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 1:46pm BST

"If Rod Thomas is included in this team of Bishops, why not include someone who actually knows what is involved in being Gay - the Bishop of Grntham?"

Bp Grantham, understandably, might not relish the prospect of being the token gay. Or indeed having to hear bishops such as Maidstone or Blackburn dismiss his God-given orientation as an unbiblical disease to be controlled by episcopally-imposed celibacy. I wouldn't.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 6:37pm BST

"Marriage remains untouched--pastoral response OK--denunciations of homophobia, etc.

The question is whether this really resolves anything or is widely seen as acceptable. I doubt it."

I suspect most people not in the Bishops Reflection Group doubt it too.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 7:02pm BST

If one puts oneself in the place of a current bishop (who will inevitably be conforming with the Church's guidance on sexuality) who is minded to push reform then it is possible to see why there are no public signs of change - but why there may be hope for a desire to change.
As one of the key roles of the bishop is to uphold the current teaching of the Church they immediately become open to discipline if they depart from that teaching or are seen to support contrary teaching. Thus, until the teaching changes every bishop has to uphold that teaching. Yet - to change the teaching needs the bishops to agree that this should be the case - something akin to Catch 22. It also makes in almost inevitable that the House of Bishops will only publicly move once it is clear that they will carry the other houses of Synod to change the Church's teaching.
There are several bishops who have been sympathetic to the place of LGBTI clergy within the Church, and several of them have been subject to complaints whenever they have tacitly supported LGBTI (or even when they have not even gone that far). Thus, a reform minded bishop faces a choice - speak out and risk action that will silence them completely, or speak behind closed doors until they are able to bring about change.
I am firmly of the belief that there is at least some of this behind what we are seeing here and I am glad that they may bring about change.
There is a lot of talk (rightly so) about people discussing the LGBTI community without being LGBTI, but it is ironic that there is then a double think to talk about the actions of the Bishops without being in their situation either. I pray for change, but it will only come if patient voices work from within as well as - and we may well never know who they are or what they contribute.

Posted by NJW at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 10:05pm BST

Anthony Archer has expressed hope and trust in this reflection group. I know how difficult it can be to extend hope and trust. But it's the only way forward.

Posted by Pam at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 10:34pm BST

NJW - a patient reasoned argument which would have been more credible if the Bishop of Grantham had been included, but which misses the point. The church has, yet again, shown that people who are known to be LGBTI are not considered valuable enough to be part of such a discussion. Quite apart from the eventual outcome there is the impact on self-worth and feeling included and valued by the church and it those regards, the composition of the group is highly damaging and the press release should have called on the archbishops to address those issues by making changes to the group.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 9:42am BST

I'm surprised at the sanctimonious tone of those who urge patience to wait and see what scraps the Bishops might offer. I understand the argument yes. But time ran out quite a while ago. We've already waited years since equal marriage came in the UK. Extreme and sacrificial patience has already been exercised on the part of those who want progress. I disagree with Anthony Archer about the tone of what is now required. More urgency. Not bile and venom against establishment bishops who are usually harmless and inoffensive (they have to be agreeable sorts to get appointed) but robust challenge is needed. And moving forward to 'take' what is needed rather than wait to be given it. Many parishes already moved on....

Posted by Neil at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 12:32pm BST

I find myself rather less concerned about the make-up of this group of bishops, although I am deeply aware of the pain that is caused by setting up such a group without any LGBT people on it. A process of facilitated conversations was set up that culminated in further such discussions in General Synod in July. It was always the case that this would then go back to the bishops, who need to produce a statement about where we go from here. The bishops have not passed on responsibility for their response to yet another group. They themselves have until the next meeting of General Synod (February) to respond to the conversations and they are using this space to consider what that response might be. Their reflection group is there to help them in that response, so I am less concerned as to who is on that group as to what will be said collectively by the bishops to Synod in February. Progress seems painfully slow, but actually for any response to be made in the space between two synods is remarkably quick for the Church of England. Years ago there used to be a large sign at the gateway to Dean's Yard which read 'Dead Slow - Sound Horn', which I always took to be the motto of the Church of England. I think February will be the time when we will see where all these conversations have taken us. We cannot continue to be held to such a particular view of scriptural interpretation, which rejects people because of their sexuality and which is so at odds with the biblically inspired ministry so many of us seek to exercise as heralds of the kingdom.

Posted by Nigel at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 12:39pm BST

More long grass.

