Fresh pressure on College of Bishops to be more welcoming

FRESH PRESSURE was piled on the College of Bishops ahead of their meeting next week as more than 130 General Synod members appealed for greater inclusion for gay Christians within the Church.

The latest letter comes after 72 conservatives wrote to the Bishops last month calling for more theological work before any further steps are taken.

And at the weekend the Sunday Times published a letter from a group of gay clergy who are in civil partnerships or are married who said that it was “time for the rhetoric of good disagreement to become action.”

The latest letter called on the House of Bishops to be “unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world.”

The College of Bishops is meeting next week to review the outcome of the ‘Shared Conversations’ process and, with the revelation that one of their number is partnered, the pressure is growing for a more progressive position on the gay question.

One of the signatories to the latest letter, Anthony Archer (St Albans diocese), told us that while he understood why conservatives wrote their letter last month, it was ‘unhelpful’. “Very few on Synod feel the status quo can prevail,” he said.

Although this new letter has almost twice the number of signatories than the August letter, he dismissed suggestions that it was all about numbers.

“Nevertheless, the number is significant. Our letter is irenic. We are building on the relational approach of shared conversations. We are not trying to be prescriptive, and we are not trying to pre-empt the College of Bishops. Rather, we are encouraging them.”

He conceded that conservatives see any move in this direction as the ‘thin end of the wedge’, that any change now will put the Church on the path to marriage equality.

“But there are other issues first. For example, there is a postcode lottery for gay ordinands that is extremely unhelpful, and for priests who are in same-sex relationships. The Church has to come clean on these issues.”

Before the issue of gay marriage was even on the horizon, he said that the Church had to provide further pastoral accommodation for gay Christians. “And bishops need to wake up to the reality of life; these are issues that need to be addressed before we consider gay marriage.”

There is growing expectation that the next step for the bishops would be to permit some sort of liturgy that could be used by those priests who want it. “One of the advantages in bishops taking charge of the next step is that there are certain things we can do as a Church to take steps that don’t mean adversarial debates in synod.”

A prominent evangelical on Synod, Mr Archer said: “Our letter, very broadly, is from those who want more inclusion but that doesn’t inexorably mean less inclusion for others. We are into a state where the status quo is not an option. That suggests change.

“For some any change is to more inclusion, that is inevitable. The purpose of the Shared Conversations was to ensure that we had a good understanding of where everyone was on this issue and was respectful. I really can’t think of a scenario where the issue is going to go away.”


Text of the letter:




We write as Members from across the full breadth of General Synod to thank and congratulate you for what we feel were a significant few days within the life of the Synod last July.  Whilst the Shared Conversations were difficult, and at times very painful, we are grateful for the care and thought that had gone into creating as safe a space as possible for differing views to be aired, and experiences listened to.

We are particularly grateful for the way that we were encouraged to engage in Scripture together.  This enabled us to appreciate the common reverence we hold for the Word of God as well as the differing ways in which we have come to understand and interpret it.  We believe this has formed deeper understanding, trust and respect between those with whom we have differing views.

We now look to you and your colleagues within the College of Bishops to help lead us forward.

We hope that this will be with the sense of urgency and sensitivity that so many of us expressed within Synod.  In particular, we pray it will continue to develop the new “relational approach” that has enabled us to bridge our sometimes unhelpful “tribal divides”.

Whilst not wishing to pre-empt the work of the College of Bishops, we would ask that the steps that are proposed create greater clarity and consistency in our approach to this complex issue.  In particular, we are keen that the College of Bishopsis unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world.

We wish you to be assured of our prayers, and know that we are fully committed to the process of encouraging greater inclusion across the Church of England for all.

