Synod members write to Bishops on sexuality issue

MEMBERS of the General Synod have written an open letter to the College and House of Bishops, urging them ‘not to consider any proposals that fly in the face of the historic understanding of the church’ on human sexuality.

The letter, which is signed by both lay and clergy members of the Synod, says that following the Shared Conversations, a ‘much more biblical study is needed’ before Synod can make informed decisions about human anthropology and sexuality.

The letter, which is published in The Church of England Newspaper today, also welcomes initiatives to help local churches be ‘welcoming to all, irrespective of the pattern of sexual attraction’; in a way that is ‘affirming and consistent with Scripture’.

“As you prepare to meet in the College and House of Bishops, we urge you not to consider any proposals that fly in the face of the historic understanding of the church as expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (1991) and Lambeth Resolution 1.10. To do so – however loud the apparent voice for change – could set the Church of England adrift from her apostolic inheritance,” the letter states.

One of the signatories, the Rev Alistair McHaffie of Blackburn diocese, told us that he signed the letter because the Church has “abandoned the scriptural basis for making decisions over human sexuality in favour of the way the culture is thinking.

“I think as Christians, we need to be governed by scripture rather than culture and I fear that the debate is going along the lines of following culture rather than scripture,” he said.

A Synod member who wishes to remain unnamed said: “This letter shows the complete blindness there appears to be amongst some to see the absurdity of their position. The Church cannot hope to give a welcome that has any truth, love or integrity if it does not fully embrace LGBTI Christians as equal members of the Body of Christ.

“To threaten fracture and state that ‘no proposals be considered’ is highly manipulative and unChristian. Surely our faith commands us to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying and to remain open to revelation?

“To seek to close down a discussion before it even starts shows the rigidity of a fundamentalist approach to religion, which is based on fear rather than faith. God is big enough, his arms wide enough and His truth strong enough to withstand any debate”.

Another signatory, lay member Prudence Dailey of Oxford diocese, commented: “There’s a lot of pressure within the Church from various quarters to change the Church’s formal teaching doctrine in relation to human sexuality and particularly in respect of same sex relationships.

“I felt that it was important for the House of Bishops, who will have to consider this question in some form or another, were aware that there was also strength of feeling in the other direction, namely, that the Church should not be abandoning its traditional teaching in relation to this,” she told us.

“The proponents of change talk about the fact that there’s a lot of pressure building up, that ‘something has to change’, but I think it is important for the House of Bishops to realise that there would also be a tremendous cost to change. If the Church changes its teaching on this issue that would also have consequences in making a lot of people feel that they had been cut adrift.

“We’ve been peculiar in the way we’ve put the cart before the horse as a Church, in that all our concentration has been around issues of same-sex relationships and we haven’t had a discussion about sexuality more generally, and it’s a very peculiar thing to do.

“Same-sex relationships are not the majority of human sexuality and there are other issues around the way society regards sexuality which are very out of kilter with the way the church understands it.”

She claimed that the Church had not begun to scratch the surface, in relation to discussing some of the issues that would be necessary to look at in order to contemplate any kind of change in doctrine.

“What scripture has to say is clearly at the heart of things and is clearly a crucial question, but it is not the only direction from which this should be approached.

“We need to be talking about Christian anthropology, natural law, which have not really featured in the discussion at all. We almost seem to have lost sight of those concepts and so we don’t really have the context there in which to be considering making any kind of radical steps at this stage,” she said.


* Open Letter to the College and House of Bishops


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Now that the process of Shared Conversations launched subsequent to the Pilling Report  has been completed and the ‘baton’ passed to the College and House of Bishops, we are writing to assure you of our prayers as you meet this autumn to discern the way forward. As members of General Synod we wish to offer the following reflections which we hope and pray might help your deliberation and discernment.

We are grateful for the opportunity that was recently given to the General Synod to engage in a consideration of Scripture. However, we believe this was of an initial nature only, and that much more biblical study is needed before we will be able, as a Synod, to make theologically informed decisions about human anthropology and sexuality. In particular we believe it is essential to clarify what it means to ‘honour God with your bodies’ (1 Corinthians 6:20, NIV) so that we do not find ourselves praying for God’s blessing on that which is contrary to his will.

We are committed to building a church that is genuinely welcoming to all people, irrespective of the pattern of sexual attraction that they experience.  We would welcome initiatives to help local churches do this in a way that is affirming of and consistent with Scripture, and would hope to support suggestions you might wish to bring to Synod to that effect.

