OneBody welcomes letter from Lichfield bishops
OneBodyOneFaith has warmly welcomed a diplomatic letter by the four bishops of Lichfield diocese, setting out the kind of ‘radical inclusion’ for LGBT+ people they’d seek in their diocese, and making clear their expectations of those in public ministry.
The bishops, led by the Bishop of Lichfield, Rt. Rev. Michael Ipgrave, affirm that ‘everyone has a place at the table’ and go on to highlight some of the practicalities, including that no-one should be excluded from the Sacraments, or from leadership. They further affirm the ‘great contribution’ being made by LGBT+ Christians to the life of the Church in the diocese, and the need for mission with and alongside the LGBT+ communities.
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of OneBodyOneFaith, said, “It’s really encouraging to see the leadership of a diocese taking seriously the lives and experiences of LGBT people, and we warmly welcome this letter. Much of what the bishops say, shouldn’t really need saying, but sadly it does.”
She went on, “Only this week we heard from a gay couple in another part of the country whose vicar has told them they can’t serve on any church committee, and we know too of couples whose vicar has refused to baptise their children. The kind of intrusive and abusive questioning of individuals condemned in the letter really does happen. People feel ashamed, hurt and confused when they encounter this kind of behaviour from people in positions of power and authority. It’s an affront to the gospel, and deeply damaging of individuals.”
OneBodyOneFaith’s Chair of Trustees, Canon Peter Leonard, said, “Our Archbishops have called for radical Christian inclusion and this is the beginning of what it needs to look like in practice. It’s my hope that the work being undertaken by Lichfield diocese, and this clear statement, will send a very strong signal – to LGBT+ people that they’re welcomed and valued on equal terms with our brothers and sisters. And to those who seek to treat us as a problem, to harm and dismiss us and deny our gifts and callings – that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated. What we need to see now is other bishops issuing similar guidance. But this first step by Lichfield is very much welcomed."
OneBodyOneFaith understands that other dioceses are doing work along similar lines to Lichfield but Ms Byrne said, “What Lichfield is modelling is the kind of compassion and mutual respect, within a clear framework of expectation and accountability, we’d like to see everywhere in the Church of England. ‘Similar good practice may be in place in other Dioceses, but for it to be effective, such policy needs to be publicly stated and advertised. Lichfield are leading the way in seeking to re-build trust; but there is a long way to go. We strongly encourage other Dioceses to follow suit with a similar positive statement.”