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Further thoughts on ‘Confused Archbishop’

In February the House of Bishops published an official report for the church on sexuality, after three years of ‘shared conversations’ with the LGBT community & other Christians. It maintained the position that marriage in church should remain the lifelong union of a man & woman, and that services should not be held to bless same sex relationships.

The Bishops asked the Church’s Synod to ‘take note’ of their report, but instead the Synod yesterday rejected it. In order for it to have been accepted it needed the support all three ‘houses’ in the Synod: the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity. Unsurprisingly the Bishops accepted it by 43 votes to 1; the Laity accepted it by 106 votes to 83; but the House of Clergy rejected it by 100 votes to 93.

I make several observations:

[1]    If you combine the votes of the Clergy and Laity the result is an evenly divided vote: 199 in favour and 183 against, which I suspect accurately reflects a church divided on the matter. Yet the Bishops do not reflect that division.

[2]    The Bishops are thus shown to be completely out of touch on this issue, in many ways the most pressing issue facing the church at the moment, with the Clergy and Laity whom they lead.

[3]    If this were to happen in almost any other organisation, the leadership would be resigning their posts. But this is not likely to happen in the church, and I wonder why that is, and whether its right?

[4]    It seems wholly both appropriate and necessary that a new report needs to be written by a group that contains clergy, laity and Bishops, not just Bishops, and that encompasses the whole range of human sexuality.

The church is divided on its definition of marriage and on whether it should allow blessings of same sex relationships: feelings run high on both sides of the debate. So what to do?

There is a simple solution, and a Biblical one. I draw your attention to the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38. “If what is being planned and done is human in origin, it will collapse; but if it is from God, you will never be able to stamp it out, and you risk finding yourselves at war with God.”

So why not, in the spirit of mutual love and tolerance commanded of His followers by our Lord Jesus, allow those who wish to broaden the definition of marriage, and to bless same sex relationships, to do so: and allow those who don’t, to refrain from doing so. And then leave the matter to the Spirit.

This is effectively what happened over the question, 40 years ago, of the remarriage of divorcees in church. With the passage of time views changed, society’s pastoral needs were ministered to, and the harm done to the church by its divisions was minimised.

Let this current matter that divides us be not a matter primarily of our views on sexuality, but an opportunity for a demonstration, a witness even, of how much these Christians love one another, and of how open they are to be led by the Spirit of the God whom they profess.

2 Comments

  1. After a huge struggle with Bishops to agree to conduct pastoral prayers for a civil partnership same sex couple in my church over ten years ago I’d hoped the Church would begin to grasp the importance to love and include all people into the Body of Christ, yet we seem to be going backwards with the hard line of the Bishops. It is often those on the front line in parishes who encounter the struggles same sex couples endure and the wall that still blocks their path. Can we the clergy and laity get their voices heard for the good of all?

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