Cracking the Binary Code…

Anvil Theological JournalThis is a short section from a longer article by Benny Hazlehurst published this month in Anvil Theological Journal.  It is set alongside other articles on sexuality from more conservative theologians.

To read the article in full, follow this link to Anvil and click on ‘Cracking the Binary Code’.

“My teenage children love playing computer games. For that matter so do I. Among the pure action games are some which require a little more thought. There are choices to make, and as you make those choices the game unfolds, for better or worse. ‘Skyrim’ is a good example. Set in a mythical world of different powers, guilds, and warring factions you can choose your race, skills and weapons. You can be a warrior or a poet – a Stormcloak or an Imperial, an elf or a human – you can even choose your religion. Amidst the action sequences fighting off wolves, bandits, or assassins, there are also moral decisions to make: to fight or walk away, to intimidate or persuade, to follow or rebel.

But as I played Skyrim, there is one thing which bothered me. So many of the ‘choices’ boil down to a choice between two options. And I often found myself being asked to choose between two things, neither of which I wanted to choose. I found myself complaining to my kids about this. “But dad, you have to choose one or other option to progress in the game,” they say to me. Essentially the game is based on a series of binary choices: yes or no, fight or flee, be loyal or betray. Ultimately I stopped playing because in so many situations, neither option seemed the right thing to do.

As an evangelical of course, I am also accustomed to being given binary choices. At University 30 years ago, the Christian Union gave me a choice. Do I believe that the Bible isthe inspired Word of God, or just a human creation? If I said it was the Word of God then I could call myself an evangelical; if not, then I could not. For me that was no big issue: ‘Yes’ I said, ‘I do,’ but the binary choices didn’t stop there. Did I believe that Scripture is inerrant or merely infallible? Am I a premillennialist or a postmillennialist? Calvinist or Arminian?  Evangelical or Charismatic?  Was I ‘sound’ or ‘unsound’ in my understanding of the atonement?  At each point there was clearly an answer which the person asking the question wanted to hear, and one which they didn’t.

But what if we don’t want to follow either of the given options? What if I think that life and faith are a little more complicated than that? What if I don’t want to nail my colours to a particular mast, or be pigeon-holed by a particular category or label? As an evangelical Christian, Jesus Christ is at the centre of my life. He is my Lord and Saviour and I believe that I have been born again by the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Bible is inspired by God and I approach it in prayer to deepen my understanding of God, as well as to be encouraged, challenged or rebuked. But that does not mean that everything in Scripture is an open or shut case – a binary choice between right and wrong, sound or unsound.

It is this binary approach which has led us to such an impasse on evangelical responses to sexuality…

Faced with the choice of rejecting the authority of Scripture or rejecting same-sex relationships, most evangelicals have naturally chosen to uphold Scripture and reject any change on sexuality. But is this really the choice we are faced with, or a false choice based on a false binary construct?”

For the rest of the article, follow this link to Anvil and click on ‘Cracking the Binary Code’.

Celebrating Unadulterated Love with a Mixed Bunch of Christians

Unadulterated-LoveOur new patron, Bishop David Gillett shares his reflections from attending a recent event organised by Changing Attitude:

‘My Catholic friends tell me that I should always do something special and memorable on my Naming Day which, for me is March 1st, St David’s Day.  And this year I did; I attended the celebration, ‘Unadulterated Love’ arranged by Changing Attitude in London.

It was the first of their events I had attended and I went mainly because It was suggested to me that as a bishop and an evangelical who had formerly been principal of Trinity College Bristol it would show support and bring encouragement to many LGBT people. Well, I am always sceptical about how my being at something can be much of an encouragement, but events certainly proved me wrong!

I was one of two bishops there and, being soon after the House of Bishops guidelines on same sex marriage had been issued, our presence was seen as significant – even though neither of us are members of the House (me because I am retired). I was asked to facilitate a couple of group sessions where there would be opportunity for both straight and LGBT folk to share their stories and challenges etc.

