A submission by Changing Attitude, the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation and the Church of England General Synod Human Sexuality Group
We are writing as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] members of the Church of England, lay and ordained. We are Christians who are actively involved in local congregations and the life of our national Church. We are Anglicans by conviction. The Church of England has been by tradition a broad, tolerant and generous Church, open to change, often adventurous in theology and in responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our culture and in a changing society.
The Lambeth Commission has been mandated to investigate issues of authority and structure in the Anglican Church. In theory it is not directly concerned with the theology or place of LGBT people in the Church. But, in reality it is, because this is the issue that has caused the Commission to be formed. We, LGBT members of the Church of England, are among those whose future in the Church is being discussed, questioned and thrown into doubt.
We who are members of an Anglican church in the ‘west’ are semi-privileged people. We are members of a Province where the place of LGBT people is at least an open and active issue, and in parts of the Church we are welcomed. This is also true for Scotland, Wales, the USA, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and parts of Australia. In many of these countries there are moves by the secular state to recognise, protect and give legal equality to LGBT people, including the registration of partnerships.
We LGBT people in the United Kingdom recognise our dignity and worth as children of God, called by God into faith and into his Church. We know from personal experience that discrimination, injustice and prejudice against LGBT people is often fuelled by the Church both in England and in other parts of the Anglican Communion. This prejudice is demonstrated by individuals, congregations, ministers, priests, and the institutional Church, through policies and opinions expressed by synods, bishops and church leaders.
The legal and theological implications flowing from the consecration of Gene Robinson are not restricted to the effect on church order and law. Lesbian and gay and same-gender loving priests are ordained in every province of our Communion. The legal and theological position of the church also affects the human rights, dignity and safety of every same-gender loving person. In other cultures where the identity of people as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are unfamiliar concepts, homosexual men may identify themselves as ‘men who have sex with men‘, and homosexuals of both genders as ‘same gender loving people‘.
The legal and theological implications flowing from the ECUSA decision affect more than the historic formularies and doctrine of the church and the Anglican Communion’s order and unity. They also affect the ability of the church to pastor lesbian and gay people and formulate appropriate policies and pastoral strategies to respond to the specific needs of a minority group.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the UK have often experienced themselves as being in a state of uncertain or broken communion with the national church as a result of published church documents and policies about LGBT people and General Synod debates about us. These have often expressed the views of hostile heterosexuals who, unaware of our experience, construct their views from a particular understanding of scripture. The attitudes expressed have made us feel unwelcome and have persuaded some to leave the church because it had become an institution with which they did not feel in communion any longer.
As LGBT members of the Church of England we believe ourselves to be part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and have worshipped at services and received communion when we have travelled to a different Province. The views expressed by the majority of bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and at subsequent meetings and in published reports now reveal the Anglican Church in other Provinces to be a very unsafe and unwelcome place for us, and in some instances a place of danger to our physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.
The experience of the Act of Synod in England in responding to the requirements of those opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood provides an unhappy precedent. If the Lambeth Commission proposes a solution based on the model of alternative episcopal oversight and the formation of a third province, implicit in this will be the institutionalisation of impaired communion. We urge the Commission to resist a proposal in which being in communion with other provinces and individual members of the church is in any way impaired.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and same-sex loving people in the majority of provinces of the Anglican Communion which are hostile to lesbian and gay experience are unlikely to have any individuals or representative bodies which will prepare a submission for the Commission. Their voices will not be heard by the Commission.
LGBT and same-gender loving members in these Provinces have an equal need for pastoral oversight, support and reconciliation as individuals. This needs to be weighed against the desire to maintain the relationship of each Province with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with other Provinces.
24 August 2004