Gay clergy call for greater LGBT inclusion in Church of England

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Fourteen gay Church of England clergy members have revealed they have married their partners and are calling for greater inclusiveness within the Church.

In a letter to the College of Bishops, published in the Sunday Times, they called for Bishops to respect the “diversity” of beliefs within the Church, and that they wanted to eventually see same-sex couples allowed to marry in Church.

Some of the signatories were already known to both the Church and the public, however, others came out in the letter. It encourages the College of Bishops “to be bold […] to what you know to be increasingly the direction of travel, not just in our church but in many churches in this country.”

The letter continues: “But many in our parishes have already made that move and it is time to respect that a diversity of theology within the Church now exists and that there is more than one understanding of what a faithful Christian may believe on these issues.

“As you meet to discuss, we seek from you a clear lead that offers a way forward to greater inclusion that will enable those parishes that wish to do so to celebrate the love that we have found in our wives and husbands.

“We hope for an outcome that will enable those who wish to do so to publicly celebrate where we see God at work in the lives of our congregations without fear and in openness.”

On Friday, Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain, a suffragan in Lincoln diocese, became the first Church of England bishop to say that he is gay and in a relationship. Bishop Chamberlain came out after a newspaper allegedly threatened to out him. He was consecrated in 2015 by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – who has said he knew about the bishop’s sexuality. Bishop Chamberlain says he adheres to the Church’s guidelines, which say gay clergy must remain celibate.

The letter continues:  “We will be praying for the College of Bishops as it meets this month. We appreciate the time may not yet be right for a change in the church’s official understanding of marriage, but it is time to respect that a diversity of theology within the church now exists and many in our parishes have already made the move.

“We hope for an outcome that will enable those who wish to do so to celebrate publicly where we see God at work in the lives of our congregations without fear and in openness.”

In addition to Bishop Chamberlain, equality campaigners claim that a further 10 serving Bishops are gay.

Reverend Colin Coward, founder of the gay pressure group Changing Attitude, told the Sunday Times: “There are at least ten other bishops in the Church who are gay, many of whom are in some kind of relationship.

“I would encourage gay bishops to be open, but I would not ‘out’ them against their will.”

However, the Church of England has condemned the suggestion, calling the letter ‘irresponsible’, with a statement from the Church reading:  “Such comments should rightly be dismissed as idle speculation.

“It is surprising that campaign groups which claim to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Christians would indulge in such irresponsible tactics whereby such claims may lead to attempts to identify individual bishops.”

The letter’s signatories are:

Clergy: Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain and Stephen Foreshew-Cain, Rev Richard Haggis and Ricardo Goncalves, Rev Garry Lawson and Timothy H Wane, Rev Clive Larson and John Markham, Rev Paul Collier and Mr Collier, Rev Canon Jeremy Davies and Simon McEnery, Rev Geoffrey Thompson and Tony Steeles, Rev Prof Mark Cobb and Keith Arrowsmith

Laity: Jeremy Timm and Mike Brown, Ruth Wilde and Ellie Wilde, Jack Semple and Ross Griffiths, Paul Jellings and Andrew Carter, Erica Baker and Susan Strong, Karen and Samantha Bregazzi-Jones, Keith Barber and Tim Mills, Simon Dawson and David Mooney

The Times reports that seven additional clergy couples and Readers have indicated their support for the letter, but did not want to be identified.

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