Pervading the occasion was a note of celebration and mutual support, some touches of confusion and sadness, but to my surprise very little anger about how the church was handling the issue of same sex relationships. Rather I detected a sense of compassion for a church that would soon hopefully embrace a wider understanding of the all-encompassing love of our gracious and welcoming God.

There were other evangelicals there who, like me had  come to an understanding of scripture and the gospel which impels us to support those who are, by their God-given nature attracted to people of the same sex, both those who are single and those in a relationship. We exchanged some experiences of how our theological and pastoral position meant we were suspect by a number of our evangelical friends, but also how many more of them were also seeing the gospel and scripture in a more inclusive and accepting light.  My personal concern in the group sessions was to share how important it is for me to celebrate together with my LGBT friends the acceptance of God and his blessing upon all committed faithful relationships, such as my wife and myself had known throughout the whole of our married life together.

But for those who shared with me, the main talking point was how a good number of them had found it difficult as gay and lesbian Christians to be accepted and comfortable within their own evangelical churches, whether they were single or in a relationship. Some spoke of years during which members of their own fellowship ignored them and never spoke to them once they had been open about their sexuality. Others told of similar cold shouldering at evangelical theological colleges. For some there was a determination to continue in the spiritual tradition which had nurtured them, but others spoke of how they felt forced out by the coldness to look for a fellowship which would be more supportive and accepting even though that meant them leaving behind some close Christian friends and the spirituality they had long valued.

However there were indications that the tide was turning. Some were determined to stay within their fellowships and were gradually seeing a dawning of a new sense of acceptance and joy in their relationships with straight Christians in their local church. This sense of acceptance was clearly more marked in the younger age group but it was also evident that many lay folk in evangelical churches were more open than some clergy. Was this, some wondered, because the close ties within the evangelical clergy-world meant that a good number hesitated to embrace a fresh understanding because their friends and colleagues would cold shoulder them too?

But I did not leave the day despondent about the place of LGBT folk within evangelical churches. It is still clearly very hard for many, but the tide is turning and I am confident that the facilitated discussions which are being set up in the wake of the Pilling report will be one means through which many evangelicals will reevaluate their position. I believe also that Accepting Evangelicals will have an increasingly important role to play in accompanying many, particularly clergy as they take a closer look at their understanding of scripture, the gospel and our mission in a society where equal marriage will soon be seen as part of the natural landscape. I know of some evangelical clergy who already offer services of blessing for those in civil partnerships and are also looking for greater freedom to celebrate with those who enter into same sex married relationships as the law allows. Clearly we are in the midst of considerable turmoil over this issue within the Church, but I believe, to quote a phrase that several of us used during the day, ‘the dam is about to burst!’

Rt Rev David Gillett

March 2014

 

 

 

Newsletter – March 2014

Dear Friends

AE’s First Patrons…

We are delighted to announce our first two patrons at AE – Rev Steve Chalke and Bishop David Gillett.  During our 10th Anniversary year, we will be announcing a number of Patrons who will help us raise the profile of Accepting Evangelicals.

The Rt Rev David Gillett was Bishop of Bolton until his retirement in 2008. He hasrev_david_gillett huge experience in evangelical theological education having been Principal of Trinity Theological College in Bristol for 11 years, and the first Director of Extension Studies at St John’s Nottingham. He trained for the ministry at Oak Hill, and has also been a travelling secretary for Pathfinders and CYFA. He is now honorary assistant Bishop and interfaith advisor in the Diocese of Norwich.

David writes,

“Over the years I have come to understand that the scriptures encourage us to support, affirm and celebrate all life-long committed relationships that follow the path in life gifted by God in his creation of each of us as different individuals.  I believe that Accepting Evangelicals is one positive way of supporting same sex couples to receive the same love, blessing and support from the church which I and my wife knew so wonderfully throughout the whole of our married life.”

