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)