An Exclusive by Harriet Sherwood in the Observer breaks the story.
Press Release as follows:
RETIRED BISHOPS VOICE CONCERN OVER SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS REPORT
Fourteen retired bishops have taken the unprecedented step of intervening in the Church of England’s controversial debate over Same Sex Marriage, warning that the bishops appear to be “managing rather than enabling and leading” the debate.
The group, led by the former Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Peter Selby, has broken with convention to write an open letter to all bishops in the Church of England criticising their recent report on Same Sex Marriage ahead of a debate in General Synod on Wednesday 15th February.
Whilst as retired bishops they “feel some reticence” about entering into the debate, they explain they have done so because of their concern that a report that does not allow the authentic voice of LGBT people to be heard or the real theological argument to be advanced will not enable the church to engage credibly with wider society.
They suggest that the report has taken the shape it has because bishops today have a tendency to “see their task as managing – rather than perhaps enabling or leading” the debate. They admit this task can be “exhausting” and can “blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions”.
Reflecting on the Shared Conversations, they believe that the report would only have integrity if it honoured “the assurance that the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ‘majority view’ or ‘established position’”. On the contrary, they assert that “our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice.”
The authors are concerned that their colleagues decided to focus too much on why it was not possible to change church law regarding same sex marriage, so much so that “that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes.” As such, they believe that the bishops’ “call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction.”
The most stinging criticism is left till last, where the authors believe that the bishops “have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly.” Quoting from the report which briefly recognises that there are those who hold a different interpretation of scripture to the traditional interpretation, they argue that “this “parallel conviction” …needs to be expressed and not just alluded to”, a view shared by many other vocal critics of the report.
The letter ends by acknowledging that “there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.”
General Synod will have a “Take Note” debate the House of Bishops’ Report “Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations” (GS2055) on Wednesday 15th February 2017. The debate will need to be carried in all three houses in order to pass.
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