 You can read more of David’s reflections on the importance of supporting same-sex relationships in this Blog post from December last year – just after the publication of the Pilling Report.

Rev Steve Chalke will need little introduction.  He is a Baptist minister, Founder of OasisSteve Chalke Global & Stop The Traffik, and a United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking.  He is Church Leader at Oasis Waterloo and was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to social inclusion.

Steve writes,

“I am honoured to be a patron of Accepting Evangelicals which is an important movement within evangelicalism because it represents the growing shift away from old, excluding and subjective readings of isolated biblical texts towards a much needed more affirming, compassionate, rounded and thoughtful approach to the Bible, humanity and sexuality.”

We warmly welcome both Steve and David in their new role with AE.

Church of England in disarray over same-sex marriage

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage‘ last month, just after St Valentine’s Day.  The first same-sex marriages are due to take place in England and Wales during March.

While they said that same-sex married couples can approach their local clergy to ask for ‘informal prayers’, the statement also banned clergy in same-sex relationships from getting married.  The guidance also states that anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained in the Church of England.

This has shocked and dismayed LGB&T clergy who had been hoping to ‘upgrade’ their Civil Partnerships to marriage later this year.  Civil Partnerships are permitted among Clergy in the CofE.   Read more here.

 

 Uganda joins Nigeria in adopting new anti-gay laws…

After 2 years of uncertainty, Uganda’s President signed into law the infamous ant-gay bill last week.  Despite international pressure, he appears to have decided that he has more to gain than lose in signing the Bill.

While the death penalty has been dropped, the new law still contains life sentences for people who marry someone of the same-sex or even touch someone of the same gender with ‘intent to engage in a sexual act’.

A petition opposing this new law has been signed by over 300,000 people in the last 4 days and can be found at https://www.allout.org/en/actions/kill-the-bill

 

Change Makers Conference

We are very pleased to advertise the Change Makers Conference in Enfield London next month.

The two-day conference is around the theme of Christ centred communities and innovative models of church. It’s a really exciting programme and has wide range of fantastic speakers from around the world – particularly from the USA and Thailand. As part of the programme there will also be a stream which looks at theology, biblical interpretation and some of the themes outlined in Steve’s recent article, Restoring Confidence in the Bible, and also the article on sexuality which he published in January 2013, A Matter of Integrity.

More information and booking details can be found here.

God Bless and Keep You

Accepting Evangelicals

 

Bishops ban clergy from same-sex marriage

same-sex marriage 3The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage‘ last weekend, just after St Valentine’s Day.  The first same-sex marriages are due to take place in England and Wales at the end of March.

While they said that same-sex married couples can approach their local clergy to ask for ‘informal prayers’, the statement also banned clergy in same-sex relationships from getting married.  The guidance also states that anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained.

Paragraph 27 states:

 “The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.”

The rationale behind this decision seems to be the promise which clergy make to “be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.”

It would follow therefore, that the House of Bishops considers that anyone who enters into marriage with someone of the same sex cannot be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.

This ruling is in sharp contrast to the Church of England’s acceptance of Civil Partnerships.  Clergy can enter into a Civil Partnership without sanction, and indeed the church pension rights of those in Civil Partnerships are fully recognised and protected.

There has been a strong reaction to this from LGBT clergy and others.  One vicar in London had just proposed to his partner of 14 years the day before, on St Valentines Day, but then woke up to the news that his church is forbidding the marriage.

Another church nearby has gone on the record to say that they are meeting to prepare out a statement opposing the Bishop’s guidelines.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition, of which Accepting Evangelicals is a member, has issued a strongly worded statement calling for the guidance to be withdrawn.

 “This is cruel and unjust to clergy who have faithfully served the church, hitherto with the full knowledge and support of their bishops, and it will impoverish the ministry by driving away LGB&TI ordinands. Only those who are prepared to lie will remain.

