A year ago the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a paper, Next Steps on Human Sexuality, GS Misc 1158. As the work continues to research and write the House of Bishops’ Teaching Document, the bishops need to know that they and the church they lead have already lost their authority as far as LGBTI people are concerned. Many are no longer committed to the church but lead a Christian life, exploring their spirituality along other paths. The bishops are already too late to influence the moral and ethical choices LGBTI people are making.
We have learnt this week, thanks to the open letter sent by the Bishop of Maidstone to the Bishop of Lichfield, that the Church of England also unwittingly created a bishop to enshrine prejudice against LGBTI people in the Church of England. Writing about Bishop Thomas requires the use of words that have been taboo when used in the context of equality for women in the church: prejudice and discrimination. The prejudice enshrined in the authority and teaching of the Bishop of Maidstone raises great concerns about the lengthy, complex process now being undertaken to produce what the House of Bishops clearly intend to be a new, definitive Teaching Document.
The episcopal domination of the co-ordinating group on human sexuality is staggering and unprecedented. This extent to which the group is weighted towards bishops stands in contrast with virtually every other report produced in the Church of England in recent history. The lack of lay people is also striking and without precedent. There is not a single gender theorist, sociologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, politician, campaigner, voluntary sector worker, or any other lay person bringing relevant specialist knowledge or expertise. This absence is astonishing. The usual Anglican assumptions and ways of working have been set aside. It is a further example of the deliberate move toward centralization and episcopal control in the Church of England, in ignorance of Anglican history and theology.