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Bishop John addresses General Synod

Published: 18th November 2023

Living in Love and faith logo including the words next to a stained glass windowDuring the General Synod debate on Living in Love and Faith, Bishop John was asked to say a few words setting out his position. Here is the text of his speech.

I am pleased to have been asked to say a few words this afternoon to articulate my continuing commitment to the LLF process and the first thing I want to do is pay tribute to the Bishop of London. She spoke at the end of her remarks about grace. I am in awe of her constant graciousness, not only this afternoon but throughout this process. Thank you so much!

My remarks are not going to be theological, in the strict sense: I have articulated publicly my theological reasoning for wanting to affirm committed same-sex monogamous relationships. Very many welcomed what I wrote, some tried to pull it apart.

We are not agreed that marriage should be extended to same sex couples and Church of England teaching continues to be that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. We can though, in a time of uncertainty as a church authorise the Prayers of Love and Faith and make pastoral provision as envisaged in this process without changing the doctrine of marriage. I hope and pray that, as a Synod, we shall welcome their introduction without delay.

Why personal? I, as a bishop, was permitted by Canon Law to enter into a marriage with someone who had been divorced. Many Christians, including Anglicans, would not accept that such a second marriage is anything but adultery. Some of my late wife’s family have disowned me because they believe just that. They won’t have anything to do with me.

I am so grateful that our church is more generous in making pastoral provisional to allow my marriage. I feel as though my new marriage has led me out of the Wilderness into something like the Promised Land, though I still believe what the church teaches, that marriage should be for life. I know that extending the same sort of generosity in pastoral provision to people whose love happens to be for someone of the same sex would end much pain and bring immense joy. The fruits of many loving, faithful, monogamous same sex relationships are obvious to any of us who know people who are in them. The continuing pain caused by such relationships not being affirmed is enormous. 

At the same time, I value greatly the ministry, witness and fellowship of those who are of a different persuasion. They are a great gift and blessing to me. That includes my fellow bishops, three of whom I am sitting with here. I count them as my friends and I want to continue to enjoy fellowship with them without being ‘differentiated’ from them. I don’t believe this issue affects church order or doctrine in my essential matter. At the same time, there must be clear provision and protection, affirming and ensuring everyone’s right to believe and to teach a traditional view. It is characteristic of Anglicanism that we remain in communion with those with whom we disagree on many things. My late wife Denise rejoiced in what she referred to, after Thomas Traherne, as the ‘spaciousness of Anglicanism’. I hope and pray with all my heart that such spaciousness will be manifested in the outcome of our deliberations.

Page last updated: Saturday 18th November 2023 12:32 PM

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