 This guidance is wrong in tone and content, and will further damage the Church’s mission, not only to LGB&TI people, but to all people of goodwill who respect justice and truth. It may seek to carry disciplinary authority, but it has no moral authority and cannot command respect. We hope and pray that it will be swiftly withdrawn.”

Particularly cruel will be the fact that gay clergy can be approached to provide informal prayers for others while being forbidden to marry their partner.

What sanctions Bishops can impose if clergy go ahead and marry are unclear, but already the Bishop of Blackburn has called all clergy in Civil Partnerships in his diocese to meet with him next month.  Legal advice is being sought and the trades union Unite (which represents many clergy and faith workers) is following events closely.

A petition has also been launched at Change.org calling on the Bishops of the Church of England “To rescind their opposition to equal marriage. To take back their recent Pastoral Guidance. To create a Church where all are welcomed.”

While Accepting Evangelicals has been careful to call for deeper theological reflection and prayerful discussion on same-sex marriage, rather than taking sides , we wholeheartedly support the LGB&T Anglican Coalition’s statement and ask the House of Bishops to withdraw this guidance without delay.

You can read the full statement here – Open letter re pastoral guidance on marriage – Feb 2014

If you would like to sign the petition, you can  find it here

Coming Out at General Synod

General Synod Feb 2014The Church of England’s General Synod met in London this week and took the next steps in dealing with two contentious issues.

The first was legislation to bring women bishops a step closer, unpicking the fiasco of November 2013 when a small number of ‘No’ votes held the church to ransom.  This week however, the vote was decisive and clear.  The next steps of legislation sailed though and actually speeded up the process.  As result we may finally see women bishops early next year.

The second was a presentation on the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality with an opportunity for Synod members to ask questions about the process by which its recommendations are to be considered and implemented.

The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to both these issues in his presidential address.  On the subject of sexuality, he talked of enabling the Church of England to ‘disagree well’ and seek the flourishing of every part of the church – progressive and conservative.  He also echoed previous statements he has made about the dangers of sticking with the current position which refuses to acknowledge or endorse same-sex relationships.

“We have received a report with disagreement in it on sexuality, through the group led by Sir Joseph Pilling.  There is great fear among some, here and round the world,  that that will lead to the betrayal of our traditions, to the denial of the authority of scripture, to apostasy, not to use too strong a word. And there is also a great fear that our decisions will lead us to the rejection of LGBT people, to irrelevance in a changing society, to behaviour that many see akin to racism. Both those fears are alive and well in this room today.

We have to find a way forward that is one of holiness and obedience to the call of God and enables us to fulfil our purposes.  This cannot be done through fear. How we go forward matters deeply, as does where we arrive.”

But the most striking contribution to that debate came in the questions on the Pilling Report, when Canon Simon Butler posed the following question:

“My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question.”

Simon is an evangelical vicar in South London.  Although his sexuality has been known to his friends for some time, this is the first time he has spoken in such a public way at General Synod about it.  His example is both an encouragement and a challenge to church leaders and Bishops to lift the veil of silence and speak openly and truthfully about their sexuality. 

It must have taken considerable courage to make his statement and yet this is the kind of honesty which we need, if we are to have the genuine and open conversations which will lead us all forward ‘in Spirit and in Truth’.

To read the Archbishops address in full, follow this link

 

Reparative Therapy rejected by the ACC

acc logoThe Association of Christian Counsellors has amended its policy on counselling for gay people.  In a statement to all its members last month, it said,

“We do not endorse Reparative or Conversion Therapy or any model that implies a predetermined direction of outcome of counselling at the outset. We recognize that such models have the potential to impose situational demands on the client at a time of vulnerability with the potential to create harm and therefore view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling.”

Furthermore, they are requiring all their member counsellors to stop practising these controversial therapies with immediate effect.

