In his recent Episcopal Letter (3 February 2019) to the people of the Diocese of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andy John writes about how the Church in Wales should respond to the pastoral needs of same-sex couples and how the Church’s teaching on marriage might develop.
In his letter he acknowledges the difficulties in tackling this controversial matter, and outlines both the traditional conservative position and the approach of those who recognize that the Church’s understanding of Scripture needs to be open to change in the light of the Holy Spirit’s calling.
Bishop Andy sees the grace of God at work in the relationships of faithful gay couples:
… in a committed and loving relationship, they find not only love but grace and peace growing in their shared life with their partner. They experience the very fruit of the Spirit identified by St Paul as a mark of God’s presence and blessing (Gal 5:22–23).
He then offers his own conclusions as to the way forward:
Over a period of time, in which I have ministered alongside those in same sex relationships and have wrestled with how to be faithful to God and open to the Spirit, I have come to believe that the Church should now fully include without distinction those who commit to permanent loving unions with a person of the same sex. I further believe that the best way to do this is for the Church to marry these people as we do with men and women.
This is not the teaching of the Church at this moment but I believe it is fully in keeping with our faith and orthodoxy. I believe it will strengthen our witness to a world which longs to see justice and fairness for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and cannot understand how the Church is still wrestling with an issue that most people have accepted long ago. Christians can seem uncaring, even cruel, and bizarrely obsessed with a limited range of issues so that everything else we say about God and hope and faith is marginalised. To put it bluntly, we are not believed and taken seriously.
This is very good news for those of us who are determined to argue for similar positive change in the Church of England.
The full letter – in Welsh and English – can be found on the Bangor diocesan website at https://bangor.eglwysyngnghymru.org.uk/newyddion/2019/02/03/llythyr-esgobol-newydd-esgob-andy/.