Four Church of England bishops in Lichfield have issued new guidance, welcoming LGBT people to the church and acknowledging the “great contribution” that LGBT Christians are making.
The progressive guidance issued by the Diocese of Lichfield – one of the Church of England’s 42 administrative districts – also affirms that LGBT+ people “can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church.”
The document reads: “Nobody should be told that their sexual or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.”
The five-point guidance, titled “welcoming and honouring LGBT+ people,” seeks to combat the church’s reputation of being unwelcoming and alienating for young LGBT people.
“As Archbishop Justin has made clear, the perception that the Church is homophobic and transphobic is harming our mission, especially to young people,” it states.
“We need to challenge this perception by reaching out to LGBT+ people with the good news of God’s love, modelling God’s welcome and care for all people.”
The document emphasises that “intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires, or their experience of gender, is almost always inappropriate.”
The guidance, which takes a “radical Christian inclusion” view towards sexuality and gender, also appears to hit-out at controversial conversion therapy carried out by some fundamentalist Christian groups.
“It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith,” it reads.
The document is signed by bishop of Lichfield Michael Ipgrave, bishop of Shrewsbury Mark Rylands, bishop of Stafford Geoff Annas, and bishop of Wolverhampton Clive Gregory.
The guidance adds: “We wish both to acknowledge the great contribution that LGBT+ Christians are making, and have made, to the Church in this diocese, and to highlight the need for mission within the LGBT+ community more broadly.”
“We want Lichfield to be a diocese in which people of any sexual orientation or gender identity feel welcomed and honoured in our churches.”
In February last year, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced that work is underway on issuing a new teaching document with “radical Christian inclusion” approach towards LGBT people. This formed the basis for the Diocese of Lichfield’s new guidance.
Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby admitted that gay people have been “appallingly” treated by the Church of England.