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CoE: sex outside heterosexual marriage “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”

CoE: sex outside heterosexual marriage “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”

Update from the bishops of the Diocese of Lincoln:

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.

As reported by The Guardian:

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.

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:

Over 3,000 clergy to date have signed a letter opposing the bishops’ proclaimation.

This morning Kevin Holdsworth, Provost of Glasgow Cathedral, tweeted:

Reaction from other bishops in the Church of England:

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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Cynthia Katsarelis

CoE is currently in a listening process that was the result of their General Synod rejecting a similar statement. The ABC, chastened by losing the vote, called for "radical inclusion" and their Living in Life and Faith effort was spawned. This "pastoral" statement is disrespectful of that process. The fact that a number of bishops didn't know about the statement, that was issued in their name, is symptomatic of their dysfunction. The status quo doesn't like change...

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Simon Burris
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Simon Burris

Do you really think that to reaffirm a position held by the church (through all denominations) for millenia is merely an example of "status quo"? That the traditionalists have no rational reason for holding a position, but are speaking merely out of an irrational (and intractable) dislike of change per se?

Would you be content if a traditionalist were to suggest (with his choice of words) that your position (that the church should amend its doctrine) was not a position rationally arrived at, but merely the product of an irrational liking of change for its own sake?

Is it impossible at this point for us to speak to each other as if we took each other seriously as rational beings and committed Christians? As if we assumed the best, not the worst, of each other's basic motivations?

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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Cynthia Katsarelis

I'm really fed up with the bit about "beliefs held for a millennia." It's intellectually dishonest. Women were chattel with no recourse for domestic violence, fiscal security, the right to refuse sex to her husband, etc. until roughly 1972. Divorce wasn't a thing for "a millennia." LGBTQ+ issues simply weren't on the radar screen for "a millennia." I won't even go into "all denominations." Many of those denominations supported slavery and the continued oppression of women... And the liberal ones were oppressed... The pretense that the status quo that dominance by mostly white men is somehow divinely ordained really has to go.

In the CoE, they have been in deep conversations about issues of inclusion in the church, and this most unpastoral letter was a betrayal to the participants in that process. So I would say no, the liberals and conservatives do not seem capable of speaking to one another in trust.

Can we treat each other as serious, rational Christians? Sure, but is oppressing gay people rational? Would Jesus separate children from their parents at our borders? My morality is shaped by following Jesus, and from that, my sense of morality has to do with the common good, the health and well being of all, the stewardship of our planet, etc. It's hard to build trust with folks who automatically think I'm flawed and use disingenuous arguments to support this belief. Suicides amongst LGBTQ+ people have gone down since we'be been allowed to marry. It increases our well being on many levels.

I'm sorry that God's diverse creation is a bit much for some people. But no one should have power over others in order to oppress anyone.

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