PRESS RELEASE – January 10th 2016 –
SENIOR CHURCH FIGURES URGE CHURCH REPENTANCE FOR ‘SECOND CLASS CITIZENS’ TREATMENT ON SEXUALITY
Over 100 Senior Anglicans, including the Dean of St Paul’s, have signed an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York calling on the Church of England to repent of its ‘second class citizen’ treatment of Christians over issues of sexuality.
The letter, signed by a range of senior church figures including Cathedral Deans, retired bishops and well-known lay figures (including leading parliamentary figures and university academics), has been sent to the Archbishops ahead of a pivotal meeting of worldwide Anglican Leaders which begins in Canterbury on Monday.
In the letter, the 105 signatories call on the Church to acknowledge its failure to care for LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world, and to repent of its acceptance and promotion of discrimination – especially its failure to challenge harmful beliefs about sexuality. It goes on to ask the Primates to act in Christ-like love ‘towards those who have been ignored and vilified for too long’.
The signatories include eight retired bishops and a serving bishop, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham. Another prominent signatory is the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd David Ison, who says that, in all the debate, the personal cost has often been forgotten:
“I believe that it’s imperative for us to remember that whilst we seek to engage honestly, lovingly and respectfully with our differences of context and scriptural interpretation, our discussions are actually about the lives of sisters and brothers who have often been rejected and victimised on the grounds of their sexuality. The Church should be the first place that they feel they can come to, to find love and acceptance rather than judgement.”
The signatories include both clergy and lay people. Prominent gay Christian, Vicky Beeching, who came out in 2014 and faced significant discrimination from Christians across the world, urges the Church to think of its younger members:
‘Social and religious attitudes are shifting among young people. Many cannot morally align themselves with a Church that perpetuates LGBT discrimination. If we want to ensure the future life of our Church this issue needs urgent attention and great pastoral sensitivity. To see the Church repent of damaging attitudes would help many young people feel a reconnection with it.’
The letter, which goes on to assure the Archbishops of prayers for the Canterbury meeting, has been coordinated by Jayne Ozanne, a member of General Synod, who is keen to stress that support has come from a broad range of individuals across the church. ‘The signatories come from across the full breadth of the Anglican traditions, and from right across the country. From the Dean of Truro to the Dean of Carlisle, and from the MP for Exeter to the Master of Trinity Hall at Cambridge University and the Dean of Christ Church at Oxford University. It is so encouraging to see so many senior Anglicans now standing alongside their LGBTI brothers and sisters, recognising their woeful treatment by the Church to date.’
She added that the church had no excuse for its failure to care:
‘In 1998 the worldwide Anglican Church committed itself to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals. Despite this commitment the plight of many LGBTI Christians around the world has got worse. The consequence is that we are now increasingly perceived as irredeemably “anti-gay” by an increasing number of people who simply don’t understand why the church continues to discriminate, nor why it is allowed to do so. Until we repent of our treatment of our LGBTI brothers and sisters, attempts by those within the worldwide Church to conduct meaningful “conversations” will risk appearing hollow and insincere”.
The Letter –
The Rt Hon and Most Revd Justin Welby
The Rt Hon and Most Revd Dr John Sentamu
January 7th 2016
We the undersigned ask you, our Archbishops, to take an unequivocal message to your meeting of fellow Primates next week that the time has now come for:
Acknowledgement that we, the Church, have failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world. We have not loved them as we should, and have treated them as a problem to be solved rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ to be embraced and celebrated. We have made them feel second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God, often abandoned and alone.
Repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and for the pain and rejection that this has caused. We, the Church, need to apologise for our part in perpetuating rather than challenging ill-informed beliefs about LGBTI people, such as the slanderous view that homosexuals have a predisposition to prey on the young.
We understand that the Primates come from a variety of contexts with differing ways of interpreting the Scriptures, but we urge you to be prophetic in your action and Christ-like in your love towards our LGBTI sisters and brothers who have been ignored and even vilified for too long.
Please be assured of our prayers for you at this time, and that the world will know by our words and actions that everyone who is baptised into the faith is of equal value in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The letter’s published signatories.
The letter’s website.
The images are from The Guardian.