Tuesday, 7 February 2017

My email to CofE General Synod: House of Bishops’ Marriage & Same Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations

Here is the letter I've sent to the Diocese of Oxford Bishops and General Synod Reps today.  This is the way our voices can be heard.  Feel free to send your own versions if you feel as strongly as I do.

I am writing to you and all General Synod representatives in Oxford Diocese to express my sadness, disappointment and concern over the document referenced above for the February 2017 session. I hope you are aware of the distress and anger with which this report has been received in many of us who serve and worship in The Church of England. I do not think that the report’s findings represent members of the Church of England or everyone who committed themselves to the Shared Conversations process.
I have a number of concerns about the report.

1. It presents only one interpretation of Biblical teaching; yet there are multiple ways of reading the Bible. The fact that these other readings have been dismissed without explanation or theological engagement concerns me. The purpose of the process and report was to provide theological diversity for LGBTI people and their relationships; it is a failure that this has not happened.

2. The report uses the phrase “those who experience same sex attraction”. This is not a term I have ever heard used positively and is offensive to most of the LGBTI community. This term denotes that being LGBTI is a choice rather than a part of someone's identity. The term used by the report is one preferred by a small group of opponents within the Shared Conversations, I am shocked that it has been adopted as suitable terminology for the report.

3. This report was intended to cover conversations about and with LGBTI people but there is no mention of the lived experience of bisexual, intersex or transgender people and their relationships. These groups of people are entirely invisible and deemed irrelevant.

4. I was one of the few people inside the CofE who expected some affirmation of LGBTI people and the importance of themselves and their relationships in the Church. I have obviously been disappointed. But even those who were more realistic about the process had hope that genuine listening would occur, and that there might be some openness to Priests whose conscience allowed them, to bless such relationships. What sort of church do we have when priests bless inanimate objects such as hunts, homes and second marriages but can not even bless a committed and loving relationship? The refusal to allow such blessings is to say, in no uncertain terms, that the Church is entirely convinced of the sinfulness of such a relationship. And if that is what we are saying, then it is clearly nonsensical to pretend that we are able to offer a genuine welcome to the majority of LGBTI people. Is that really the church I serve and worship within?

5. I'm aware that you might read this and wonder why I care, after all I'm a happily married heterosexual woman. But my life is blessed with friends who are gay and bisexual and I'm raising a daughter who thinks nothing of accepting anyone's sexuality as part of life. How do I explain to them that God loves every one of us equally, when speaking from a church which only has negative things to say about their relationships? The report may say that there must be a fresh tone, but without any actual change those are the emptiest of words.

6. Archbishop Justin has admitted that the CofE is seen as a “toxic” environment where parents fear their children are more likely to be taught about prejudice rather than love. How does this report help in our ministry to reach out to these families in acceptance, love and openness? I feel like years of conversations and services and has been undermined in one report which says we are unable to see goodness and love where it exists.

Please, on behalf of me, my friends, my daughter, my community and the future church, consider NOT “taking note” of the report when it comes before Synod.

Thank you for reading this.
With my prayers

Licensed Lay Pioneer Minister

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