The Bishops of the Church of England recently made an untimely and insensitive statement about civil partnerships, sex, and same gender marriages. Since issuing it the bishops have apologised for the timing, whilst not withdrawing the statement itself. A small number have gone further and dissociated themselves from their statement.
There is an earlier comment on this here on our church blog.
St Chrysostom’s Church Council recently discussed the statement. Council members felt the statement was very insensitive, and extremely unhelpful, not least to the mission of the church and our church in particular.
Several in our congregation are in civil partnerships. We will not consider them in any way different from other worshippers, nor do way say how they should or should not express their love for one another. We felt that some bishops were agreeing to such statements, while saying something very different on a personal level to LGBT people in committed relationships. This, it was felt verged on hypocrisy and certainly greatly lowered the trust we can have in what bishops say. We felt the bishops would have been better being silent on the matter.
In the circumstances the Church Council felt it appropriate to be very clear of St Chrysostom’s Church’s view on this. The churchwardens proposed the following public statement, and the Council unanimously agreed to it:
“The Church Council of St Chrysostom’s, Manchester was very disappointed to read the recently published statement from the House of Bishops following the introduction of Civil Partnerships for heterosexual couples. We have, however, been encouraged to read some of the responses to that statement and in particular that issued by Southwark Cathedral. In response the Church Council wishes to make this statement:
At St Chrysostom’s we have a long history of radical inclusion, faithful to the generous catholic tradition which we continue to share and celebrate today. Within this tradition, we wish to support and encourage couples who freely enter loving, faithful and committed relationships and who wish joyfully to celebrate their love for one another. We will continue to offer a generous pastoral and liturgical response to those who ask for the opportunity to come to church around the time of their Civil Partnership or Marriage. We wish to state clearly and unequivocally that we believe that all are loved by God regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, ability or sexuality and it is our desire and hope that St Chrysostom’s will continue to shine a light of welcome and hope for all who feel excluded by the church.”
Thank you to the PCC for this statement. It is important to so many of us within the church as well as to those for whom the church, as a body, is identified either as a place of exclusion or indeed a place that means nothing; after all the Church of England is the national church meaning it has a duty to everyone not just for people who identify as members.
For those of us possessing “protected characteristics”, particularly LGBTQ+ folk, the continued arguments about the theological rights and wrongs of being the person God created you to be and in being so, living out a full and happy life, just like straight and cis gendered people, are hurtful beyond measure.
Recently a fellow Ordinand said to me that I would be okay so long as I was celibate; she was right of course so far as the church “rules” are concerned but how outrageous that it could be said with such unblinking legitimacy!
St C’s is a beacon of hope for us all and thankfully we are not alone, Manchester is home to the first Inclusive Church deanery, thanks be to God. A few years ago, a Votive Mass of Our Lady was said at St C’s with special prayers for Mark and I which meant so much to us and particularly to Mark’s Mum who died 4 months later. A few years before that at another church I had been told by a Priest that the only proper way for Mark and I to live together was as brothers, what a difference eh!
Paul, you are absolutely correct.
In the ‘normal’ world, outside the CoE Bishops’ structures, at work, at the local football / rugby/ hockey team, in schools & colleges etc…. this type of thing is no longer an issue.
In the ‘normal’ world, the days of discrimination are so very far behind us that all this is old news. It is only the CoE, from a legally privileged position, that is permitted to discriminate in a way that is not legal in the ‘real world’.
The Taoiseach of Ireland, a current presidential candidates of the US, the commissioner of the metropolitan police, are all gay. They are very mainstream people with responsible jobs.
When the CoE makes such a ridiculous fuss about the gender of the person that we choose to share our lives with, it makes itself a parody of an institution left behind by modern society and no longer relevant.
In contrast, St Chrysostoms is a supportive and accepting environment. Encouraging people to be themselves in a entirely natural way. How different St Chrysostoms attitude is from the House of Bishops.
The time has come for the CoE Bishops to get a grip, move on, and find issues that actually matter to modern society. Or, if not, take the consequences and prepare for closure. There are fewer and fewer people that will accept this type of nonsense from ‘Bishops charged with leadership’.
I wanted to thank Paul and Edward for their words. I fully endorse and agree with what they are saying.
It was great to be at PCC on Sunday to witness the positive way that our Statement in response to the Bishops’ (crass) Statement on Civil Partnerships was accepted. It bore witness to our history of radical catholic inclusion and was accepted without fuss or argument.
I wish that the Church would stop shooting itself in the foot, stop making itself look foolish. As a church we need to challenge injustice and wrong structures in society, and to be a prophetic voice of bringing Good News to everyone. We don’t do so by making mean statements and being hypocritical. That the Bishops could even give time and attention to make this statement is almost beyond belief – there are far more serious matters to address, and not least the fact that most people see the church as out of step and vote with their feet by not attending.
The Bishops contend that the only place for sexual activity is within heterosexual marriage! Celibacy is the vocation of some people, but it is not a way of life to be enforced on others.
At school 50 years ago we sang the hymn “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” with a verse which I think the Bishops who sanctioned the statement might heed
“For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind”
and stop trying to constrain love, which must be of God as God is love, to a narrow expression of it.
St Chrysostom’s Church’s commitment to radical inclusion is what first attracted me to attend the church, and I have been attending for nearly five years now.
How St C’s embraces diversity and its inclusiveness have greatly encouraged me in exploring my vocation to ordained ministry. I am very pleased that St C’s is still the same inclusive and safe place just as I first set foot in it years ago, for all to explore faith, to find rest, and spiritual encouragement.