TODAY in London, General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, will debate a report issued by the House of Bishops last month following three years of 'Shared Conversations' about same-sex relationships and marriage.
This report has triggered an unprecedented outpouring of hurt and anger from LGBT+ members of the Church of England, who feel that they were invited to be vulnerable in the Shared Conversations but were not truly heard and understood, or who took on trust the House of Bishops' request to be patient during this process but now feel this trust was misplaced.
St Bride's was a small community which relaunched itself in November 2007 as 'Creative, Progressive, Inclusive' - creative in worship, progressive in thought, and inclusive of everyone. In our vision statement, we expressed our commitment to being:
A place where everyone can feel respected and at home, regardless of sexuality, gender, race, disability, class or creed.
Since then, our community has seen significant and sustained growth, especially in the ministry of Open Table, which creates safe sacred space for LGBT+ Christians and all who believe in an inclusive Church. Begun by a local Changing Attitude group in June 2008, since July 2015 it has become a network of inclusive ecumenical worship communities as a model for the kind of change, and the kind of church, we want to see more of in the world.
An unexpected outcome of our commitment to inclusion has been on our marriage ministry, which has seen significant growth, as couples have chosen St Bride's as an inclusive church where their family and friends who are LGBT+ would feel affirmed too. In our experience, rather than taking away from traditional marriage, being inclusive of the LGBT+ community has added something to it.
As part of our commitment to being progressive, we subscribe to the Eight Points of Progressive Christianity Network Britain as an expression of our Christian faith:
We are people who:
- Seek God, however understood, guided by the life and teachings of Jesus
- Affirm that there are many ways to experience the Sacred and that we can draw on diverse sources of wisdom on our spiritual journeys.
- Recognise that following Jesus leads us to act with compassion and to confront evil.
- Place hospitality at the centre of our communal and worshipping life and see the sharing of bread and wine as an expression of our common humanity.
- Seek to build communities that accept all who wish to share companionship without insisting on conformity.
- Know that the way we behave towards others is the fullest expression of our faith.
- Gain more insights in the search for understanding than we do in certainty.
- Work together within and beyond the Church to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
the first signs that our national church... starts to embrace and embody the equality that is ours in Christ.
In addition to its affiliation with Inclusive Church, St Bride's has applied to One Body One Faith to be added to their list of Visible Congregations and we will encourage our partner churches in our team and our diocese to do the same. Open Table at St Bride's Liverpool has applied to One Body One Faith to be added to its list of Visible Spaces and Gatherings, and will encourage other Open Table host churches across the country to do the same.
Today we pray that the infinite, unconditional, intimate love of God, embodied in the life of his son Jesus Christ, still present with us in the Holy Spirit, will comfort those who feel rejected by the House of Bishops' apparent lack of understanding and encouragement, and that faith, hope, love and justice for all will prevail as General Synod debates these issues, which go to the heart of who we are as humans, and as members of the Body of Christ in the world today.
Our former Rector, Revd Guy Elsmore, this week offered a reflection which you can read here.
Our newly appointed Rector, Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, has reflected on the House of Bishops' report here.
Our Honorary Assistant Priest, Revd Jonathan Clatworthy has reflected on the House of Bishops' report here.