Nothing will change until English parishes rebel in significant numbers, allied with substantial majorities in houses of clergy and laity. Until then, it's just talk, and the bishops will delay indefinitely.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 1:48pm BST

Kate - any real sense of self worth would lead to leaving now. But, too many like their nice jobs, dresses & pensions. Some speak bravely when retiring. No real change possible while pleasing Rome & the GS matters so much to bishops. Time to move on. Waiting to be told to wait more is pointless.

Posted by S Cooper at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 3:13pm BST

The jury is out until the Bishops produce a position statement, but if there is no breakthrough, then I think James Byron is right: "Nothing will change until English parishes rebel in significant numbers."

We are not prisoners of the bishops. They cannot veto our consciences. In the end, if 100 parishes did a UDI on blessing LGBT marriages and relationships, what could the bishops realistically do. Send in police to evict ordinary parishioners? And with regard to priests, if they were banned, could anyone really stop parish communities carrying on recognising them, week by week, in sacrament, in worship, in shared lives?

In the end, if the Bishops cannot accommodate the consciences of various and diverse groups in the Church, then the logical end game is a "de facto" assertion of LGBT recognition, which will be most effective if 50 to 100 parishes (initially) networked, set a date by which they required freedom of conscience, beyond which - still inside the Church - they would 'occupy' their churches, ignore episcopal censure, and go ahead with treating LGBT people with full affirmation and joy, which would in turn be a fantastic message to the wider communities around those decent churches, and call the lie on the rote official statements: "The Church believes marriage is between one man and one woman."

So yes, I agree with James' logic (though it would need daring and resistance from local church leaders and PCCs).

But I should still prefer it if the Church was persuaded at a much wider level to evolve (rapidly) into a 'Unity in Diversity' model constructed around mutual respect for the right of conscience on matters of human sexuality.

A rebellion by a network of parishes would be a blow for justice and love, but even the threat of that rebellion might mitigate against more 'long grass thinking' because - as they say - death concentrates the mind. The media storm if 100 parishes went UDI on blessing LGBTI marriages - with parishes possibly ‘partnered’ with others in Scotland, Canada, the US – would confront the C of E spokespersons with a tidal public support that would be very difficult to pick off one-by-one like they did with Jeremy Pemberton.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 10:57am BST

One other thing: a view is aired that bishops cannot disagree with Church teaching (and so Jeffrey John was denied preferment) yet Rowan described Nick Holtam’s challenge to Church teaching on the subject of gay marriage as something he, Rowan, felt was valuable for the Church. The difference was that the Bishop of Salisbury was not, himself, in a gay relationship (though Jeffrey John’s relationship met the parameters supposedly acceptable to the Church). Nevertheless, Nick’s challenging of church teaching (acceptance of ‘marriage’ as a term to describe what gay partners can have together) got favourable treatment from Rowan, and he remains a bishop, in stark contrast to the dire treatment of Jeffrey, and his continuing exclusion from episcopal responsibility.

The Church does not have to be a politburo with bishops voting unanimously on a collective party line. There should be space and grace for widely divergent views, and these should be voiced transparently, as part of the discourse and openness of a living community, which in its wider membership doesn’t hold to just one position on sexuality. If the Church as a whole doesn’t, why should we expect bishops to have to?

In fact, it would be wonderful if the whole series of meetings with the bishops could be beamed openly and live for all to watch, with bishops simply having the courage and principle to say exactly what they think. Perhaps I am the only one who feels there is a lack of transparency when bishops discuss “us” behind closed doors. Why the obsession with pretending there is only one collective position? But then, Church spokesmen have been saying for years, “The Church of England believes this…” with regard to traditional views on sexuality, when the reality is demonstrably that actually *some* people in the Church believe ‘this’, and *some* people in the Church believe ‘that’, and many others believe combinations of differing views.

I am reminded of an image like Leonid Breshnev, with rows of unanimous supporters and everyone knew you just weren’t supposed to dissent. Yet the dissidents’ points of view existed, people supposedly on the margins, and the Berlin Wall fell, and the collective ‘reality’ proved to be too brittle, one might almost say ossified.

What are bishops afraid of (apart from frustrated preferment) if they have to hide divergent views behind collective uniformity? Why can’t we be open and transparent? I mean really, why not?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 11:48am BST

"nothing about us without us."

That's been a theme in TEC for decades. Pretty strange to have an all straight and/or closeted group discussing the well-being of LBGT people.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 25 September 2016 at 10:29pm BST

"Pretty strange to have an all straight and/or closeted group discussing the well-being of LBGT people."

Pretty strange that some LGBTI people and allies find it acceptable.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 26 September 2016 at 8:31am BST
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