Friday, 27 January 2017

Shared Conversations Report - a bisexual perspective

(To read my previous thoughts on bisexuality within Christianity and the Church of England from a bisexual Christian's perspective, see the list of relevant posts from this blog in Bisexual Christianity posts.)

After two years of 'Shared Conversations, the House of Bishops has published Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops (click the link to read, 19 pages isn't as long as it sounds!)

I have read it and here are a few summary thoughts.

Positive thoughts first. Even though they ultimately decided against it, the fact that it looks like they truly looked into the possibility of establishing an authorised service for same sex relationships is a good thing. The thorough look at the options opens the door for those of us desperate for such a liturgy to maybe eventually get one. Worship is the quintessential act that we do as 'church'; the body of Christ gathers, and they first and foremost worship God, together, before any of the other many and diverse acts that being 'church' means. That is an astonishingly profound basis for our lives in Christ, the bedrock on which everything we do is held, and the lack of liturgy for same sex relationships is a despairingly exclusionary state of being. But there's hope.

I'm also pleased to see the inclusion of acknowledging the church's own call to "trust its members" and leave them to their own "prayerful responsibility" and crucially "[enable] grace for legitimate diversity".

But I'm not impressed with this report, at all. I am disappointed that though the Pilling Report was flawed in its well-intended attempt at inclusive language, even the inroads it made have been backtracked in this newest report. The people affected by these discussions were referred to as "gay and lesbian people and those who experience same sex attraction". First, there were instances when it just read "gay and lesbian people", committing bierasure, and secondly, what is the point in the distinction between the three? Referring to everyone as 'those who experience same sex attraction' would have been a adequate catch-all (in this context, as we are dealing with exclusively matters of attraction, as opposed to gender expression or identity) without making me as a bisexual feel less important and like an afterthought.

Overall, I don't care that the Church wants to establish "across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support", because the doctrines on same-sex relations and marriage are remaining unchanged. There's a lot wrong with the document Issues on Human Sexuality, and I'm sure it's a positive move to suggest replacing it, but ultimately, it's a pointless exercise whilst doctrine remains the same. The replacement guidance document will still be upholding what I believe to be doctrines that go against my faith as a follower of Christ and beloved child of God, and it is those doctrines that exclude, condemn and cause suffering to non-hetero people. The 'tone' and 'culture' within the Church will not move by more than inches whilst the doctrines remain, because they give credence, support and encouragement to the people who treat queer people differently just because they are queer, generally in a negative, fearful, hateful, and un-Christ-like way. It is merely rearranging the deckchairs.

So really, I hope to proved wrong in my prediction that this report will have little true impart on the state of suffering of those who are attracted to the same sex within the CofE  community, but sadly, that is what I predict.


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