“Members who are considering using this model of therapy should neither commence nor continue to use it and any advertising or promotional material should be replaced immediately, or at least removed  from current use. This includes the ACC “Find a counsellor” facility on our website.”

Following the closure of Exodus International in the USA last year, (see our July Newsletter) we welcome this significant step among Christian counsellors in the UK.

You can read their full statement here.

Archbishops respond to Nigerian crisis

Following the public outcry which followed sweeping new anti-Nigeria anti gay law protestgay laws in Nigeria, we are relieved to see that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have responded with a letter to all Anglican Primates.

The letter reminds all Archbishops and Presiding Bishops in the Anglican Communion of the commitment which was made by Primates in 2005 –   to care pastorally  for  all people,  irrespective of sexual orientation and reject all action which seeks to victimise or diminish LGB&T people.

“The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.” 

The letter clearly states that this is a response to “legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction”.

This is clearly a step in the right direction and we now await a response from the Anglican Church in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition in the previous AE Blog. You have helped to make this happen.

Let keep praying for LGB&T people in the countries affected.

Click here for the full letter from the Archbishops.

 

 

Petition against Nigeria’s new anti-gay laws

Earlier this month Nigeria Change_org_Logoenacted new legislation on homosexuality.

Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria, but far from relaxing these old colonial laws, both the scope of the law and its penalties have been increased.

The Prohibition of Same-sex Marriage Bill now makes it illegal to be in a same-sex marriage in Nigeria with a prison sentence of up to 14 years.  Membership of LGB&T groups is now also illegal, both for LGB&T people and for heterosexual friends and advocates, and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, have united in calling for, and supporting these new laws.  In particular, leaders of the Anglican Church in Nigeria have vocally supported these new laws, in clear contravention of the worldwide Anglican Churches official position in the ‘Lambeth 1.10’ statement which “calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”.

Lambeth 1.10 is often held up by conservative Anglicans as a document which rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” but it also contains a call to all Anglican leaders to uphold and be proactive in promoting openness and listening to the experience of LGB&T people.

Paragraph (c) states:

“We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

It is hard to see how the Anglican Church in Nigeria can think that imprisoning people for entering into a loving covenant relationship (even if they disagree with such relationships) can live up to the standards of Lambeth 1.10

Action has been swift since the Law was enacted, with scores of homosexuals arrested and punished.

In response to this dire situation, there is a petition on Change.org which calls on the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to challenge Nigerian Anglican leaders.   Please sign up if you are able…

Elsewhere in Africa there is some good news in Uganda where the President has refused to sign the notorious anti-gay laws which have been making their way through Parliament over the last 2 years.  The law completed the parliamentary hurdles late last year, but the final vote took place without enough MP’s present to make the vote valid.

However the President’s letter explaining his decision exposes the depth of ignorance and misunderstanding which exists, even among educated political leaders.

According to President Musenveni, “You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people” adding that many women are lesbians because of “sexual starvation” if they fail to find a husband.

He does not, however think that imprisonment is the answer.

“The question at the core of the debate of homosexuality is; what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?”

He thinks not, but the Ugandan Parliament can still force the Bill through with a two-thirds majority.

The Nigerian Petition can be found at:

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/to-the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york-please-speak-out-against-human-rights-abuses-in-Nigeria 

Newsletter – January 2014

Dear Friends2013-2014 sign

 2014 is going to be a significant year for Accepting Evangelicals as we approach out 10th Anniversary.  During the year we plan to celebrate this anniversary in a variety of ways with new announcements and events.

 But as we begin this New Year, it is very appropriate to look back at the year that has just passed, noting the huge steps which have been made in promoting a more inclusive welcome for LGB&T people in the church…

January 2013

Steve Chalke – leader of OASIS International published an article in Christianity Magazine, calling for an open conversation on how the church can truly welcome gay and lesbian people and give them the same support and guidance as heterosexuals.

