From Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds:
On Friday, the House of Bishops published its report on sexuality. This followed a couple of years of Shared Conversations, careful listening, discussion and debate. It is important to recognise that this process has been conducted with generosity, patience, courage and integrity by many participants. That discipline has been important.
As the report notes, not everybody will read it with agreement. Many will be hurt that their hoped-for resolution has not been commended. Others will be relieved at the line taken by the bishops.
I urge that the report be read in full, and I commend it to clergy and congregations for discussion. Please note that the report is to be debated in February by the General Synod – a debate that promises to be vigorous. It is inevitable that some of those disappointed by the report will feel that they have not been heard; but, not to have been agreed with is not the same as not having been listened to or understood.
The report is not intended to be the last word on sexuality, but to focus the further discussion as the church continues to wrestle with matters that are close to our lives and consciences, bringing theology, biblical hermeneutics, ethics and pastoral relationship together. Holding together the very different perspectives on each of these is not a simple task.
Please continue to pray for the General Synod as it debates the report and the House of Bishops as it considers how to take the next steps. Though contentious, these are aimed at establishing the principle of maximum freedom within the present legal framework. The next steps will involve working out what this might look like.
The bishops believe it is time to produce a new and major piece of work on marriage and relationships. Furthermore, we need to provide guidance to clergy who seek to meet the pastoral needs of LGBT people and same sex couples. We need to reconsider the guidance given to bishops who are required to speak with clergy and ordinands about matters that touch on their personal lives. It is vital that all voices are heard as we proceed.
Please continue to pray for grace and wisdom for all involved in this, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters who will feel most affected by this ongoing conversation.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Baines
Bishop of Leeds