On the morning of Wednesday 28 February the General Synod will be asked to debate the following motion:
The Revd Mary Gilbert (Lichfield) to move:
‘That this Synod acknowledge the diversity of opinion about homosexuality within the Church of England and that these divergent opinions come from honest and legitimate attempts to read the scriptures with integrity, understand the nature of homosexual orientation, and respect the patterns of holy living to which lesbian and gay Christians aspire; and, bearing in mind this diversity,
(a) agree that a homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life;
(b) invite parish and cathedral congregations to welcome and affirm lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, valuing their contribution at every level of the Church; and
(c) urge every parish to ensure a climate of sufficient acceptance and safety to enable the experience of lesbian and gay people to be heard, as successive Lambeth Conferences in 1978 (resolution 10), 1988 (resolution 64), and 1998 (resolution 1.10) have requested.’
This motion gained 124 signatories in order to put it top of the Private Member’s motion list.
The opening gambit recognises diversity of opinion but in such a way as to legitimise these differences. But this is precisely the point at issue because we do not believe that others are reaching a legitimate conclusion, even if they think they are being honest.
These opening words also use a rather vague statement about ‘the patterns of holy living to which lesbian and gay Christians aspire’ but then shift to something very definite - “homosexual orientation” in subsection (a). We therefore appear to be talking about one thing, orientation, but the context is of ‘living’. Thus the two things are being deliberately muddled together.
Section (b) leaves up in the air which we are talking about. So, for example, even the House of Bishops does say that those who are active in homosexual relationships should not be in ordained ministry, but makes no such bar on those who believe themselves to be of a homosexual orientation. But (b) could be taken to encourage the former as well as the latter.
My experience of such motions in the past is that evangelicals get jittery in case they are passed and therefore spend much effort on amendments to take the edge off them. A good amendment will not get through the General Synod so inevitably the motion passed will be very mixed and likely to be used to undermine Biblical teaching.
The best thing is to take the motion as it is and concentrate on defeating it. If the motion is defeated all well and good it simply leaves us where we are. If the motion is passed then will also be good, because at least everyone will know where the Church of England stands and appropriate action can be taken.
The House of Bishops are proposing an amemdment to this resolution which effectively replaces it entirely.
The Bishop of Gloucester to move:
‘Leave out all the words after “this Synod” and insert the words:
“a. commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion;
b. recognise that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference Resolutions - 1978:10; 1988:64; 1998:1.10; and
c. affirm that homosexual orientation is itself no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church”
There are two major problems with this amendment.
Section a) seems to assume that all the present views on sexuality within the Church fo England and the Anglican Communion are legitimate. This therefore commits the Church of Engalnd to full fellowship with people who teach the acceptability of immoral practice and those who are engaged in it.
Section c) makes no attempt to define 'sexual orientation' but in recent legal opinion this appears to be construed to include the presumption of the sexual act.
Pages on sexuality
Division in the Communion