17/02/2017

Bishop Paul pledges to examine how we explore "Radical Inclusion" in our diocese

The Bishop of Liverpool talks about the implications of Synod's vote not to take note of the House of Bishop's report into marriage and same sex relationships.

The General Synod, “Radical Christian Inclusion”, and the Church
Synod's vote not to take note of the House of Bishops' report on Marriage and Same-Sex relationships means that the current law and discipline of the Church remain unchanged. As indeed they would have if note had been taken.

The debate gave me the opportunity to speak to Synod and my speech is copied below. You will see that I commit myself to explore to the maximum the freedom under the Church’s current law and guidance to offer rich and meaningful ministry to LGBTI+ people (see footnote), as indeed I have tried to do since I came to Liverpool.

I have no doubt that our further steps and conversations nationally will include LGBTI+ Christians more fully than the recent report was able to do. In my speech I use the phrase "maximum freedom", which is a phrase much used in the report. Since the report did not command the confidence of the Synod I do not propose to use that phrase now. Instead I use the phrase at the head of this bulletin, a phrase used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their letter written after the debate: “we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.

In Liverpool we will pursue radical Christian inclusion within the law and guidance that we have. Any clergy or lay leaders reading this who wonder what that might mean in practice for LGBTI+ people in your churches are welcome to contact me or Bishop Richard so that we can map the landscape out together.

The Synod's decision has been variously reported in the media, and I myself was involved in interviews in which the Church and its bishops were accused of being institutionally homophobic. I deny that accusation passionately and state, as clearly as I can, that our welcome and inclusion needs to reflect that of Jesus Christ. All people, regardless of their age, gender, race, colour, social status or sexuality, are to be welcomed into all our churches with the welcome of Christ who was and is there for all.

I have been grateful to the many people who have contacted me over the past days with advice and with assurance of their prayers. Without those prayers, and without clear and respectful conversation right across the Church, we will not move forward well.

For me this Diocese is itself a shared conversation in all its life, one in which all voices need to be heard. So I ask all in our Diocesan community to continue to pray for one another, so that our faces together can reflect the face of Christ, and our minds in dialogue and mutual care may come to reflect the mind of Christ, and our lives can be lived still more fully and openly in the power of the Spirit.


The Rt Revd Paul Bayes
The Bishop of Liverpool


Footnote
LGBTI+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersex and additional self-identifications. Some in the Diocese and the wider Church prefer to identify themselves as “same-sex attracted”. I believe that people should be free to use of themselves the language with which they are comfortable.
Bishop Paul's speech at General Synod
It is the honour of my life to have been chosen to serve as a bishop in this Church. And I believe I'm called both to gather all God's people and to make the preferential option for the poor and outcast, both, as the Ordinal asks me to do. And so I honour the anger and indeed fury of members of the LGBTI community who see in this report hard stones where they looked for bread. I have written elsewhere of my belief that it is that tempered anger which will change the world, and we have seen something of it in this Synod.

When I go home from here, no matter what the result of this debate, I will seek in Liverpool to ensure maximum freedom under the law for LGBTI people, so that their love as it really exists can be recognised and honoured within the church as it really exists. I have sought to do this since I arrived in Liverpool. To work for maximum freedom under the current law, I do not need the permission of this report or of this Synod. And I commit myself to continue to work with my episcopal colleague, my legal advisers, my liturgical and pastoral and theological advisers, and the parochial clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese, to offer maximum freedom within this Church. We will do this in liaison with others. We will not wilfully break the law or flout properly agreed guidance. But our exploration of maximum freedom may carry us to places in relation to law and guidance where we have not previously gone. And all this will happen anyway.

In producing this report we as bishops tried something new. We tried together, God knows imperfectly, genuinely to seek our common mind and to conform it to the mind of Christ. And so the whole Church has heard that the weight of opinion of the House is expressed as "maximum freedom". And I do not want this weight of opinion to be blown away in the storm.

And I want here to affirm the common mind that “maximum freedom” indicates, while restating clearly that this report cannot, should not and will not mark the end of the road on these matters.

With profound respect therefore, and with thanks again to all my LGBTI colleagues for their witness, I hope that all houses of Synod take note of this report, take note of maximum freedom, as we continue to move forward.

Read our synod rep Rev Kate Wharton's speech
Read our synod rep Mrs Debra Walker's speech

For me this Diocese is itself a shared conversation in all its life, one in which all voices need to be heard.

News & Events

About February Synod

General Synod met from Monday to Thursday and covered a wide range if business including

More support for Lay Ministry through the paper "Set God's People Free"
Simplication measures under Renewal and Reform
A vote to retain the Marriage Banns
A relaxation on the rules about vestments
A stand against the  effects of fixed betting terminals

You can find out more about this session of synod here

A letter from the Archbishops

Our Archbishop's have issued a joint letter setting out a direction of travel following Synod's vote.

Read it here

Listen again

Listen To Bishop Paul speaking about the vote on the Roger Phillps show (starts after the 1pm news)

Bishop Paul will be on Daybreak after 8am this Sunday.