Questions on gay marriage, homophobia and homosexuality, and funding of the church’s conversation on homosexuality
Mr John Ward (London) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q78. Given the need, recognised by the Archbishop of York, to issue a lengthy statement following comments made by a clergyman in his Diocese about the inclusive words spoken on behalf of the Dean and Minster community in relation to Gay Pride in York, would the House now prepare and publish a report which examines whether the Church’s teaching on homosexuality provides succour to homophobia?
The Bishop of Norwich (pictured) to reply on behalf of the Chair: The House of Bishops commissioned the Pilling Report, which includes a sensitive and nuanced chapter on homophobia at pages 54 to 59 and includes a particularly relevant section headed ‘using words with care’. The resource materials prepared for the current process of conversations are also tellingly entitled ‘grace and disagreement’. While the conversations continue I suspect that we need rather more listening and rather fewer words.
Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams (Chichester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q79. Following clergy entering same-sex marriage, can the House of Bishops confirm its policy regarding discipline in such matters?
The Bishop of Norwich to reply on behalf of the Chair: The House of Bishops’ policy in relation to the clergy and same sex marriage was set out in the pastoral guidance issued in February 2014. Disciplinary matters, whether on this or any other issue are for each diocesan bishop to resolve on a case by case basis.
Canon Linda Ali (York) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q80. Has the House considered whether the Church’s response to same sex marriage needs to change in order to take account of what Jesus said in John 16.12 (“I have much more to tell you, but now it would be too much for you to bear”), recognising that Jesus is speaking to us through the actions and voices of the people and of younger people in particular?
Mr Clive Scowen (London) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q81. Has the House considered on what canonical basis, if any, it is permissible for clergy to bless events which celebrate lifestyles and behaviours which, according to the Scriptures and the established teaching of the Church of England, fall short of the life to which God calls us in Christ and so call for repentance? If so, what conclusion was reached, and, if not, will the House now do so?
The Bishop of Norwich to reply on behalf of the Chair: The issue was explored in paragraphs 379 to 399 of the Pilling report, which the House of Bishops had commissioned. It is one of the many issues that are the subject of the present process of conversations. The College of Bishops engaged with the whole range of issues on sexuality in facilitated conversations in September 2014. The House of Bishops has received regular updates on the progress of the regional Shared Conversations since then and will return to these issues once that process is concluded.
The Revd Stephen Pratt (Lichfield) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q82. How are the facilitated discussions on Human Sexuality being funded and what is the overall cost likely to be? Mrs Rosemary Lyon (Leeds) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q83. What assurance can be given that the cost of the Regional Shared Conversations will have no impact on parish share?
The Bishop of Norwich to reply on behalf of the Chair: I shall with permission answer questions 82 and 83 together. The Church Commissioners approved a request from the House of Bishops in 2014 that £300,000 of the Commissioners’ rent relief from the Corporation of Church House in 2015 should be used to meet the costs of the shared conversations. This was precisely to relieve what would otherwise have been a major call on diocesan funds and the parish share. In addition a further £60,000 is being funded by a direct charge to dioceses for the expected 600 participants.