Church of England asked to acknowledge both sides of sexuality debate

By staff writers
February 1, 2007

The Church of England’s governing body, its General Synod of lay people, clergy and bishops, will be asked to support a resolution recognising both sides in the current global debate on human sexuality when it meets later this month.

Anglican leaders in England are preparing to discuss a motion on 28 February 2007 which includes the following note: “That this Synod acknowledge the diversity of opinion about homosexuality within the Church of England and that these divergent opinions come from honest and legitimate attempts to read the scriptures with integrity, understand the nature of homosexual orientation, and respect the patterns of holy living to which lesbian and gay Christians aspire...”.

Backing the statement, and backing a conference sponsored by LGCM, Ekklesia and others ('Faith, homophobia and human rights' on 17 February 2007), Inclusive Church vice-chair the Rev Briony Martin declared: “We support these initiatives. As a church, we are in danger of becoming like sheep bleating in our little fold while real life goes by on the road outside. We acknowledge the diversity of opinion within the Church.”

She continued: “It is our hope and prayer that the conference and the debate may be occasions to move away from rejection, so that we can jointly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s love for God’s world to which we are all committed, trusting that the Spirit will through dialogue and mutual respect lead us into all truth.”

The public debate on gay adoption has highlighted an increasingly serious problem within the Church of England, says Inclusive Church – a movement of people from different Anglican traditions who want it to be fully welcoming in its ethos.

Ms Martin commented: “We have been called to bear witness to the gospel of generous, redemptive love and justice, but time and again we are perceived to be more concerned with rejection than welcome, in bunker-digging rather than dialogue.”

She added: “The collective sigh of relief that was breathed and the profound joy that was felt across the country when women were ordained to the priesthood, from those outside as well as those inside the Church, has now been overshadowed. Instead, the Church is now associated more and more strongly in the public mind with another form of discrimination - homophobia.”

The Inclusive Church statement, released yesterday, continued: “We are now in a situation where, however carefully public statements are worded, the Church of England's grudging response to the Equality Act, and to last year’s civil partnerships legislation, only encourages the belief that ‘the Church has a problem with gays’.

“Meanwhile, the country has moved on. Civil partnerships have been warmly welcomed by gay and lesbian people and their friends and families, with uptake take-up far in excess of Government predictions. And around the country gay couples are getting on with the tough and uniquely valuable vocation of bringing up adopted children.

“The Church is certainly called to be counter-cultural. We are certainly called, for example, to challenge trade injustice, to question policy on the international arms trade, to resist consumerism – not least its trivialisation of God’s precious gift of sexuality - in short, to try to work for the good of all people under the eyes of God.

“But sometimes our resistance to lessons learned in the secular world appears to be a denial of the possibility of progress.

Concluded the Rev Briony Martin: “We cannot control God’s outrageously inclusive Gospel. We should, rather, be asking what God is teaching us through our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters who have heard the Gospel message of salvation and redemption, and become part of the Christian community.”

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