A bishop in the Church of England has released an essay arguing that clergy within the denomination should be allowed to bless same-sex unions.
The Rt. Rev. Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford, released a lengthy essay on Friday titled “Together in Love and Faith,” arguing that the Church of England should remove its prohibition on blessing same-sex unions.
“I confirm my affection and respect for those who will want to argue, in good conscience, against change and potential provision for such change. I also make no claim whatsoever to infallibility: I may be wrong, either in the detail or in the overall argument,” wrote Croft in his introduction.
“However, the Church will only be led into true and accurate discernment as we each, honestly and faithfully, share the best perspective we can, and subject those views to the wisdom of whole Church.”
Croft, who said he once ascribed to the theologically conservative and biblical view on the issue, went on to argue that there were “fruits and benefits of same-sex partnerships” that the Church could benefit from, adding that the current stance of the Church created “hurt and pain” for the LGBT community.
“The Church's reluctance to conduct prayers of blessing for same-sex relationships or to solemnize same-sex marriages and to legitimize them in the eyes of the Christian community undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on all kinds of pastoral relationships, both within congregations and within dioceses,” he argued.
“… the faithful and stable same-sex partnerships I observe seem to be producing good fruit for them and for our wider society. It seems to me that this provides a strong justification for revisiting Scripture and the tradition to see whether a change in our policies and attitudes to same-sex partnerships and marriage can be both justified and blessed.”
Vaughn Roberts, a theologically Evangelical same-sex attracted clergyman who Croft dialogued with in advance of announcing his views, wrote an essay in disagreement with Croft’s push for the floundering denomination to support and advocate for same-sex marriage.
One point of content put forth by Roberts was his belief that the bishop had failed to adequately engage with same-sex attracted Christians who had chosen celibacy over homosexual romance.
“There is a reference to one meeting with some same-sex attracted Christians, who hold to the traditional teaching of the Church, but there is no evidence of any greater engagement with what is a significant group,” wrote Roberts.
“The deep pain they feel at being undermined by church leaders who are, in effect, telling them that their efforts to remain godly are unnecessary, needs to be recognized, along with any wider engagement with the experience of LGBTQ+ people in our churches.”
Roberts acknowledged that there are “examples of long-term same-sex relationships,” yet cautioned that this “does not mean, however, that the relationships are morally good in every aspect, or that the positive fruit is necessarily a result of them being sexual.”
“Bishop Steven is certainly right in recognizing the missional challenge caused by these cultural shifts, but there is, of course, nothing new in the Church experiencing such dissonance within and hostility from its surrounding culture,” he continued.
Roberts also warned that modern western culture is increasingly embracing a host of moral viewpoints that are at odds with Christian teaching, writing that Croft failed to “grapple with these wider aspects of the sexual revolution.”
“Do we really think that the proposed change will result in large numbers returning to church?” Roberts wrote. “Surely what is needed in the face of the disjunction between Church and society is not accommodation, but rather a winsome, confident re-presentation of the riches of Christian teaching about sex and marriage.”
The bishop’s essay and the responses to it come as the Church of England considers the possibility of allowing the blessing of same-sex unions in their congregations.
The College of Bishops held a meeting earlier this week regarding the matter, with the discernment process possibly leading to changes being approved next February at the Church’s General Synod meeting.
On Friday, five other bishops in the Church of England also come out in favor of blessing same-sex unions, arguing that priests should be allowed to celebrate them if they support them.
The Church of England Evangelical Council has said it's opposed to the push to change the denomination's biblical doctrine to support same-sex marriage. However, some members of the General Synod, like LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne, who see the blessing of same-sex unions as a “brave, prophetic step,” The Telegraph reported.