Since then, Oasis has published a wealth of material calling for the church to bless and support same-sex partnerships. See http://www.oasisuk.org/inclusionresources

February 2013

On 5th February the House of Commons voted in favour of same-sex marriage after a full and lively debate. MP’s were given a free vote without political party instructions, and voted by 400 votes to175 for the new law to proceed to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny. Although many churches only seemed concerned with insulating themselves from this, many Christian MPs spoke in favour of the Bill.  For some of the key speeches, please see our blog post ‘Reflections on parliament’s debate

 March 2013Rob Bell

Rob Bell is well known for thinking ‘outside the box’ and has been an inspiration to huge numbers of Evangelicals in the USA and around the world.   In 2011 he was named by Time magazine as one of its Top 100 influential people.

In March, he joined calls for marriage equality in the USA at an event at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco saying “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs… to affirm people wherever they are.”

April 2013

John Paulk was one of the most recognised leaders in the ‘Ex-gay’ movement but in April he issued a letter apologising for the damage his campaigning has done “to countless people” and stating categorically that it did not change his sexual orientation.

His appearance on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1998 had provided huge publicity for the ‘Ex-gay’ movement when he claimed that reparative therapy had changed or cured his homosexual orientation.  He also wrote the book “Love won out” to persuade others to seek change in their sexual orientation through Christian ministry.

But now he sees things very differently. “Today, I see LGBT people for who they are — beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.”

 May 2013

In the UK, the Baptist Assembly not only hosted a workshop on sexuality, but also devoted the whole of its plenary session to discussing different theologies and experiences of sexuality in a constructive way. Kirk General Assembly

In Scotland, the Church of Scotland voted by a clear majority to allow individual congregations to appoint openly gay ministers in Civil Partnerships.

In the USA, Jim Wallis also spoke out in favour of same-sex relationships.  He has often been called a ‘progressive Evangelical’ by supporters and opponents alike, with his strong campaigning stance on issues such as poverty, social justice and climate change, but this is the first time he has gone on the record to support same-sex marriage. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/jim-wallis-faith-politics-immigration_n_3024458.html

 June 2013

Following John Paulk’s apology in April, the President of Exodus International also apologised for the hurt and damage which his organisation has caused to LGBT people over the last 37 years, and announced that the ministry is shutting down.

Alan Chambers had also claimed that reparative therapy had changed his orientation, but in June he said, “There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.”

Exodus International has now shut down and Alan Chambers now promotes a new website called “Speak. Love” which aims to establish trust, reduce fear and inspire hope. http://wespeaklove.org/exodus/

July 2013

This month saw The Church of England Newspaper invite AE to provide articles for a regular slot in the UK’s leading evangelical weekly newspaper.  Our first article reported on the London Pride Parade and the contribution from Christians at Pride.  We have since had a further 2 articles published – ‘Misreading the Map’ and A Case of Mistaken Identityand our first article of 2014 is ready and waiting to go.

August 2013Greenbelt 2013

This month’s big event was the Greenbelt Festival and the Q&A with Steve Chalke which Benny Hazlehurst chaired.  It was in the Grandstand (one of Greenbelt’s largest outdoor venues) and Steve was typically frank and open about his support for loving committed same-sex partnerships.   If you want to hear the whole Q&A there is a download available from Greenbelt for a small charge – follow this link.

September 2013

During September, Church of England Bishops began to speak openly about the dangerous disparity which exists between church teaching on sexuality and the perceptions of the vast majority of young people.

It started at the end of August when the Archbishop of Canterbury opened the new HQ for Evangelical Alliance and said, “.  We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible, but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism.

The call was taken up by the  Bishop of Worcester, John Inge who was reported in the Worcester News as saying “For the first time in many generations, our traditional teaching is being seen by large numbers of people as being on the wrong side of the moral argument.”  And the Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham went further saying, “The church’s view on same sex marriage is not sustainable. But homosexuals must realise that the church is not homophobic. We should all celebrate committed, faithful and loving relationships.”

