After the bishops' speeches - still don't take note
Introduction of GS2055 by the Bishops of Willesden and Norwich brought forward
Bishops Graham and Pete carefully used their speeches the morning of the debate on human sexuality to try and persuade synod to participate in the group work and to 'take note' of GS2055, but didn't offer anything that re-assured us, far from it.
Safety of LGBT synod members disregarded
The way in which synod procedures have failed to provide for the safety of LGBT members of synod in this process causes us real concern. Simon Butler could not have been clearer, describing how he had been sent a tweet by a member of synod asking after his sexual practice - 'bordline harassment'. He asked for assurances that no one participating in group work would suffer in terms of their prospects and employment; and identified that the reality that Bishops are facilitating the groups - which, being the authors of the report, mitigates against honesty from those participating in the groups, as well as undermining their sense of safety.
The result of this is a form of abuse - putting those who have already been through the conversations without any sense of being listened to through the same process.
The content of their introduction
The Bishops' comments in the debate are not at all reassuring.
Whilst they assert that voting to take note doesn't commit those voting to take note to the Bishops' thinking, it is impossible to think that GS2055 being taken note of would result in anything other than the process being laid out by the bishops being followed; and so the same outcome resulting. The Bishops of Norwich and Willesden have proposed no alternative process - the only way to secure an alternative process and move from the Bishops' thinking is to vote not to take note of GS2055.
Of particular concern are their comments on 'Good disagreement':
We lack a consensus on what we mean by "good disagreement" - is it about process or is it about outcomes? I think that many who want change believe that it's possible, on the basis of good disagreement, to have pluriformity of practice in the Church. Others don't believe that it's possible to live in that way because of the canonical and legal constraints of uniformity that exist in our Church.
A choice between process and outcomes?
GS2055 buried 'good disagreement'; in reality it has to be about process and outcomes. The Bishops in GS2055 have sought to constrain debate, and shut down 'good disagreement', having focussed almost solely on the outcome of equal marriage. LGBT groups have not been asking for this, but instead for prayer and dedication of same sex relationships, for a genuine formal recognition of theological diversity, for representation in Church governance when there presently isn't any.
At the moment, the process is skewed against us, through lack of representation; further constraining us by fixing the outcome feels like erasure. How that was ever going to be experienced as a (positive) change of tone or maximal freedom is a mystery.
The next step: structural representation of LGBT insights within the process
OneBodyOneFaith is still unconvinced that the bishops have shown any real understanding of the damage their “no change’ policy is doing to people across the church and nation. We recommend that the Members of General Synod do NOT take note of the Report and make the bishops go back and begin a different and more collaborative process. We recommend that they use the positive and clear proposals offered by OneBodyOneFaith to begin to introduce structural change that ensures the representation of the people who have felt most excluded and ignored by the Bishops in their work in producing GS2055.