Church to Discipline Lay Person for entering a Civil Marriage

Press Release from the LGBTI Anglican Coalition 14 September 2015

The LGBTI Anglican Coalition is shocked to learn that the Archbishop of York proposes to remove his permission for Jeremy Timm to officiate as a Reader in his diocese, solely because he chooses to convert his longstanding civil partnership into a civil marriage. Jeremy is also the National Coordinator of Changing Attitude England.

We believe this is the first known instance of such action being taken against a lay person in the Church of England since the February 2014 publication by the House of Bishops of their Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The sanctions described in that document specifically referred to clergy and ordinands only.

As we said in February 2014, those sanctions are cruel and unjust to clergy, and we look forward to the time when being lawfully married is no barrier to any ordained or licensed ministry.

This unwarranted extension of these policies to lay persons is doubly objectionable, will further damage the Church’s mission, and seriously undermines its credibility to the English public. The situation is exacerbated by observed inconsistencies of approach between dioceses.

The Chairs of both the Coalition and Changing Attitude England have therefore jointly written to the Bishop of Sheffield, as the lead bishop with responsibility in the area of Human Sexuality, to request urgent clarification of the policy of the Church of England in relation to lay couples of the same gender who enter a civil marriage.

Transformation of civil partnerships to marriages

From today, many members of the Church of England, lay and ordained, will be able to convert their civil partnership to marriage. Jeremy Pemberton and Andrew Foreshaw-Cain will no longer be the only married gay priests in the Church of England – numbers of lesbian and gay clergy are known to be converting. The House of Bishops is confronted with the challenge of disciplining or ignoring or accepting the presence of same-sex married clergy across the country.

News from the Government Equalities Office

Equal Marriage
Following the December announcement of the timetable for implementing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the Government has today laid before Parliament a series of Statutory Instruments which (subject to the approval of Parliament) will:

  • Enable same sex couples to marry in civil and religious ceremonies from 29 March 2014
  • Allow marriages of same sex couples in in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas, and make arrangements for marriages of same sex couples in military chapels, from 3 June 2014.

Civil Partnership Review
The Government has today published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. This is the full public consultation required as part of the review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The consultation runs until 17 April 2014.

Information [PDF].

Meeting with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

A meeting between the Coalition and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has been arranged for the 18 April 2013. Major points which the Coalition wishes to put to the Archbishop are as follows:

How does the Archbishop intend to get a better understanding and appreciation of the frustration LGBT Christians are experiencing in the Church of England and what plans does he have to address this? How aware is the Archbishop that some parishes are inhospitable places for LGB&T people? Will he take a lead in helping to make it a safer place for them? If so, how and when does he propose to do this? How much experience does the Archbishop have of transgender people, and what are his thoughts and plans for greater transgender inclusion in the Church of England. What are the Archbishop’s views on the Church of England permitting churches to offer prayer and dedication (or prayer and thanksgiving) for couples who have had a civil partnership (or civil marriage) ceremony? What are the Archbishop’s views on liturgies of blessing for same sex couples? What protection can clergy who are in Civil Partnerships expect from diocesan bishops who are openly hostile to such couples and are perceived as deeply homophobic? What opportunities might there be for the care of LGB&T ordinands at theological colleges? The Archbishop’s views on the need for greater education on LGB&T issues within the Church of England. The Archbishop’s views on the House of Bishops reports on Civil Partnerships and Human Sexuality.

Proposed agenda [PDF].

Bishops in civil partnerships

For immediate use:
LGB&T Anglican Coalition press statement on the admission of bishops in civil partnerships to the episcopate

The Coalition welcomes the House of Bishops decision, confirmed on 4 January 2013, to lift its moratorium of July 2011 on clergy in civil partnerships being nominated as episcopal candidates, even when living in conformity with the House of Bishops guidelines Issues in Human Sexuality.

The Bishops have decided that the requirements in its 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships, whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England, will apply equally in relation to the episcopate.

We had been shocked and saddened by the imposition of the moratorium, pending the outcome of the review of civil partnerships by the House of Bishops working party chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man. Although the lifting of the ban is only a small step it removes a glaring injustice, and was one of many recommendations in the Coalition’s submission to the Church of England working party on civil partnerships…

…We are glad that the House has addressed this particular issue, but are surprised and disappointed that this appears to be the only outcome, even though the review was expected to be complete by the end of 2012. We look forward to seeing the full report

Press Statement [PDF].

Second statement on equal marriage

The Coalition welcomes the government proposals published on 11 December, and in particular the following points:

• religious bodies are allowed to opt in voluntarily,
• no religious body or individual is compelled to act against conscience, and
• transgendered married people who apply for full gender recognition will no longer have to dissolve their marriages.