October 2013

On 4th October the Professor of Theology at Azuza Pacific University in California said a painful goodbye to students and colleagues after being asked to step down by the University authorities.  The termination of the Professor’s employment came after she told them that she was transgender and was in the process of transitioning to be a man.

Heather Clements – now H. Adam Ackley – had worked at the evangelical college for 15 years, and is an ordained deacon in his church.  “I have never really identified with being female but I tried to be because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be… I tried to be the best Christian woman I could be… but I have to accept something difficult about myself,” he said. “I’ve never been fully myself, I’ve always been living a lie, not exactly on purpose but that was the best truth I knew at the time.”

His experience highlighted the prejudice which Transgender Christians often experience and came as we were preparing a new Trans section for the AE Website.

“People assumed that I’ve done something – some sex act,” he said. “I’m not violating any sexual conduct and it’s embarrassing that it’s implied. I live a very chaste life.”  Despite vocal support from students at the University, he had to leave his post in October.

November 2013

Saw the launch of our new Transgender section on the AE website which has been put together by Elaine Sommers, a Trans Christian who joined the AE Steering Group earlier in the year.

This new part of our website has received overwhelming support from AS members with over 180 ‘likes’ on our blog post which launched it.

At the end of the month, Elaine was the speaker at our Annual Meeting in London which was also a great day – you can read a report by one of our members here.

December 2013

The last month of the year brought an unexpected bonus in the publication of the Church of England’s latest report on sexuality – the ‘Pilling Report’.  Although its recommendations for positive change were modest, it recognised for the first time the theological diversity which exists in the Church of England on sexuality, and held up Accepting Evangelicals as a significant example of that diversity.

With all these developments during 2013, who knows what is possible in 2014…

God Bless and Keep You

Accepting Evangelicals

 

Pilling Report recognises Evangelical Diversity

cofe logoOn 28th November the long awaited ‘Pilling Report’ on human sexuality was published by the Church of England.

We have issued a Press Release in response which we you can view on our Press Page.

Most striking for us is the way in which the report acknowledges (for the first time) the diversity in Biblical interpretation among evangelicals on the issue of sexuality.

Accepting Evangelicals is mentioned at length in one of the essays (page 177) as an alternative to traditional conservative theology.

 “We include in the Appendices two essays on the Scriptures and homosexuality which were prepared for us. One, by Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, epitomizes a conservative understanding of the biblical texts. The second, by the Revd David Runcorn, argues a scriptural case for a more inclusive ethic. Both would identify themselves as evangelicals within the Church of England and both believe they are taking a high view of the authority of Scripture.”  (page 67: para 223)

We will be commenting further when we have studied the whole document in depth (over 200 pages).

In terms of recommendations, the report proposes some limited changes to the Church of England approach, including:

  • Permitting public services in CofE churches to ‘mark’ Civil Partnerships if both the Vicar and the PCC (Parochial Church Council) agree
  • discouraging intrusive questioning of clergy in same-sex partnerships about their private life
  • a concerted process of ‘facilitated conversations’ at national and Diocesan level.

It does not, however, propose any change in the Church’s teaching and rules out any official liturgy of Blessing or Thanksgiving at this time.

Some evangelical conservative groups have responded with anger and dismay.

Reform Chairman, Rod Thomas said that he was “deeply ashamed” that the Pilling Report was opening up divisive discussions about the church’s stance on human sexuality.

Anglican Mainstream have said, “The impression is given that a matter on which Scripture and tradition give clear theological and ethical direction is open to compromise by negotiation.”

But others have been more positive. In particular Fulcrum has sought to welcome some areas while expressing concern at others.

The report can be purchased from Church House Publishing or viewed on line via the Church of England media page – http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/11/pilling-report-published.aspx 

Accepting Evangelicals submission to the Pilling Working Group can be read here.