An Anglican diocese in England is calling on clergy to invite LGBT people into roles of leadership in the church.
In a letter titled “Welcoming and Honouring LGBT+ People,” the diocese of Lichfield in Staffordshire says the church must advance “radical Christian inclusion.”
“We wish to affirm that LGBT+ people can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church. We very much hope that they, like everyone else, feel encouraged to serve on PCCs (parochial church councils), or as churchwardens and worship leaders, for instance, and are supported in exploring vocations to licensed lay and ordained ministries. Nobody should be told that their sexual or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church,” it reads.
The diocese also condemns questioning people about their sexual practices or suggesting that faith in God could transform those desires.
“Intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires, or their experience of gender, is almost always inappropriate. It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith,” the letter says.
The diocese says it is acting on the principle that “all people are welcome in God’s church.” They also hope to change the Church’s perception of being “homophobic and trans phobic.” However, it acknowledges that these guidelines are controversial.
“It is already clear that within the Church of England, as in other churches, there is considerable, sometimes passionate, disagreement about the theological and ethical issues involved in these matters,” the letter continues. “It is important that these debates should be grounded in Scripture, reason and tradition as well as in deep prayer. They must also be conducted with attention to people’s experiences and in a spirit of love, mutual care and respect.”
The letter does not address the issue of blessing same-sex marriages. However, the Episcopalian church in the United States recently decided to scrap the terms “husband” and “wife” from its marital liturgy to make the marriage ceremonies more “gay-friendly.”
This is a move that wildly differs from a decision by Anglican Australian and Irish bishops to affirm traditional marriage.
The House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland said the marriage service “remains unchanged and marriage may be solemnised only between a man and woman.”
The House of Bishops of the Church of Australia released a similar statement saying that “marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.”
They added that in light of the Church’s doctrine, it was “not appropriate for church buildings and halls, and chapels owned by Anglican schools and other Anglican organisations to be used as venues for same-sex marriages.”