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Christians on both sides of the debate criticise new bishops’ group on LGBT issues

By Josh Lee

Conservatives and liberals within the Anglican Church have slammed a new Bishops’ group created to discuss the issue of homosexuality in the church, according to Christian Today.

While conservatives are angry that the group exists at all, liberal Anglicans have complained that the “Bishops reflection group” doesn’t involve any LGBT people.

Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, said: “This issue is about our doctrine of sex and marriage, and a whole host of other things along with it. To imagine this just affects one group in the church is blinkered. Secondly, yet again we have the mantra that the ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage is ‘homophobic’. If we cannot move beyond these emotive stereotypes then there is little room for respectful debate.”

Chris Sugden, from conservative group Anglican Mainstream, told Christian Today: “The calling of bishops is to ensure that in sharing the love of God in Jesus, Christian churches are led by ministers faithful to biblical teaching.

“The question facing the Church of England is not whether to amend the biblical teaching on marriage but how sensitively to pastor those in the church who find the calling to follow that teaching a particularly difficult challenge.

“It is therefore proper for those who affirm the biblical teaching as bishops to be members of the new panel. It is likely that they will take evidence from many points of view in the church. We especially encourage them to take an evidenced based approach on how biblically orthodox Anglican churches in the evangelical, charismatic and catholic traditions exercise such sensitive pastoral care and how those who find the biblical teaching difficult receive it.”

A former preacher from Australia, Anthony Venn-Brown blasted the decision to not include LGBT rights advocated in the group, saying: “Can you imagine a group of male church leaders discussing the role of women in the church without females present. We would call that misogyny.”

“So when church leaders discuss LGBT people, relationships and the community without speaking with or spending time getting to know LGBT people it does beg the question why. What is there to fear? Why the exclusion? Is this another evidence of homophobia?”

Meanwhile Jayne Ozanne, a gay member of the Synod (the Church’s governing body), wrote on Facebook: “Unless I’m very mistaken there are no LGBTI voices on this group! I’m shocked but sadly not surprised. Have we learnt nothing?” adding that “the Church is talking about us without us,” on Twitter.

Recently, around one third of clergy and lay members of the Church’s governing body called on Anglican bishops to be more welcoming of LGBT people, after Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain was forced to come out as gay. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Wales came out in favour of same-sex marriage in his outdoing address to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales.