General Synod Case Studies 6

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6.

Jason is a Bishop in the Church of England. He is well liked by people in his diocese and is regarded as friendly and inclusive. Jason has several years to go before retirement, and is hopeful that God and the church might call him to even higher service one day. He is married of course, and regards himself as straight – though he did go through an experimental phase at theological college.

Of course Jason has a number of openly gay clergy in his diocese, and some who he suspects are probably “same-sex attracted”. But to be honest, the subject rarely comes up and he certainly doesn’t bring it up himself. They are good ministers, amongst the most prayerful and faithful. Besides, many of the gay clergy serve in parishes that are demanding, and would be hard to fill. They also provide a ministry to lots of LGBT Christians within and beyond their own parishes, which he values.

Jason also has a number of clergy who are vocal in their opposition to homosexuality. He is uncomfortable with their stance, especially as he knew some of them at theological college, when they were going through their own experimental phases. Perhaps for that reason he is rarely invited to their churches, and they don’t often contribute to diocesan initiatives, so he feels pretty powerless to engage with them. Besides, they are angry people, and often difficult to relate to. His policy is to let them get on with it, especially as many of them lead big churches and make large contributions to the diocesan coffers.

Jason took part in the “shared conversations” and was moved by the pain and exclusion expressed by some of the LGBT members of the group. He is quite sure that Jesus would offer them an unconditional welcome in his church. He is uncomfortable with the report going to Synod. It was rushed, and compromised; in fact he’s never seen such dog-fighting amongst Bishops as there was over the drafting of this document. It was as if the conversations had never happened. Frankly he’s shocked at some of his colleagues and is agonising over being part of a church that is so cruel. But he regards himself as a focus of unity, and in this case that seems to mean setting his own conscience aside and supporting the report of the Bishops. His experience suggests that the LGBT priests will remain loyal, even if they are put through more pain, whilst the conservative churches will kick off big time if they don’t get their way. Ironically, he suspects many other Bishops are in exactly the same position.

Jason has been invited onto tomorrow morning’s Today programme to explain the church’s position on homosexuality to the outside world. The producer says that people outside the church are struggling to see it as anything other than homophobia. He has agreed to go on, because it will be good for his reputation, even if he has to “take one for the team”. How would you advise him?

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