A number of progessive groups in the Church of England are pushing for gay ordinations of bishops and same-sex blessings.
They plan to fight for a liberal majority of seats in the General Synod in order to turn the church around to full acceptance of gays. The next elections will be held in 2010.
A statement from 13 groups criticises Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’ suggestion of a two-track communion as “flawed” and calls for “full inclusion” of LGBT people at all levels of the ministry.
Last week, Dr Williams wrote that the church may have to accept “two styles of being Anglican” in order to avoid a schism over the ordination of gay bishops. He added that the “choice of lifestyle” of homosexuality has “certain consequences”.
He was responding to a move by the US Anglican Church to reject a moratorium on consecrating new gay bishops. This week, it was revealed that two out of the six candidates for assistant bishop of Los Angeles are gay.
Yesterday, the groups released a final draft of the statement ‘On the Archbishop’s Reflections’. They attacked his use of the phrase “choice of lifestyle” and said his words were “inconsistent” with previous statements.
Signatories include groups working for women’s ordination, Christian gay groups, liberal Roman Catholics and evangelicals.
The statement read: “Whilst we applaud his [Dr Williams'] assertion that we are called to ‘become the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ’ we find no indication of how that can be achieved for those who are not heterosexual.”
The groups also plan to conduct an anonymous survey of clergy to find out how many are LGBT, how many are in same-sex relationships and whether they have performed same-sex blessings. They estimate that 20 per cent of clergy in London are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.
Rev Canon Giles Goddard, the chair of Inclusive Church, described the statement as a “broad spectrum of Anglican belief”.
On the survey, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “We need more accurate figures. In London, north of the Thames, we estimate 20 per cent of clergy are LGBT. In Southwark, ten to 20 per cent. That’s probably 100 out of 500 in London.
“It’s early days. We will be looking at how many clergy are LGBT, how many are in same-sex relationships, how many have performed same-sex blessings.
“I hope we’ve got past this in five to ten years, we’ve all got quite bored of it. I think that people in the pew, LGBT or not, believe the church should be welcoming. I think that the silent people in the pew would like to see an end to this.”
The statement in full:
On the Archbishop’s Reflections
4th August 2009
A joint statement from groups working together in the Church of England
We have read and reflected upon the Archbishop’s response to the Episcopal Church of the USA “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” and have a number of questions about the consequences of his response. We question whether the voices of those within the Church of
England who are or who walk alongside lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have been adequately heard within the recent discussions.
These discussions have gone on in various places around the Communion, and we believe it is important in this context that the LGBT faithful and those who work alongside us speak as well.
We wish to reaffirm our loyalty to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures, our commitment to the Anglican way, and our celebration of and thanksgiving for the tradition and life of the Church of England. Above all, our concern is for the mission of the Church in our world. We have no doubt that the Church of England is called to live out the Gospel values of love and justice in the whole of its life; these values are intrinsic to the calling of Jesus Christ to follow him and it is out of this context that we speak.
While we acknowledge the intention of the Archbishop of Canterbury to seek a way forward for the Anglican Communion, we have grave concerns about the implications of his reflections in “Covenant, Communion and the Anglican Future.” For example, we consider that references to same-sex unions as a “chosen life-style”, and assertions that those who have made such a commitment are analogous to “a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond” to be inconsistent with the Archbishop’s previous statements on committed and faithful same sex relationships and are at odds with our reading of the message of the gospel. Whilst we applaud his assertion that we are called to “become the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ” we find no indication of how that can be achieved for those who are not heterosexual.
We acknowledge, once again, that there are and always have been many loyal, committed and faithful bishops, priests and deacons – properly selected and ordained – and many lay people who are LGBT or who work alongside LGBT people with delight and thanksgiving. We know ourselves to be part of the church of God in England and we work, together, to bring about the reign of God in this part of God’s creation. We pray earnestly that the Church of England will continue to select, train, ordain and deploy LGBT people and enable them to exercise their calling from God in the Church of England.
Together, we reaffirm our commitment to working for the full inclusion of all people at all levels of ministry. We will continue to work towards liturgical and sacramental recognition of the God-given love which enables many LGBT couples to thrive. We will seek to strengthen the bonds of affection which exist between those in all the Churches of the Anglican Communion who share our commitment to the full inclusion of all of God’s faithful. We will also continue to work closely with our brother and sister churches, especially those with whom we have mutual recognition of orders such as the Nordic churches. We will work to ensure that if the Church of England is to sign up to the Covenant, it has potential for rapid progress on this and other issues. We find the notion of a “two track communion” flawed in the way that the Act of Synod is flawed, and we commit ourselves to continuing the effort to find ways forward through which those who disagree profoundly on this and on other issues can continue to celebrate their common membership of the Church of England and unity in Christ.
Signed by representatives of the following groups working together in the Church of England
The Clergy Consultation
Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Anglicans
General Synod Human Sexuality Group
Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (Anglican Matters)
Modern Churchpeople’s Union
WATCH National Committee