We hear, understand and share the concern that has been expressed relating to the Statement’s timing and tone. We both believe that the Statement as it stands has significant pastoral and missiological implications which clearly undermine the work of the Church today. We will bring all these concerns to the meeting of the College of Bishops in London from 29th – 30th January.
Last week the Church of England House of Bishops reaffirmed the church’s pastoral guidance on sex outside of heterosexual marriage.
Bishops have issued pastoral guidance in response to the recent introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, which says: “For Christians, marriage – that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.”
The church “seeks to uphold that standard” in its approach to civil partnerships, and “to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships” within such partnerships.
It adds: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings.”
The affirmation of traditional teaching at a time when the church is undergoing a major review of sexuality and marriage will delight conservatives.
Atticus in Sunday Times:Reports of the House of Bishops’ ruling on sex and marriage — which frowns on hanky-panky between civil partners — has been too polite to mention that, without the joy of extramarital sex, there would be no Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury….
— Simon Sarmiento (@simonsarmiento) January 26, 2020
The bishops of the Church of England have issued 1600 words of “pastoral guidance” on marriage and civil partnerships. The word ‘sex’ appears 49 times. The word ‘love’ does not appear once.
Whatever else this document is, it is not pastoral.
— Andrew Graystone (@AndrewGraystone) January 23, 2020
The timing of the bishops’ statement has been questioned. The Church of England is in the midst of discussions of sexuality and marriage which are to conclude this year.
The Guardian reports:
In 2017, the C of E’s ruling body, the General Synod, narrowly threw out a bishops’ report that upheld traditional teaching on marriage.
In response, the two archbishops set up two working groups and four sub-groups to “help us understand better the issues and the points of conflict”.
The archbishops said a “radical new Christian inclusion in the church” was needed, founded in scripture, tradition and faith while also based on “a proper 21st-century understanding of being human and being sexual”.
The working groups are due to deliver a report, Living in Love and Faith, this year.
The newest bishop in the Church of England, Olivia Graham, tweeted:
As @CofE ‘s newest bishop (though not in HoB) I was deeply saddened by the unpastoral tone of the HoB statement on civil partnerships. Cold. Legalistic. Loveless. Astonishing timing – mid LLF discussions. Please know that Bishops are not of a mind on this #sorry ☹️
— Olivia Graham (@LiviJGraham) January 26, 2020
Over 3,000 clergy to date have signed a letter opposing the bishops’ proclaimation.
'Laughing stock': letter from clergy attacks C of E's guidance on sex https://t.co/xqXYyx9Faa
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 27, 2020
This morning Kevin Holdsworth, Provost of Glasgow Cathedral, tweeted:
This is what commuters in Scotland are reading on the train this morning. Proof that the actions of the @churchofengland bishops have an impact outside of England, making mission harder and bringing Christianity into disrepute. This is an #anglicancommunion issue. pic.twitter.com/mCOYKRNkiF
— Kelvin Holdsworth (@thurible) January 27, 2020
Reaction from other bishops in the Church of England:
The recent House of Bishops’ statement may of course receive comment from all who wish to comment. This is entirely a good thing.
Here is one way to comment. https://t.co/WUSvesHNr1
— Paul Bayes (@paulbayes) January 25, 2020
"For me, the publication of the statement in cold isolation from anything else, on a seemingly random day and lacking any pastoral ‘surround’ or mention of the Living in Love and Faith’ process, has been perplexing and upsetting."https://t.co/8OPJbd8R77
— Gilo (@seaofcomplicity) January 27, 2020
— Bishop of Repton (@BpRepton) January 26, 2020
1/2 With @BishGloucester I’m frustrated by the process which led to the publication of a House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships, not least because it was deemed business and not discussed and debated by the House. But more, I’m deeply saddened by the hurt is has caused.
— Graham Usher (@bishopnorwich) January 26, 2020
As am I https://t.co/OQQCavt6FM
— Christine Hardman (@BishopNewcastle) January 26, 2020
Statement it was. Pastoral it was not. As a suffragan I didn't even know it was to be published! Wrong tone and poor timing. https://t.co/LnYdCOhYGV
— John Thomson (@john59thomson) January 27, 2020