My transgender Christian friends are furious about the news that three senior bishops responsible for the Living in Love and faith process recently met a delegation of conservative catholics and evangelicals who had demanded a meeting to talk about the transgender guidance issued by the House of Bishops.
The members of the evangelical delegation were Dr Ian Paul, a member of Archbishops' Council, Dr Edward Dowler, an Anglo-Catholic, Rev Rachel Marszalek, a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council and Fulcrum, and Rev David Baker.
The three bishops were the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, is chair of the Living in Love and Faith project, the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Christine Hardman, chairs the Pastoral Advisory Group and the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, is a member of the PAG. Staff from Church House were also present.
The conservative delegation is demanding that the Church of England’s transgender guidance should be withdrawn.
Conservative Anglicans are exerting extreme pressure on the Living in Love and Faith project to ensure that the outcome absolutely does not respond to the expectations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people that our God-given identities are finally recognised and granted equality by a revision of Church teaching and practice about human gender and sexuality.
The House of Bishops have succumbed to the pressure by agreeing to meet in secret with an exclusive group of conservatives. This is in stark and shocking contrast to the experience of Revd Tina Beardsley who resigned as a member of the LLF Coordinating group and of Sara Gilligham, who withdrew from an LLF meeting, both of them feeling extremely angry at the way in which the LLF project marginalised and excluded them.
Conservatives have been given exclusive access to these bishops and have forced them to remove the press release that accompanied the guidance from the Church of England website because the conservatives (NOT transgender people) found it unhelpful.
Both Tina Beardsley and Sara Gillingham described the LLF project as abusive in articles published in Church Times. The bishops’ willingness to meet a delegation of conservatives compounds the abuse the process is already visiting on LGBTI people.
The remaining members of the complex Living in Love and Faith process continue to tolerate and collude with this abusive system. The bishops who are responsible for the process ignore the public testimony that the process is abusive. I predict that the outcome will be experienced as abusive by LGBTI people.
Why are people in the LLF process who I worked alongside in my twenty years as Director of Changing Attitude not expressing outrage? Why is not every group working for the full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church of England not expressing outrage and condemning the whole process?
I can give you an answer on their behalf – because their first commitment is to the power and authority of this systemically abusive institution. They also hold power as gatekeepers, colluding in a process that excludes even them.
The conservatives “were delighted to be invited to participate further in the Living in Love and Faith project and trust that this will take concrete shape in the coming weeks.” I’ll bet they were delighted – and note, please, that the outcome of their secret meeting is that they are now going to be participating in giving the LLF project concrete shape. The concrete shape will be to the detriment of LGBTI people. They expect action.
Collusive sleepers, AWAKE! You who are members of the LLF project are about to be joined by people who want to welcome transgender people to our churches so long as they repent and would be delighted to assist all people to reaffirm their baptismal vows as an expression of their identity in Christ and their desire to live wholly for him because we are all sinners at the foot of the cross, in need of the unconditional love of God which we do not merit.