However, as Anglican Christians, laity and clergy, we are disappointed that the proposals to exclude both the Church of England and the Church in Wales appear to impose an additional barrier should these churches decide in future that they wish to marry same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. If this were the case, it would reduce religious freedom.

As a Coalition we have repeatedly pointed out that the Church of England’s official submission did not reflect the views of the many members of the Church of England who are in favour of equal marriage, and we are also aware that there is support among many in the Church in Wales. These churches should be as free to opt in as any others.

The Archbishop of Wales has made it clear that any additional obstacle would be unwelcome. The Church of England’s leadership is reportedly shocked at such an outcome, though it appears to reflect precisely what the Church requested in its submission, published in June. Church reactions to the Government’s proposals do confirm that the Church of England’s official position is out of touch, not only with a significant number of its own members, but with the majority body of public opinion.

We will be advising the organisations in our coalition to invite all of their members to write to their MPs calling for a review of the implications of the so-called quadruple locks in the proposed legislation, especially the fourth, which relates to the Church of England and the Church in Wales. In our view this fourth lock would inhibit the religious freedom of the people we represent, and who are in favour of equal marriage in these churches.

Press Release [PDF].

Letter to Justin Welby (archbishop-elect)

Text of a letter to Justin Welby, Archbishop-elect of Canterbury:

Dear Bishop Justin,

We are writing as the current co-chairs of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition to congratulate you on your nomination as Archbishop of Canterbury, and to assure you of our prayers as you prepare to assume the responsibilities of your new office.

The Coalition was heartened by your first press conference, particularly your statement that ‘We must have no truck with any form of homophobia, in any part of the church’, and your desire ‘to listen very attentively to the LGB&T communities and examine … [your] own thinking on sexuality prayerfully and carefully.’

We would add our hope and expectation that you will also extend this approach to gender identity in order to include transgender people.

As a coalition of eight organisations or groups committed to and working for the full inclusion of LGB&T people within the Church of England, with many supporters, and our huge range of experience in this area, we hope that you will be willing to meet with us at an early stage as you ponder these particular issues.

With the working parties on civil partnerships and human sexuality, commissioned by the House of Bishops, due to report soon, and government proposals for equal civil marriage about to be unveiled, it seems likely that sexuality and gender, will be high on the Church of England’s agenda in 2013. We look forward to engaging in dialogue with you about these matters and how they affect the Church’s mission and its ministry to all people.

Yours sincerely,

Christina Beardsley
Susan Gilchrist
Elaine Sommers

Coalition welcomes appointment of Justin Welby as archbishop

The Coalition welcomes the appointment of Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. In his press conference last Friday he said this about sexuality:

“We also face deep differences over the issue of sexuality. It is absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of people co-habiting in different forms of relationships, including civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of homophobia, in any part of the church. The Church of England is part of the worldwide church, with all the responsibilities that come from those links. What the church does here deeply affects the already greatly suffering churches in places like northern Nigeria, which I know well. I support the House of Bishops’ statement in the summer in answer to the government’s consultation on same sex marriage. I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully. I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love.”

We are grateful for Bishop Justin’s openness. We appreciate his commitment to engage in listening to LGB&T communities and to challenge homophobia throughout the church. We look forward to dialogue with him as he seeks the way forward for mission and ministry in the Church of England.

Press Release [PDF].

Bishops told to embrace civil partnerships

The time has come for a change in stance on civil partnerships is the message from pro-gay groups in the Coalition.

In its submission to the House of Bishops review group on civil partnerships, (made public today) the Coalition calls on the Church of England to allow churches to register civil partnerships, authorise services of thanksgiving and dedication, and end the ban on bishops in civil partnerships.

With over 47,000 civil partnerships registered by the end of 2010, the submission notes that “as social attitudes towards those in same-sex relationships have become increasingly open and accepting, the Church of England is becoming increasingly isolated. This is in turn damaging both our mission and our ability to provide pastoral care to those in our parishes, congregations, and clergy.” On offering civil partnerships in parish churches, the Coalition has already identified 95 churches who want to press ahead but General Synod would need to approve the application. Although negative statements have been made by the Church of England’s Press Office…

Press Release [PDF].
Coalition submission to the House of Bishops’ review group on civil partnerships [PDF].

Time to accept gay bishops

In a recent interview with The Times Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, was unclear whether celibate but partnered gay clergy are acceptable as bishops in the Church of England. The archbishop stated his unwillingness to consider partnered gay men and lesbians as bishops because of their ‘particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the Church has to say about that.’ … …to the many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people who have been called to ordained ministry but not to celibacy’. The Coalition calls the Church of England to a renewed study of sexuality in the light of modern scientific and theological understanding…

Press Release [PDF].