Responding to the Lichfield Ad Clerum
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 30 May 2018
Lee Gatiss considers a widely reported letter from bishops in Lichfield concerning the church’s stance on sexuality and gender.
Lichfield Diocese have issued an Ad Clerum (a letter to the clergy) on ‘Welcoming and honouring LGBT+ People’ in the Diocese. It is written with some pastoral sensitivity and thoughtfulness, but also reveals some fuzzy thinking.
People of any sexual orientation or gender identity should feel welcomed and cared for in our churches. Jesus was not shy about speaking to people with all kinds of backgrounds and histories and neither should Christians be. The good news of eternal life is for all who repent and believe, whatever their starting point when they first encounter Jesus, who lovingly calls us to leave our old lives and follow him in a new direction.
When it comes to ordained ministry or taking part in baptism or communion, very great difficulty arises where people have active sexual relationships outside marriage, especially where they see those as intrinsic to their identity. The Church of England’s position, which Church Society wholeheartedly supports, is that all sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage should be met not with unqualified affirmation or approval but with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion. In churches every week we all pray a prayer of confession, repenting of our sins and asking for forgiveness, as we seek to do what pleases God rather than ourselves, and look to him for power to change — it’s what we do.
Transgender people deserve dignity, respect, care, and unconditional welcome in our churches as human beings created by God. Transgenderism, however, is problematic from a Christian perspective because it involves violating the biblical teaching that we should live as members of the sex that God has given to us. The general requirement that ordained people should model Christian truth in the way they live their lives makes it inappropriate for the Church to ordain someone who is going through, or who has gone through gender transition, or who identifies as gender non-binary.
Though there are some things to applaud in the Lichfield Ad Clerum, it is a pity that these things above were not taught clearly in it, at a time when loving clarity on biblical truth has never been more necessary in the church.
ETA: Bishop Rod Thomas has also published his response here.
Revd Dr Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society.
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