Response to the Bishops’ Statement

The House of Bishops recently released a ‘pastoral statement’ on civil partnerships which has been much ridiculed in the press. At St John’s we would like to reaffirm our commitment to the vision of Inclusive Church, of which we are a member:

“We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

Because of the Church of England’s official policy we are not legally permitted to conduct civil partnerships or same-sex weddings at St John’s, but when members of our community choose to change the status of their relationships in these ways we celebrate with them – if they wish, in church. We welcome all children to baptism, whatever the status of their parents’ relationship, and our congregation includes people in a wide variety of relationships, as well, of course, as single people.

We believe that the current teaching of the Church of England on sex and marriage is inadequate and harmful, and we hope and pray for a time when the church will acknowledge the glorious variety of God’s creation and develop a more life-affirming doctrine of sex and relationships. The process of change in the Church of England is slow, but at St John’s we are advocating for and working for that change.

If you’d like to read works by Christians who disagree with the House of Bishops, we’d recommend Jeffrey John’s book Permanent, Faithful, Stable (on homosexuality) and Rowan Williams’ essay ‘The body’s grace’ (on sexuality in general).

The clergy are happy to talk about these matters – feel free to get in touch with one of us!

11 Responses to Response to the Bishops’ Statement

  1. Graham Joyce 28th January 2020 at 1:07 pm #

    Excellent response. Thank you so much.

  2. John Dalliah 28th January 2020 at 1:55 pm #

    Absolutely fantastic response! A church which discriminates does not represent a God who loves all of His children wholly, boundlessly and unconditionally…

  3. Daniel Simpson 28th January 2020 at 2:18 pm #

    Well said. And many other churches are complaining against the statement by the house of bishop .
    It is sad that as Christians and gays we are still discriminated by the COE.

    • Barry Gooden 29th January 2020 at 3:14 am #

      [For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God] Romans.3:23

      The Bishops’ Statement when taken in context of Christian theology, simply cannot be successfully argued against.

      I believe in a progressive CoE, however we need to be careful when considering changes to the fundamental principles of the church, we don’t become irrelevant in the modern Christian teaching.

      I commend Fr Daniel for opening a debate on this subject matter. However there are many issues debated in the press that affect the lives and work of members of our congregation on which the clergy of St John’s choose to remain silent.

      I would challenge any notion that the CoE cannot be inclusive because it doesn’t accept same sex marriage.
      It’s incumbent upon Christian leaders to consider the relevance of God’s words in the scriptures and teachings rather than trying to edit the same to suit our own desires in this so-call changing society.

      Christians should not adapt the populist narrative. No one is born with any concepts, they are learned and so disagreement should not lead to exclusion.

      We must first learn to love one another before we can move to acceptance and inclusion.

      Of course I remain open to the idea that there might be innate behaviour in all of us but to date science has failed to provide any evidence of that.

      The view expressed by the Bishops’ remain very challenging to as many Christians as those in acceptance and therefore should not be dismissed as inadequate and harmful.

  4. Zach 28th January 2020 at 3:17 pm #

    a rather vague and ambiguous response, what exactly is being said here? it could be interpreted in various ways, what precisely is ‘inadequate and harmful’ ? one wonders if St John’s would find the teachings of Christ ‘inadequate and harmful’ given His very very strict teachings on, for example; marriage and adultery.

    • Daniel Trott 28th January 2020 at 3:34 pm #

      We would argue that our statement is clear enough. We’re not setting out exactly what we think about every possible individual question (civil partnerships, same-sex marriage, sex within committed long-term relationships, sex within short-term relationships, casual sex), because we probably hold different opinions both within the clergy team and in the wider congregation, but we’re united in thinking that ‘sex within heterosexual marriage only’ is too limited (there can be holy, life-giving sex outside heterosexual marriage) and in some cases does harm (especially to LGBT+ people).

