A recently published Letter “To all clergy and licensed lay ministers in the Diocese of Lichfield” was posted at the following:
From The Letter:
“In this letter we address some of the pastoral dimensions of these issues. We do not here discuss contested theological or ethical questions.In particular, in this letter we do not address the issue of blessing same-sex relationships, or of same-sex marriage. Rather, we are writing here about issues faced by all of us as we seek to live alongside others in the Church which is the Body of Christ.
Our basic principle is that all people are welcome in God’s Church: everyone has a place at the table. There is no theological problem with simply providing welcome, an extension of the welcome that God continually offers to each of us. This, we believe, is the starting point of that radical Christian inclusion for which the Archbishops have called.
Such radical Christian inclusion brings practical consequences for our local churches and for our Diocese as a whole, and we highlight some of these here:
1. It is the responsibility of all Christians, but especially those who hold the Bishop’s Licence as clergy or lay ministers, to ensure that all people know that there is a place at the table for them. Those of us with preaching, teaching and pastoral responsibility need continually to be aware of the personal and sensitive nature of these issues. When speaking publicly we are likely to be talking to some who might disagree from a place of deeply held conviction central to their Christian identity. It is not enough simply to preach or teach on such sensitive topics without recognizing that our words may have a deep effect on people’s lives, loves and relationships. It is not right to conceal our ethical and theological views, but we all need to tread gently when we express them and be ready to listen sensitively to those for whom our words might be difficult.
2. Intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires, or their experience of gender, is almost always inappropriate. It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith. In our pastoral ministries we may well need to listen to and talk with people about their sexual practices and desires, or their gender identity, if they bring such issues to us. We may also be asked to pray with people who for any reason are troubled by their sexual desires or practices or their gender identity. We need to be highly attentive to people when they approach us asking for counsel and prayers on these deepest aspects of their life. We must be alert to the power relations involved in such prayers and conversations, and the possibility of spiritual or emotional abuse.
3. We want to make clear that nobody should be excluded or discouraged from receiving the Sacraments of Baptism or the Lord’s Supper on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Note that in all cases excommunication is reserved to the diocesan bishop (Canon B16).
4. We wish to affirm that LGBT+ people can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church. We very much hope that they, like everyone else, feel encouraged to serve on PCCs, or as churchwardens and worship leaders, for instance, and are supported in exploring vocations to licensed lay and ordained ministries. Nobody should be told that their sexual or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.
5. Finally, we wish both to acknowledge the great contribution that LGBT+ Christians are making, and have made, to the Church in this diocese, and to highlight the need for mission within the LGBT+ community more broadly. As Archbishop Justin has made clear, the perception that the Church is homophobic and transphobic is harming our mission, especially to young people. We need to challenge this perception by reaching out to LGBT+ people with the good news of God’s love, modelling God’s welcome and care for all people.”