Around a third of clergy and lay members of the Church Of England’s governing body have signed a letter asking bishops to welcome lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians into the church, according to reports in The Guardian.
The letter comes after 14 clergy in same-sex marriages signed an open letter published in The Sunday Times on September 4 calling on the church to acknowledge their relationships, after Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain was forced to come out as gay after a newspaper threatened to exspose his same-sex relationship.
Earlier this year, Reverend Clive Larson quit the church to marry his same-sex partner.
Church Of England bishops are due to meet on Monday (September 12) to discuss the longstanding issue of sexuality. The debate over how the church should treat sexual minorities within the church has caused fractures within the church.
Last month, Rev Dr Peter Sanlon warned The Telegraph that “if senior leaders of the Church of England water down the teaching of the Church of England on key issues like homosexuality, then this synod could easily evolve in to a new Anglican jurisdiction in England.”
According to reports, 72 conservatives members of the Church of England’s General Synod wrote to Bishops last month, warning against leading the church “adrift from her apostolic inheritance”, and suggested that relaxing rules about sexuality could lead to an “unwanted fracture” within the Church of England, as well as the global Anglican church.
However this month’s letter from the General Synod gathered 131 out of a possible 430 signatures, and urges biships to “help lead [the church] forward” on the issue of sexuality with “urgency and sensitivity”.
The letter asks the College of Bishops to be “unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world”.
David Ison, the dean of St Paul’s said: “I believe that there’s a growing consciousness across the church that our response to lay and ordained LGBTI Christians cannot stay as it is. We need far greater honesty and transparency with one another, and to ensure that all LGBTI people are welcomed and affirmed by a church called to share the redeeming love of Christ with all.”
Jayne Ozanne, a lay synod member from Oxford who helped organise the letter, echoes Ison’s sentiments, saying: “It definitely seems that the tide is now finally turning. From conversations I have had it would appear that many synod members were deeply challenged and moved by the [internal] discussions in July, and it seems that there is a growing consensus for the church to take active steps towards ensuring it is welcoming and inclusive of all.”
In response to the letter, the bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam said: “It is not surprising that the bishops are receiving letters from all sides in advance of our meeting next week. We are in a long process, seeking the way forward together. This letter is encouraging of that process, both in content and the number of signatories. It is a very welcome and supportive contribution.”
Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, welcomed the letter, saying: “It was especially good to recognise the signatures of synod colleagues from many of the different traditions that make up our richly diverse church,” he said.
While Bishops are meeting to discuss how the Church should deal with its sexual minorities, a spokesman for the church said that a final decision is unlikely to be made directly after the meeting, adding that the “process will inform discussions at the meeting of the college of bishops and further meetings in the months ahead”.