MUCH more biblical study is needed before the General Synod is able to make a decision about matters of human sexuality, the College of Bishops has been told in a letter with 72 signatories.
The letter, signed by 38 lay members and 34 members of the clergy, offers the bishops “reflections” to aid their deliberations at their forthcoming meetings. While “grateful” for the opportunity for “consideration of Scripture” afforded by the Shared Conversations in York, the signatories write: “We believe this was of an initial nature only, and that much more biblical study is needed before we will be able, as a Synod, to make theologically informed decisions about human anthropology and sexuality.
“In particular we believe it is essential to clarify what it means to ‘honour God with your bodies’ (1 Corinthians 6v20, NIV) so that we do not find ourselves praying for God’s blessing on that which is contrary to His will.”
The letter continues: “We are committed to building a church that is genuinely welcoming to all people, irrespective of the pattern of sexual attraction that they experience. We would welcome initiatives to help local churches do this in a way that is affirming of and consistent with Scripture, and would hope to support suggestions you might wish to bring to Synod to that effect.”
They then urge the bishops “not to consider any proposals that fly in the face of the historic understanding of the church as expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (1991) and Lambeth Resolution 1.10. To do so — however loud the apparent voice for change — could set the Church of England adrift from her apostolic inheritance. It would also undermine our ability as members of General Synod to offer support and lead to a fracture within both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.”
The signatories represent 33 dioceses, and include a tutor in history and doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, the Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, and a director of studies and tutor and lecturer in ethics at St Mellitus College, the Revd Dr Sean Doherty. Most of the signatories represent the Evangelical wing of the Church.