As you prepare to meet in the College and House of Bishops, we urge you not to consider any  proposals that fly in the face of the historic understanding of the church as expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (1991) and Lambeth Resolution 1.10. To do so – however loud the apparent voice for change – could set the Church of England adrift from her apostolic inheritance. It would also undermine our ability as members of General Synod to offer support and lead to a fracture within both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.

We thank God for you and, remembering the apostle James’s injunction to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5), we commit ourselves to asking God to grant you his wisdom as you endeavour to offer episcopal leadership to the Church of England at this time.

Signed by the following General Synod members (Diocese):

The Rev Canon Jonathan Alderton-Ford (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich)

The Rev Sam Allberry (Oxford)

The Rev Dr Andrew Atherstone (Oxford)

The Rev Andrew Attwood (Coventry)

Mrs Emily Bagg (Portsmouth)

The Rev Canon David Banting (Chelmsford)

Dr William Belcher (Gloucester)

Mrs Rachel Bell (Derby)

Dr Andrew Bell (Oxford)

Mrs Liz Bird (Hereford)

Mr Peter Boyd-Lee (Salisbury)

The Revd Peter Breckwoldt (Salisbury)

Mr James Cary (Bath & Wells)

Mr Graham Caskie (Oxford)

The Rev Preb Simon Cawdell (Hereford)

The Rev John Chitham (Chichester)

The Rev Canon Jonathan Clark (Leeds)

The Rev Canon Charlie Cleverley (Oxford)

Dr Simon Clift (Winchester)

Mrs Ann Colton (Chelmsford)

The Rev Canon Andrew Cornes (Chichester)

Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford)

The Rev Barney de Berry (Canterbury)

Mrs Gill de Berry (Salisbury)

Brigadier Ian Dobbie (Rochester)

The Rev Dr Sean Doherty (London)

The Rev James Dudley-Smith (Bath & Wells)

The Rev John Dunnett (Chelmsford)

Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford)

Mr Carl Fender (Lincoln)

Miss Emma Forward (Exeter)

Mrs Chris Fry (Winchester)

The Rev Canon Sally Gaze (Norwich)

Mr Chris Gill (Lichfield)

The Rev Graham Hamilton (Exeter)

Mr Jeremy Harris (Chester)

The Ven Simon Heathfield (Birmingham)

Mr Carl Hughes (Southwark)

The Rev Canon Gary Jenkins (Southwark)

Mrs Carolyn Johnson (Blackburn)

The Rev Peter Kay (St Albans)

Mrs Helen Lamb (Ely)

Mr David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich)

Capt Nicholas Lebey (Southwark)

Mr James Lee (Guildford)

The Rev Mark Lucas (Peterborough)

Mrs Rosemary Lyon (Blackburn)

The Rev Angus MacLeay (Rochester)

Mr Sam Margrave (Coventry)

The Rev Alistair McHaffie (Blackburn)

The Rev Shaun Morris (Lichfield)

The Rev Dr Rob Munro (Chester)

Miss Margaret Parrett (Manchester)

Miss Jane Patterson (Sheffield)

The Rev Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham)

Mrs Kathy Playle (Chelmsford)

The Rev Dr Philip Plyming (Guildford)

Mr Andrew Presland (Peterborough)

The Rev Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich)

The Rev Dr Jason Roach (London)

The Rev Dr Ben Sargent (Winchester)

Mr Clive Scowen (London)

Mr Ed Shaw (Bristol)

The Rev Charlie Skrine (London)

Mr Colin Slater (Southwell & Nottingham)

Dr Chik Tan (Lichfield)

The Rev Martyn Taylor (Lincoln)

The Rev Chris Tebbutt (Salisbury)

Mr Jacob Vince (Chichester)

Dr Yvonne Warren (Coventry)

The Rev Canon Giles Williams (Europe)

Mr Brian Wilson (Southwark)





6 Responses to "Synod members write to Bishops on sexuality issue"

  1. Susannah Clark   12/08/2016 at 14:00

    The biblical study has already been flogged to death – we’ve been debating the biblical issues for over 30 years!

    The Church will continue to have members opposed to gay sex and supportive of gay sex. There is, and will be, no agreement over the issue. But there can be agreement to differ and co-exist. We can maintain unity even with widely different views on sex, if we love one another and focus on service and mission.

