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LGBT chaplaincy team planned by diocese in response to past 'hurt and exclusion'
Plans for a new chaplaincy team to support people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender have been unveiled by a Church of England diocese.
The Diocese of Oxford said the proposed group - based on similar ministries operating in Wales and elsewhere - would also support the relatives and beloved of LGBTI+ people. It comes after "many" requests for guidance on the issue.
In a letter, four local bishops said chaplains would be available to guide clergy and lay readers, in light of past "hurt, exclusion and misunderstanding" that members of the LGBTI+ community have experienced within the Church.
They wrote: "The role of the chaplains will be to listen, to offer support and to advise local clergy and congregations and ourselves in our welcome and support of LGBTI+ people and their families, and to learn from the insights of LGBTI+ people about being church together."
The Bishop of Oxford Rt Rev Stephen Croft (pictured above), along with three suffragan - or junior - bishops also set out five principles to promote a climate of "inclusion and respect" across the diocese.
They include welcoming "all people" into church, banishing "intrusive questioning" about someone's sexuality or experience of gender and ensuring people are not told their sexuality or gender difference reflects a lack of faith.
Under the tenets, nobody should be excluded from taking part in Holy Communion because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and LGBTI+ people should not be excluded from positions of church leadership.
In their letter, which has been sent to 1,500 ministers across Oxford diocese, the bishops acknowledged leaders hold "different views" on matters concerning sexuality and transgenderism.
The Bishops of Oxford, Dorchester, Buckingham and Reading added: "In all of this, we ourselves and the chaplaincy team will continue to work within existing Bishop's Guidelines on human sexuality in this next stage of the national process."
They continued: "LGBTI+ Christians have always been, and remain, actively involved as clergy and laity in all areas of church life, and at all levels. How open and authentically themselves they may be in this is the issue at stake.
"We are conscious as bishops of the pain felt by many LGBTI+ people and their families in the midst of these continuing debates. As a Church, we have continually failed our sisters and brothers in Christ.
"We are concerned to listen well to LGBTI+ people from a variety of perspectives including both those seeking change in the Church of England's polity and those seeking to to live faithfully within it."
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