Please let us know how we might best support you in this important work,

Yours in Christ

The Very Revd Dr David Ison

The Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Ex-Officio (Archbishops’ Council)

The Revd Dr Rosalyn Murphy

Bath and Wells

The Revd Sue Rose

Ms Christina Baron

Mr Tim Hind

Canon Jenny Humphreys

Mrs Kathryn Tucker


The Revd Canon Catherine Grylls

The Revd Canon Priscilla White

Mr Benjamin Franks

Dr Rachel Jepson


The Revd Chris Newlands

Mrs Jacqueline Stamper


The Revd Canon Prof Martin Gainsborough

The Revd Canon Mark Pilgrim

Mr Ian Yemm


The Ven Philip Down

Mr David Kemp

Miss Judith Rigby

Miss Rosemary Walters

Channel Islands

The Very Revd Tim Barker


The Revd CanonRuth Crossley

Mr Geoffrey Hine


The Revd Sally Lodge

The Revd Jonathan MacNeaney

Mrs Isabell Adcock

Canon Robert Hammond

Miss Michelle Tackie


The Revd Canon David Felix

Mrs Lucinda Brewster

Mr John Freeman

Canon Dr John Mason


Dr Graham Parr


The Revd Mark Broomhead

The Revd Julian Hollywell

The Revd Canon Dr Simon Taylor

Mrs Kat Alldread

Mrs Hannah Grivell


The Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes

Dr Angus Goudie


The Revd SimonTalbott

Canon Janet Perrett

Mr Francis Spufford


The Revd Canon Andrew Godsall

The Revd Canon Anna Norman-Walker

Dr Jack Shelley


The Revd Canon Richard Mitchell

The Ven Jackie Searle

Mrs Margaret Sheather


The Revd Canon Robert Cotton

Mrs Carolyn Graham

Mrs Anne Martin


The Revd Neil Patterson

Mrs Wendy Coombey

Dr Martin Elcock


The Revd Canon Kathryn Fitzsimons

The Revd Canon Joyce Jones

The Revd Canon Maggie Mclean

Ms Alison Fisher

Canon Malcolm Halliday

Mr Stephen Hogg


The Ven Dr Tim Stratford

Miss Rhian Ainscough


The Revd Canon Pat Hawkins

The Revd Zoe Heming

Mrs Penny Allen


The Revd Alyson Buxton

The Ven Dr Justine Allain Chapman

Mrs Sue Slater


The Revd Sonya Doragh

The Revd Amanda Fairclough

Mrs Debra Walker


The Revd Canon Phiippa Boardman

The Revd Preb Alan Moses

The Revd Bertrand Olivier

Miss Susan Breen

Ms Josile Munro

Dr Meg Warner

Mr Richard Wellings-Thomas


The Revd Canon Sharon Jones

The Revd Andy Salmon

The Ven Cherry Vann


Dr John Appleby

Miss Izzy McDonald-Booth


Mr Andrew Gray


The Rev Prof Mark Chapman

The Ven Martin Gorick

The Revd Canon Rosie Harper

The Revd Kate Stacey

Mrs Julie Dzeigel

Ms Jayne Ozanne

Mrs Kathryn Winrow


The Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani


The Ven Gavin Collins

The Revd Canon Peter Leonard

The Revd Canon Bob White

Canon Lucy Docherty

Mr Mark Emerton


The Revd Julie Conalty

Mrs Angela Scott

Mr Martin Sewell


The Revd Canon Jane Charman

The Ven Alan Jeans

The Revd Canon Thomas Woodhouse

Miss Fenella Cannings-Jurd


The Revd Eleanor Robertshaw


The Rev Canon Simon Butler

The Rev Canon Giles Goddard

The Rev Timothy Goode

The Rev Canon Dr Rosemarie Mallett

Mrs April Alexander

Ms Carrie Myers

Southwell & Notts

Mrs Joan Beck

Canon Pamela Bishop

St Albans

The Revd Will Gibbs

Father Kevin Goss

The Revd Steven Wood

Mr Anthony Archer

St Eds & Ips

The Revd Andrew Dotchin


The Revd James Pitkin

Ms Jay Greene

Mrs Lucy Moore


The Revd Wyn Beynon

The Revd Dr Sarah Brush


The Revd Jackie Doyle-Brett

The Revd Paul Hutchinson

The Revd Dr Rowan Williams

Miss Lucy Gorman

Mr Mike Stallybrass

Religious communities

Brother Thomas Quin OSB