Church 'must give a hearing to Evangelical Journeys of Acceptance for same-sex relationships’

Bishop Paul and Bishop James contribute chapters to the book "Journeys in Grace and Truth – Revisiting Scripture and Sexuality"

A ground breaking collection of essays from leading Evangelicals – some of them bishops – urges the Church to listen closely to the experience of those who have journeyed from a traditional understanding of the Scriptures to an affirming acceptance of same-sex relationships. The book is especially significant as the essays come from the Evangelical wing of the Church of England – where the opposition to same-sex relationships has been more firmly entrenched.

The book, Journeys in Grace and Truth – Revisiting Scripture and Sexuality, includes contributions from the Bishops of Liverpool and Dorchester and the Dean of St Paul’s, as well as broadcaster Cindy Kent, who received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  It has received a host of commendations, including from the Bishop of Gloucester, the Bishop of Manchester, and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, as well as from the former Bishops of Chelmsford and Oxford.  

The essays chart the personal journeys of how and why the contributors have now embraced an affirming view of same-sex relationships - through their moving encounters with LGBTI Christians to their deep engagement with Scripture.

Some contributors, like the book’s Editor, Jayne Ozanne, write from their own personal experience of being in inner conflict between their faith and their sexuality. 

Earlier this year Ozanne organised a letter which prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury to apologise for the Church’s treatment of the LGTBI community. She said that the time had come for Evangelicals to make their voices heard:  

‘There is a growing number of voices across the Church, including the ‘Evangelical wing’, that believe that it is possible to hold an affirming biblical view of same-sex relationships, and who want to affirm LGBTI Christians for being who they are in Christ.  For too long people have felt silenced for saying what they truly believe for fear of being called unsound by their colleagues – the time for silence is now over!’ 

This book gives a strong lead that will empower others to find their own voice.  Notable contributions come from the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, and from the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester, and includes a reproduction of the Rt Revd James Jones’ seminal 2007 essay ‘Making Space for Truth and Grace’.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said that the Church had much to learn from the direct experiences of LGBTI Christians:
‘As a bishop I seek to listen to what the Spirit is saying through Scripture, through the world God loves, and through the consequent prayers and conversations of the Church. A key part of this involves listening to the experiences of LGBT Christians, as we have repeatedly been asked to do.  Many have been hurt, marginalised and oppressed by the attitudes of the world and the Church.  I hope this book will encourage us all to hear their voice.’

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, said that the habit in the Evangelical tradition to conform or keep silent had to be questioned:
‘My plea in contributing to this book of essays is that there would be an openness amongst Evangelicals to engage biblically with those who hold a range of beliefs without writing them off simply as “revisionists”.’

The book which is a Via Media Publication is offered as a contribution to the ongoing debate within the Church, and will be sent to all members of the Church of England’s General Synod ahead of the Shared Conversations scheduled for the July Group of Sessions in York.  It has been published on behalf of ViaMedia.News by Ekklesia, and is available online for £9.99 at www.viamediapublications.com