      The Church of England has long since decided that Jesus’s teaching on divorce as recorded in the gospels may be set aside in the changed world we now live in. The point of Jesus’s teaching on divorce can plausibly be argued to have been the protection of women, whose position in many ancient societies was very precarious – in that context forbidding husbands from unilaterally divorcing their wives could be seen as compassionate. Nowadays it is obvious that in some cases divorce can be a great good for all parties involved.

      I imagine we have some significant differences on important theological questions: the nature of the Bible, the reliability of Jesus’s recorded words, the immutability of Jesus’s teaching, etc.

  5. Rebecca Hall 28th January 2020 at 3:20 pm #

    Well said indeed. I think the House of Bishops statement is deeply disappointing but we must not give up. We must continue to have faith and pray that things will change. Until then all are welcome at St John’s

  6. David 28th January 2020 at 10:00 pm #

    Great response Revd Dr David Randolph-Horn All Hallows’ Leeds

  7. Lee Mansfield 29th January 2020 at 2:36 pm #

    “The Bishops’ Statement when taken in context of Christian theology, simply cannot be successfully argued against.”

    A number of books on my shelf that argue very successfully against this kind of ‘traditional interpretation’ say otherwise.

    “I believe in a progressive CoE, however we need to be careful when considering changes to the fundamental principles of the church, we don’t become irrelevant in the modern Christian teaching.”

    One could argue that the modern church has/is already becoming irrelevant to most people due to the very fact that those in charge of policy are afraid to move forward to illuminate the ‘fundamental principles’ being eclipsed by these draconian attitudes towards parity of gay people. Certainly one likely cause of reduced attendance.

    “I commend Fr Daniel for opening a debate on this subject matter. However there are many issues debated in the press that affect the lives and work of members of our congregation on which the clergy of St John’s choose to remain silent.”

    A little unfair. I have attended St John’s for about two years and I have heard the clergy talk about all manner of social issues. They have spearheaded campaigns for the homeless, those struggling on the very fringes of society, support for immigrants, poverty, food banks, the Hive and more.

    “I would challenge any notion that the CoE cannot be inclusive because it doesn’t accept same sex marriage.
    It’s incumbent upon Christian leaders to consider the relevance of God’s words in the scriptures and teachings rather than trying to edit the same to suit our own desires in this so-call changing society.”

    Inclusiveness is vital for a healthy civilised society. You are effectively saying its ok to exclude certain people from certain opportunities (ie: marriage) on an ‘interpretation’ of theology. But still pretend that the church is being inclusive to those people. Substitute the word gay for black or asian. Would it ever be acceptable to exclude people on racial grounds due to an interpretation of theology? I think most would argue, no.

    “Christians should not adapt the populist narrative. No one is born with any concepts, they are learned and so disagreement should not lead to exclusion.”

    The populist narrative isn’t always the just or wise narrative.

    “We must first learn to love one another before we can move to acceptance and inclusion.”

    How long do you propose excluded people should expect to wait?

    “Of course I remain open to the idea that there might be innate behaviour in all of us but to date science has failed to provide any evidence of that.”

    There are different schools of thought regarding that point too.

    “The view expressed by the Bishops’ remain very challenging to as many Christians as those in acceptance and therefore should not be dismissed as inadequate and harmful.”

    Truth is not revealed by weight of opinion. As early Christians knew all too well.

  8. Daniel Trott 29th January 2020 at 2:57 pm #

    I’m glad that this has initiated a discussion, but I can’t imagine that an online to-and-fro of opinions is going to get us very far. I would suggest that those in the congregation who want to discuss this do it face to face, where we can really try to understand each other, and treat each other as human beings.

  9. Zach 12th April 2020 at 1:39 am #

    i simply wish to quote a portion from Daniel’s post 28/1/20, (above) – ‘..The Church of England has long since decided that Jesus’s teaching on divorce as recorded in the gospels may be SET ASIDE in the changed world we now live in…’

    ‘set aside’ – who needs the Word Incarnate when we have the General Synod?

    Lord have mercy – Lord have mercy – Lord have mercy
    Happy Easter

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