    Conscience on the issue should be protected on either side, and instead of trying to impose a false uniformity, we should strive for ‘unity in diversity’ with huge emphasis and priority on love.

    If a local church, its PCC and priest, in interaction with its local community, wants to affirm and bless gay relationships, then it should be given the freedom of conscience to do so. That respect of conscience would reflect the reality of opinions within our church.

    Equally, if the signatories of this letter, and their churches, cannot subscribe to gay sex, then they too should be given freedom of conscience to withhold from such blessings and affirmations.

    The problem, and the potential schism comes from two sources: (a) trying to impose uniformity against many people’s consciences; (b) insisting on uniformity to your own view, or threatening to walk out if you don’t get your way imposed on everyone else.

    We could be doing ‘biblical study’ for another 100 years, and there would still be different approaches to scripture. We’ve flogged this subject for decades.

    Meanwhile, LGBT lives are put on hold (‘it’s okay to have the attraction but just be celibate’), the more generous-spirited nation looks on with in confusion and disgust, and LGBT people are told they are loved and welcomed, but clearly not for the whole of who they actually are, which can’t simply ignore the intimate love and devotion, sensuality and sexuality, consolation and joy which any other human relationship is afforded.

    They are ‘welcomed’ under scripture: a scripture that – it is argued – condemns their most precious expressions of love, regards them as abomination before God, limits them from ministry, marginalises their ministries, expects them to hide signs of personal affection, in a kind of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach.

    Bible study will simply accentuate the differences we have in how we understand the bible. We need ‘unity in diversity’ and an end to imposed uniformity.

  2. Father Ron Smith   13/08/2016 at 02:31

    This all sounds very much like the attitude and theology of the newly-imported quasi-Anglican group – an off-shoot of the fundamentalist ‘GAFCON’ community – which rejoices in its title of AMiE, the ‘Anglican Mission in England’, headed by a foreign bishop with no jurisdictional ties to the Church of England.

    If these signatories are content to subscribe to their philosophy – which is totally different from the more eirenic Church of England ethos of ‘Unity in Diversity – then perhapos they should join this new entity, which claims to have established its own version of Anglicanism into the territory of the State Church.

  3. Christopher   13/08/2016 at 21:01

    Light and darkness cannot co-exist in the same space.

  4. John Telford   13/08/2016 at 21:07

    Thank you to all the signatories, and thank you Prudence, for being permanent, faithful and stable in your unswerving commitment to the Church of England, the Scriptures from which she derives her authority to teach, and 2-000 years of Christian history.

  5. Philip Almond   14/08/2016 at 17:02

    Quoting Will on Ian Paul’s website:
    ‘Incidentally, when people dispute in public with someone who knows what they think on a matter the main aim is not really to convince the other person (though you can always hope) but to allow those who are listening in who don’t know what they think to have some basis on which to make up their own minds. That’s why rehearsing even well-worn arguments is always worthwhile in such contexts’.

    This comment by Will is very true. I have long argued, on Fulcrum and elsewhwere, that the best way to debate and disagree on disputed points of Christian truth is by a debate/disagreement on the internet open to all, with Bishops, Scholars, Theologians and Lay contributing, where the strongest arguments from all sides can be set out and challenged. The debate on Fulcrum about the ordination of women went some way towards that ideal. The ‘shared conversations’ thread on Ian Paul’s website has been better. The House of Bishops should be encouraged to adopt this approach as the next step. After such an open, deeply felt exchange of views that we have seen on Ian’s website it would be………I don’t know what adjective to choose…..perhaps I’ll settle for ‘sad’….if the House of Bishops met behind closed doors and came up with something for the next Synod to debate.

    Phil Almond

  6. Philip Almond - Day member   15/08/2016 at 09:11

    Christians – known to God to be Christians – being nor yet fully sanctified sinners, can be astray and go astray in what doctrines they believe and disbelieve, just as they can go astray morally. We are all called to persuade one another where the truth lies. In this spirit I point out to Father Ron Smith that whatever the present ‘diversity’ of belief in the Church of England the true Church of England ethos is to be found in:

    The Declaration of Assent

    The Declaration of Assent is made by deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of England when they are ordained and on each occasion when they take up a new appointment (Canon C 15). Readers and Lay Workers make the declaration, without the words ‘and administration of the sacraments’, when they are admitted and when they are licensed (Canons E 5, E 6 and E 8).


    The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?

    Declaration of Assent

    I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.

    A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England
    The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.
    In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal

    Phil Almond