AN INFLUENTIAL group of leading evangelicals has published a new book urging their fellow Anglicans to adopt a more open approach to the issue of homosexuality.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, writes that it is time for a ‘reconsideration’ of the traditional view of the issues.
“If we are to resolve our conversations around same-sex issues, we must listen closely and carefully to the experience of LGBTI people and among them to the experience of LGBTI Christians.”
Meanwhile the Bishop of Dorchester told this newspaper that he was concerned when evangelicals maintained that this was “a Gospel issue”.
“The thing that really worries me is when it is elevated to the touchstone of soundness, or that the definition of evangelical identity is where you stand on this issue.
“Questions of sexuality do matter, as does how you respond to refugees. What I would love is if it wasn’t a touchstone of soundness. That people gave it enough space so that people can disagree with each other. We have to argue this biblically but we have to have some space,” he said.
The Bishop, who was central to the 1998 and 2008 Lambeth Conferences, outlined his stance in the foreword to the book, Journeys in Grace and Truth (Via Media Publications).
“I have said nothing in that article that is not in the Lambeth documents. It is all there in Lambeth 1998, and 2008; it’s there in Issues in Human Sexuality but somehow it was overlooked.
“People have been quoting Lambeth 1.10, but what I am saying is all there. If they go back and look at the original texts it is all there.”
Bishop Fletcher, who is currently the acting Bishop of Oxford, outlined the challenge for the Church.
“Gay teenagers and young people who have been excluded from their church, who are members of an evangelical church and feel excluded or are fearful if they say they are gay: now that’s not healthy for the church, and that is even when they are gay and celibate.
“That is why it is really important,” he said.
Others contributing to the book include Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Rev David Ison, Bishop James Jones, Synod member Anthony Archer and former Premier Radio presenter Cindy Kent.
Portsmouth Archdeacon, the Ven Gavin Collins, a former prayer secretary of the Cambridge Christian Union, writes: “The view one takes on the permissibility of same-sex relationships has increasingly become a defining test of orthodoxy amongst evangelicals, and in some quarters even a test of whether one can validly be considered to be a Christian at all.
“I simply fail to see how that can legitimately be taken as grounds for writing someone off as having strayed beyond the fold.”
Neither of the bishops writing in the book are calling for a change in the Church’s teaching on the family but focus their appeals on evangelicals to listen to the experiences of gay Christians.
Meanwhile Canon Mark Russell, Chief Executive of Church Army UK and Ireland, has written the foreword to a new book calling for the affirmation of gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships within the Church as a part of its mission.
Simon Sarmiento, representing one of the three groups behind Amazing Love (DLT) said: “Recent events highlight the timeliness of this book. Christians need to consider urgently whether the traditional conservative attitude towards same-sex relationships is still a sustainable view in today’s world. This book shows that it is possible to disagree.”