A question has been asked in Parliament about whether the Church of England is doing enough in the pastoral care of LGBT people.
It’s a very good question, although sad that it needs to be asked. The Church certainly seems to be giving mixed messages. Of course some of this is due to the Church being in a period of change and discussion on LGBT issues. However, when it comes to bishops it cannot be denied that a somewhat confusing and uncertain message is being given. Some, but not all, bishops have barred clergy or readers in same sex marriages from holding office in their dioceses. Some bishops have made a clear stand in supporting LGBT people pastorally while others have been more equivocal or covert in their response.
Of course the views of the Church of England are not just found among bishops! Indeed there is evidence from history that bishops rather lag behind when it comes to change.
So back to Parliament. On Thursday 13th October 2016 Susan Elan Jones (MP for Clwyd South) asked Dame Caroline Spelman (who answers questions on the Church of England in the House of Commons in her role as the Second Church Estates Commissioner) about the Church of England and the pastoral care of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians.
Dame Caroline replied, on the situation in England, “the Church of England is operating a number of small scale projects. The best example I can think of is in Manchester, where a monthly communion service operates in some parishes specifically for the LGBT community.”
Well that ‘best example’ must include us at St Chrysostom’s with Open Table! – after all there isn’t another C of E church holding a monthly communion service in Manchester for LGBT people. Although, of course, our friends in Liverpool Open Table do so at St Bride’s, Liverpool.
What is particularly noteworthy is that Dame Caroline immediately identifies open, inclusive and welcoming worship as good pastoral care.
The questions continued asking Dame Caroline if she agreed that “now is the time for those of us who are Christian but not of the LGBT community to give more careful consideration to these issues?”
The response was: Yes absolutely. It is completely in line with the policy of the Church of England. The House of Bishops has consistently encouraged the clergy to offer appropriate pastoral support, including informal prayer with LGBT people, Christians and others. I think that that injunction is on us all.